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COVID-19 In DFW Aug. 23-Aug. 29: Hospitalizations Could Surpass Winter Peak Numbers Next Month

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UT Southwestern Medical Center
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Emergency rooms are also filling up with patients across the state, and additional medical personnel are being deployed to help with the staffing crunch.

For the latest on the pandemic in North Texas, visit KERA News' COVID-19 Live Updates page.

Saturday, Aug. 28

Tarrant County Reports 1,248 Cases 

The county has now seen 300,803 total cases of COVID-19. There have been 3,817 deaths and 273,548 people who have recovered from the virus.

The community spread level is “high.”

Friday, Aug. 27

Dallas ISD Joins Multi-District Lawsuit Against Gov. Abbott

The Dallas ISD board of trustees voted Thursday night to join a lawsuit challenging Gov. Greg Abbott's order that keeps local officials from mandating face masks.

DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa was the first to buck the governor's order by requiring face masks on school campuses.

Hinojosa discussed his decision to require masks with KERA's Krys Boyd last week on Think.

"We know this is an emotional issue for everyone, but we're going to be firm."

Fort Worth ISD Approves Mask Mandate

The Fort Worth ISD Board of Education approved a mandator mask mandate Thursday night. The mandate will take effect when it no longer violates a court order.

“The Board has instructed me to implement a mask mandate, if, when, and to the extent that doing so does not violate the court order,” Superintendent Kent P. Scribner said in a statement. “As soon as we are able to implement a mask mandate, we will do so.”

The school district is under a temporary restraining order prohibiting issuing a mask mandate. Court proceeding will continue Sept. 3.

The resolution would require all staff, parents, students, and visitors to wear protective face masks at all Fort Worth ISD facilities.

Bexar County Officials Will Appeal Blocked Mask Mandate

San Antonio and Bexar County officials said their fight to require face coverings in schools is not over after the Texas Supreme Court sided with the governor Thursday and temporarily blocked their mask mandate.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff last night described the next steps in the legal battle.

"The merits of the case will continue, in all likelihood end up back in the Fourth Court of Appeals where they will have a hearing on the merits of the temporary injunction," Wolff said.

Wolff added the goal is protecting kids."And it's so distressing, so distressing to see the governor of this state to doing everything else he can possibly do to stop us from saving them."

The governor faces a number of challenges to his mask mandate ban.

Carnival Cruise Line To Require Vaccinations

Starting tomorrow, Carnival Cruise Line will require all passengers 12 and older to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with some exceptions.

Previously, at least 95% of Carnival crew and passengers had to be fully vaccinated.

Now, under the new policy, everyone must be inoculated. The only exemptions are kids under 12 who are not yet eligible to get a COVID-19 shot and people with proven medical conditions that does not allow them to be vaccinated.

That's on top of another policy put in place earlier this month requiring vaccinated passengers provide a negative test result when they board.

Extended Unemployment Benefits Will End Next Month

The Texas Workforce Commission says extended unemployment benefits will end next month because of improving jobless numbers. 

The extra 13 weeks of assistance — on top of the usual 26 — kicked in after the Texas unemployment rate soared to nearly 13% in April 2020. TWC's James Bernsen explains the jobless rate has fallen below the federal threshold for the additional payments.​

"What we saw is, last week, based on July's number, Texas unemployment fell under 6.5% and that triggered off these benefits so it's kind of an automatic process that once you get under 6.5% these benefits go away," Bernsen said.

Texas' unemployment rate dropped to 6.2 percent last month.

The extended payments end Sept. 11.

Thursday, Aug. 26

North Texas Schools Temporarily Close Due To COVID

Another North Texas school has closed for the rest of the week because of COVID-19.

Boyd ISD officials said the school will undergo cleaning through tomorrow. Classes resume Monday.

The Trivium Academy charter school in Carrollton will close tomorrow through Sept. 6. The school's open today to give parents a chance to make arrangements.

The Kemp school district in Kaufman County remains closed for the rest of the week. Schools there reopen Monday.

Texas Deploying Additional Medical Staff & Equipment To Help Hospitals With COVID Response

Gov. Greg Abbott announced today that the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will be deploying 2,500 additional medical staff to support health care facilities in Texas, including hospitals and nursing homes. This will bring the total number of medical personnel deployed across the state to 8,100.

DSHS is also providing medical equipment requested by Texas medical facilities including ventilators, oxygen concentrators, heart monitors, IV pumps, feeding pumps, and hospital beds.

Corpus Christi Has Highest Hospitalization Rate In Texas

More than 37% of all patients in the Corpus Christi region have tested positive for the coronavirus. Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales said during a news conference Wednesday the figure is 'downright frightening.' She added she is seeking more resources from the state.

"We have to request things that I haven't seen since a year ago. Like a morgue trailer, and we are just pained by the fact that we might have to get another one."

The Texas Department of State Health Services requested five mortuary trailers from FEMA earlier this month. They are being stored in San Antonio and sent to communities as needed.

Wednesday, Aug. 25

Abbott Prohibits Government Entities From Requiring Any Type Of COVID-19 Vaccine

Abbott issued an executive order that bans mandates on COVID-19 vaccines, despite federal approval.

“Vaccine requirements and exemptions have historically been determined by the legislature, and their involvement is particularly important to avoid a patchwork of vaccine mandates across Texas,” he said.

Abbott also added an item to the special session agenda regarding whether the state or local governments have the authority to issue vaccine mandates.

Read the full story from KUT News.

Fort Worth ISD Approves Virtual Learning Option

The Fort Worth ISD Board of Education approved a virtual learning option Thursday night for medically fragile students in Kindergarten through sixth grade.

Registration for the virtual option, which is for the fall semester only, begins at noon today and ends at noon on Aug. 30. The virtual option begins Sept. 13. Register here.

Texas Hospitals Closing Off-Site ERs To Buttress Central ER Staffs

Texas hospital systems are increasingly closing temporarily their off-site emergency rooms and sending their staff to their hospitals to support staff overstretched by COVID-19.

The moves came as the coronavirus continues to rage throughout the state.

Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston closed three suburban emergency rooms Monday in Kingwood, Spring and Sienna to help ease the burden on its hospital staffs, it said in a statement.

“Closing these locations allows us to reassign the staff to other Memorial Hermann locations where their help is critically needed,” the Memorial Hermann statement said.

St. Luke’s Health in Houston has closed its Conroe ER to help meet surging admissions at its hospital in nearby The Woodlands.

Texas Health Hospital Rockwall, near Dallas, has closed its free-standing ER to help its hospital ER. An air-conditioned tent also has been erected outside the hospital to accommodate 10-15 overflow patients, according to a hospital statement.

Read the full story by The Associated Press.

Tuesday, Aug. 24

Projections Say Hospitalizations Could Surpass Winter Peaks By Next Month

The latest projections estimate COVID-19 hospitalizations across North Texas could surpass winter peaks by next month.

Back in January, Dallas County reached a high of more than 1,200 COVID-19 patients. Tarrant County peaked above 1,500.

Monday's report from forecasters at UT Southwestern Medical Center predicts each county would eclipse that peak by at least 300 hospitalizations by Sept. 9.

However, forecasters added they're encouraged by the increased wearing of masks in North Texas in recent weeks.

Plano ISD Approves Temporary Mask Mandate

During an emergency meeting Monday, the Plano school board voted 6 to 1 in favor of the mask mandate, which applies to schools, facilities and transportation.

The mandate takes effect Thursday and lasts through Sept. 24th.

Exemptions will be allowed for religious, philosophical and medical reasons.

The district said on its website: “All students, teachers, staff members and visitors, including parents and volunteers, will be required to wear masks indoors at all district facilities and on school buses. Students and staff have the option to remove their masks while seated during meals and while outdoors. Specifically for athletics, performing arts and physical education, masks will be worn consistently except when the mask inhibits a student's full participation in the activity.”

The Dallas Morning News reports that several parents showed up to speak.

“We are in a surge situation that we can not ignore,” board president David Stolle said, according to the newspaper.

Parents Protest Lack Of A Mask Mandate In Southlake

Parents in the Southlake Carrol district held a silent protest Monday while waiting to get into their district's school board meeting. They want the district to adopt a mask mandate.

They also presented a petition to the board, signed by more than 100 Southlake doctors and 850 residents in favor of adopting a mask mandate.

Hurst-Euless-Bedford Virtual Learning Proposal Fails

A measure to offer virtual learning in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district has failed. The school board took no action after some members expressed concerns over uncertainties about the options.

Supporters during a public hearing Monday said a virtual learning option for kindergarten through 6th grade would help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But opponents expressed concerns about students being able to keep up with learning expectations and teachers offering the same level of education.

The HEB school board will discuss a possible mask mandate for schools on Friday.

Parkland Offers Third Vaccine Dose For Immunocompromised Patients

Starting Tuesday, Parkland Health & Hospital System will offer third doses of both the Pfizer and Modern shot to patients who meet one of the following criteria:

  • Have received an organ transplant (kidney, liver, bone marrow, etc.)
  • Have a medical condition that lowers the immune system, such as cancer or HIV, or auto-immune conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Are taking medications that lower the immune system

Eligible patients also must not have had their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna shots within the last 28 days. Those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are not eligible for a booster shot.
Appointments can be made by calling (214) 590-7000.

Monday, Aug. 23

Fort Worth School District Plans To Offer A Temporary Virtual Learning Option

The Fort Worth school district plans to offer a temporary virtual learning option for students unable to return to school because of a documented medical condition.

The option only applies to kindergarten through sixth grade.

The school board will vote Tuesday on funding for the virtual option. If that passes, parents can register their kids for the virtual option beginning Wednesday at noon.

Other North Texas districts have temporary virtual learning options in place, and the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school board will decide Monday whether to offer a virtual option for kindergarten through sixth grade.

Meanwhile, some parents in the Carroll school district plan to protest Monday in Southlake in favor of a mask mandate and other COVID-19 safety protocols.

Dallas County Says Breakthrough Infections Make Up Less Than 2% Of Its Cases

Breakthrough infections of COVID-19 among vaccinated residents make up less than 2 percent of all cases in Dallas County.

The county has seen nearly 5,700 breakthrough infections. A little more than 400 of those infected have been hospitalized, but most of those vaccinated patients were actually admitted for reasons not related to COVID-19.

In a statement Friday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins emphasized the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Jenkins said when it comes to COVID's more contagious delta variant, "it is not a matter of if" unvaccinated people will be infected, but when.

Public health officials recommend social distancing, regular hand washing and indoor masking for all residents, regardless of their vaccination status.

Federal Mask Requirement For Public Transit Extended Through January

Dallas residents using public transit will be required to wear face coverings through mid January 2022, following an extension of the federal mask mandate for public transportation.

The CDC mandate, which has been in place since the beginning of the pandemic, will be in place till January 18, 2022 and will also include the Dallas Area Rapid Transit or DART system.

DART spokesperson Gordon Shattles said he isn’t concerned about reactions from Dallas residents.

“I think the fact that we're pushing this one through the course of the cold winter months, when people are more likely to be inside, I think they (Dallas residents) will appreciate that,” Shattles said.

He added that DART will continue to prioritize cleanliness and sanitation across all their transportation networks.

“Of course we've maintained our extensive cleaning process on buses and light rail vehicles to ensure that all touchable surfaces have been removed of any potential pathogens,” Shattles said.

DART vehicles include buses, trains, paratransit vehicles, Trinity Railway Express trains, and the Dallas Streetcars.

Read More: A Timeline Of COVID-19's Spread In North Texas

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