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COVID-19 In DFW Sept. 20-Sept. 26: State Fair Opens With Mask Recommendations And Vaccines On-Site

Big Tex at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas.
Big Tex at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas.

Dallas County also offered discounts at the fair to residents who get vaccinated there.

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

Saturday Sept. 25

Denton County To Begin Scheduling Booster Shots

Denton County Public Health will begin sending individual scheduling links next week to people eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.

Denton County Judge Andy Eads said in a statement Saturday those who received shots through the county's public health department should check their texts and emails for information on eligibility.

“We’re working with private providers as well as our health department to make sure our residents have access to vaccine – from first doses to boosters for eligible folks," Eads said.

Friday Sept. 24

State Fair Requiring Masks Indoors

Millions are expected to attend the annual bonanza of food, farming, and entertainment, which started today.

But catching COVID-19 is still a significant possibility in large crowds. The fair will have some protocols in place to reduce transmissions, according to spokesperson Karissa Condoianis.

"So masks will be required indoors and recommended when in crowded areas," Condoianis said.

The fair asks that you bring a mask, but will have its own supply if you forget. Hand sanitizing stations will also be available.

Texas Doctor Warns COVID Surge May Get Worse

The Chief Medical Officer for UT Health Physicians in San Antonio is warning that the worst COVID-19 surge yet may be ahead.

The worst surge of the pandemic, so far, happened over the winter, even though most children were learning at home.

"That's different this year, right?" Dr. Robert Leverence said "We have 20% of our population, mostly unvaccinated, mingling five days a week." 

Leverence also says the summer 2020 surge served as a springboard for the deadly 2021 winter surge — and that could happen again.

"However, this summer surge was not only higher than last year's summer surge, but it was also later in the summer," Leverence said. "So we can anticipate the tail to this surge will last well into the early winter." 

Leverence says this could be complicated by flu season, which didn't really happen last year because so many people were avoiding gatherings and wearing masks in public.

People are being far less cautious this year, and cases of influenza are already happening.

Thursday, Sept. 23

UT Doctors Are Studying Why Some People Become COVID Long-Haulers

Doctors at UT Health Austin are trying to figure out why some people who get COVID-19 become “long-haulers” — those who suffer from symptoms that won’t go away. The researchers are hoping that better understanding the disease will help them find ways to treat those patients.

Dr. Michael Brown is medical director of the program. He told the Texas Standard that between 10 and 30 percent of people who have had COVID develop into long haulers. What they experience can be debilitating.

“It’s been surprising just how prominent the neurologic disorders are," Brown said. "People describe having a brain fog and in one study have lost an average of seven IQ points. And almost everyone really has severe fatigue and what we call post exertional malaise – meaning they do an activity that shouldn’t be that strenuous and they feel wiped out after it.”

The program at UT’s Dell Medical School is on a mission to educate doctors on how to take care of such patients.

Brown said they have seen people slowly getting better, but further research is needed in order to find more therapies and speed up the recovery process.

Wednesday, Sept. 22

Dallas County Offering State Fair Discounts To Residents Who Get Vaccinated At The Fair

Dallas County will be administering coronavirus vaccines at the State Fair of Texas. And residents who get the shot will receive $20 worth of coupons for food and rides to use at the State Fair, while supply last.

The Pfizer vaccine will be available to anyone who needs a first, second or booster dose. Booster doses will only be given to people with immunocompromised conditions at for now. But the county says should federal guidance change during the event, it will give boosters to anyone that's eligible.

“Fair Park has been one of our community’s most recognized sites where people have been able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang said. “We hope that anyone who is still not yet vaccinated will take advantage of this additional opportunity to get the shot.”

The county clinic is located behind Big Tex between the Tower and Grand buildings. The clinic’s hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The clinic will be open every day the Fair is open and 500 doses of the vaccine will be available each day.

Residents are encouraged to register online or call 972-692-2780.

Tuesday, Sept. 21

Texas Expert Says Pfizer Vaccine Should Be Available To Kids Soon

A top vaccine expert in Texas is welcoming new trial data showing Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11.

Dr. Peter Hotez with Houston's Baylor College of Medicine said the company is seeking FDA emergency authorization for the age group.

"I don't think it's going to be super fast. It certainly won't be within days," Hotez said. "We're hearing maybe, by the end of October it could be released for emergency use, and even that would be pretty fast."

Hotez spoke to NPR's Here and Now Monday.

Johnson & Johnson Says Booster Shot Works

People who receive a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine booster shot are better protected against the coronavirus for a longer period of time, according to the pharmaceutical company's latest trial results.

The one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been found to be 66% protective against moderate and severe disease overall worldwide and 72% protective against such cases in the U.S. But when a person receives a booster shot two months after getting the pharmaceutical company's one-dose vaccine, the protection against COVID-19 increased to 94%.

A booster shot at six months provided a 12-fold increase in antibodies.

Read more from NPR.

Hospitalizations Are Starting To Plateau In Tarrant County

COVID-19 hospitalizations are plateauing in Tarrant County, but not declining just yet.

Public health director Vinny Taneja told county commissioners Tuesday that he’s starting to feel optimistic again.

“The virus is slowing down just a tad bit, still spreading faster than what we want, but we're starting to see some signs of stabilization and hopefully a decline coming,” he said.

Fort Worth Launches Drive-Through Vaccination Site

The city of Fort Worth is launching a six-lane, drive-through COVID-19 vaccination site Tuesday at the Wilkerson Grimes Activity Center in south Fort Worth.

Tarrant County’s public health director Vinny Taneja said they’ve set it up in preparation of booster shots being doled out, as well as the imminent vaccine for children younger than 12.T

he county is also working with Trinity Metro to roll out a “Vax Mobile.”

Taneja said the goal is administer vaccines in hard to reach neighborhoods, and people without access to transportation.

Dallas County Hospitalization Numbers Are Going Down

Dallas County health officials say the number of hospitalized patients with COVID is down.

Dallas Public Health Director Philip Huang told county commissioners today that even though the cases seem to be leveling off, it does not mean Dallas is out of the woods.

"They are very high levels," Huang said. "They are still stressing our healthcare system. The staffing needs are very stressed and again ICU bed availability is still very low.”

Currently, 1.3 million people in the Dallas county are fully vaccinated. However, that’s the same number of people in the county that are unvaccinated.

Monday, Sept. 20

Texas Unemployment Falls In August, But Still Higher Than National Rate

The Texas Workforce Commission reported Friday that the state's unemployment rate fell to 5.9% in August, down 0.3% from July. But Texas is still tracking higher than the national rate of 5.2%.

The state added more than 39,000 non-agricultural jobs in August, marking overall employment increases in 15 of the last 16 months.

Despite the gains, leisure and hospitality lost more than 25,000 jobs last month. The manufacturing sector shed 2,200.

Amarillo once again had the lowest jobless rate of any city in Texas at 3.6 %. The Beaumont and McAllen areas reported the highest unemployment rates in Texas at just under 9%.

Extended federal unemployment benefits ended last week after the state's jobless rate fell below the 6.5% threshold in July.

Dallas & Tarrant Counties Both Report More Than 1,000 New Over The Weekend

Dallas County reported nearly 1,200 new cases today of 991 are confirmed.

There were just over 1,300 new cases reported in Tarrant County today.

Each county has had over 4,000 residents with the virus die during the pandemic.

Paxton Joins Other Attorney Generals Threatening To Sue Biden Administration Over Vaccine Mandate

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is among 24 of his Republican counterparts threatening to sue if President Biden follows through on plans to require COVID-19 vaccinations for large companies.

"There's no current law that allows him to require a vaccine for all these millions of Americans. He has to go get that passed by Congress," Paxton said on the Mark Davis Show Friday. "I'm not even sure even Congress can require that, but at the very least we know that there has to be a law in place. The president can't just issue orders and edicts and laws."

The White House says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has the authority to mandate private-sector vaccinations as a temporary, emergency measure for workplace safety.

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

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