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COVID-19 In DFW Oct. 18-Oct. 24: More people can get booster shots

A person in a teal sweater receives information about COVID vaccines from a worker in a white sweater, mask and face shield, inside a large warehouse.
Keren Carrión
Booster shots for COVID are now more widely available.

The CDC and FDA paved the way for mixing brands when it comes to getting the boosters, and guidelines for who can get the shot have been updated.

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

Sunday, Oct. 24

Tarrant County reports 431 new cases

Tarrant County Public Health is reporting 431 news cases, bringing the total number of cases in the county to 359,971. Of those cases, 298,376 are confirmed and 61,595 are probable cases.

Saturday, Oct. 23

Tarrant County reports 409 new cases, 16 deaths

Tarrant County health officials today report 409 new cases of COVID-19, as well as 16 additional deaths.

The county has now recorded 4,644 deaths tied to COVID-19. Officials also report a countywide total of 359,540 cases, along with 341,540 recoveries.

Tarrant County now offering Moderna, Johnson & Johnson booster doses

Tarrant County Public Health is now offering booster doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. The county has already been offering booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Officials are encouraging eligible residents to get booster doses from local pharmacies or vaccine clinics. Tarrant County Public Health reports 61,945 residents have received booster doses to date. Community spread of COVID-19 in the county remains high.

Friday, Oct. 22

CDC updates its eligibility requirements for booster shots

With the FDA's approval of mixing COVID-19 booster shots, the CDC has updated its guidelines for the boosters.

Those who got a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and fall into the following categories are eligible for a booster shot six months after their second shot:

For those who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, booster shots are recommended for those 18 and older who were vaccinated two or more months ago.
Texas schools started this year with record high coronavirus cases, but weekly totals have now declined

Students in Texas public schools are facing another year upturned by COVID-19 as the highly contagious delta variant spreads, mask mandates are inconsistent and children under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated against the virus.

Nearly three months into this school year, the number of reported coronavirus cases among students has surpassed the total from the entire 2020-21 school year. Schools are prohibited from taking precautions such as requiring masks, though some are fighting the governor’s order banning mask mandates. Far more students are on campus, since most districts do not have a remote learning option.

Every Friday, the Texas Education Agency releases COVID-19 case counts for students and staff, as reported by the state’s school districts.

State data on school cases is incomplete and likely an undercount. TEA suppresses some districts’ case counts to protect student privacy, and not all districts report student and staff cases to the state, despite agency guidance requiring otherwise. The agency also retroactively updates its data from previous weeks as more districts report cases.

Some large districts, such as Houston and Dallas, have not consistently reported cases to the state since TEA started tracking COVID-19 data on Aug. 2 for this school year. Many districts publish a COVID-19 dashboard that shows cases, and TEA recommends families check for the latest data there.

Read the full story by The Texas Tribune.

American and Southwest airlines post third-quarter profits

Third-quarter profits posted by Texas's two major airlines Thursday signal the industry's rebound from the pandemic is getting off the ground.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines reported a $169 million profit from July to September. Dallas' Southwest Airlines says it earned nearly $450 million. But those profits did rely on federal pandemic relief funding.

Southwest CEO Bob Jordan expects gains to continue after the coronavirus surge this summer.

"As cases have come down and subsided booking trends have recovered nicely on both the leisure and the business front and booking trends are in line for the holidays with 2019," Jordan said.      
Southwest said it lost $75 million after having to cancel more than 2,000 flights earlier this month.

Thursday, Oct. 21

FDA OKs mixing COVID vaccines; backs Moderna, J&J boosters

U.S. regulators on Wednesday signed off on extending COVID-19 boosters to Americans who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine and said anyone eligible for an extra dose can get a brand different from the one they received initially.

The Food and Drug Administration’s decisions mark a big step toward expanding the U.S. booster campaign, which began with extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine last month. But before more people roll up their sleeves, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will consult an expert panel Thursday before finalizing official recommendations for who should get boosters and when.

The latest moves would expand by tens of millions the number of Americans eligible for boosters and formally allow “mixing and matching” of shots — making it simpler to get another dose, especially for people who had a side effect from one brand but still want the proven protection of vaccination.

Read the fully story by the Associated Press.

Number of COVID Hospitalization, Student Infections Drop To Lowest Point In Last Three Months

Texas has seen the lowest COVID hospitalization numbers in three months. The number dropped under 5,000 Tuesday for the first time since the last deadly surge began.

Texas has seen huge improvements across the board at most of its hospitals with ICU bed availability more than doubling since peak infection.

The latest numbers of reported public school student infections have dropped from a peak of 43,000 students in early September to a tenth of that in mid-October.

One area where the state has seen little improvement is in the number of mobile mortuary trailers being used statewide. Eight counties are using nine morgue trailers after local capacity was overwhelmed despite a dramatic drop in deaths from the disease.

Wednesday, Oct. 20

Despite looming deadline, most Texas nursing home staff vaccination rates didn’t change between August and September

Long-term care facilities in Texas have not reported a recent uptick in COVID-19 vaccinations among staff. That's despite the possibility of a federal mandate.

The Biden Administration has announced it will seek to require vaccinations for staff at health care facilities funded by Medicare or Medicaid.

But overall, only 11% of Texas nursing homes and assisted living facilities are known to have staff vaccination rates of 75% or more.

Texas Standard did a breakdown of of the numbers.

"We looked at state and federal data between mid August and that was right before the Biden administration announced an upcoming federal mandate, and then we looked at that through mid September," Caroline Covington with the Standard said. "And found that even with the threat of that mandate, the needle hasn't really moved much on staff vaccinations."

Gov. Greg Abbott recently issued an executive order barring COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

American and Southwest Airlines have backed off plans to fire or suspend workers who file for religious exemptions.

Both airlines have recently talked with employee unions that workers granted religious exemptions can continue to work, according to reporting by The Dallas Morning News.

If granted an exemption, employees are asked to take extra health protocols, such as wearing masks and participating in regular testing.

However, Fort Worth-based American Airlines could still fire employees who refuse to go along with the policy. On the other hand, Gary Kelly, CEO of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, recently said on ABC's Good Morning America, the airline will not fire any employees over this particular issue.

Airlines have until Dec. 8th to comply with federal mandates for company employee vaccinations or risk losing federal contracts.

Read the story from The Dallas Morning News.

Tuesday, Oct. 19

FDA to announce that people can mix and match brands when they get booster shots

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is planning to allow Americans to mix and match COVID-19 vaccines when getting a booster shot, according to reporting by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

By way of example, those who received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine can get the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine as their booster shot. And those who got the single-dose J&J shot can turn to Moderna or Pfizer for their booster.

An independent panel that advises the FDA has recommended a half-dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine as a booster for people 65 and older, as well as adults with other health problems, jobs or living situations that put them at increased risk for COVID-19.

The FDA panel has endorsed boosters of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine for people 18 and older.

Read the story from The Dallas Morning News.

Some families who got advance child tax credit payments might see smaller checks in the future because of a technical error

The IRS said some families eligible for the advanced child tax credit who received a split payment in September may have gotten a little too much. As a result, their October, November and December payments may be reduced slightly.

It goes back to what was described as a "technical issue" with the September payment. This caused about 2% of child tax credit recipients to get their payments late.

One of the issues, the IRS said, was with parents who file their taxes jointly -- the basis of which determines how much money each family gets. If the parents want to opt out or change their banking or address information, then both parents must apply for that change. If only one makes a change, only half the money will be affected.

Read more from WFAA.

Dallas County officials want residents to be vaccinated against COVID and the flu

Dallas County health officials are urging residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu.

Dr. Phillip Huang, the director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, updated county commissioners at a meeting Tuesday and said residents who are not fully vaccinated make up a majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations. And many people have yet to get shots.

"Still about, close to 50% that are not fully vaccinated, so that's still a lot of vulnerable people in our community," he said.

Huang said COVID-19 hospitalizations are declining, but people still need to remain vigilant and follow safety guidelines as the holiday season approaches.

Hospitalizations are going down in Tarrant County

Tarrant County health officials said COVID-19 metrics are starting to improve.

Public health director Vinny Taneja updated County Commissioners on Tuesday

"All of the indicators are in a down trend, so that's great news," he said. "We're almost half in terms of hospitalizations where we were two weeks. So we have 456 people in the hospital confirmed with COVID, that's 10.71% of the capacity. Pediatric hospitalizations are down."

Taneja said Tarrant County is still seeing a high level of community spread.

The county reported 328 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths.

Monday, Oct. 18

Fauci criticizing Gov. Abbott's vaccine mandate ban

President Biden's chief medical adviser and infections disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci is condemning Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on vaccine mandates.

"From a public health standpoint, that is really unfortunate because we know how effective vaccines are in preventing not only illness for the individual but for diminishing the dynamics of the infection in society," Fauci said on Fox News Sunday.

Fauci added Abbott's decision to block businesses from requiring inoculations will damage public health, calling vaccines the most effective means to stop the spread of COVID 19.

"We're not living in a vacuum as individuals, we're living in a society. And society needs to protected," he said. "You do that by not only protecting yourself but by protecting the people around you."

The FDA will decide on a panel recommendation for Moderna and Johnson and Johnson boosters as soon as this week.

Fauci also says vaccinated people could have a normal holiday season with others who have received the shot.

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

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