COVID-19 In DFW Oct. 25-Oct. 31: Cases are on the decline, and kids can get shots soon
With cases declining in North Texas, some schools are also dropping mask mandates. Meanwhile, the FDA paves the way for kids 5 to 11 to get the COVID vaccine.
For the latest on the pandemic in North Texas, visit KERA News' COVID-19 Live Updates page.
Saturday, Oct. 30
Dallas County lowers COVID-19 risk level
Dallas County's public health committee lowered the COVID-19 risk level Friday night from the highest level, red, which indicates a high risk of transmission, to orange, which encourages residents to use "extreme caution."
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a statement Friday the decision comes as COVID-19 metrics continue to improve.
"It’s important to note that we need everyone to continue to make good decisions, have courageous conversations about getting the unvaccinated [vaccinated], continue to watch your distance and mask in indoor settings or when you can’t adequately distance at an outdoor event," Jenkins said. "Last year we saw a bump around Halloween and with the holidays and we want to avoid that this year and continue this good trend."
Friday, Oct. 29
FDA paves way for Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations in young kids
The Food and Drug Administration on Friday paved the way for children ages 5 to 11 to get Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The FDA cleared kid-size doses — just a third of the amount given to teens and adults — for emergency use, and up to 28 million more American children could be eligible for vaccinations as early as next week.
One more regulatory hurdle remains: On Tuesday, advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make more detailed recommendations on which youngsters should get vaccinated, with a final decision by the agency’s director expected shortly afterwards.
Read the fully story by theAssociated Press.
Thursday, Oct. 28
Some Texas school districts lift mask mandates
Some school districts across the state suspended their mask mandates this week, citing declining COVID-19 cases. Crowley ISD's ended today. Michael McFarland is the superintendent of the North Texas district.
“Now, over the past six weeks, there’s been a significant decrease in the number of COVID infections among our students and staff," he said. "In Tarrant County, the number of new cases and the positivity rate are also rapidly declining, and the capacity of our local hospitals is improving. This is all great news.”
Other districts that lifted their mask mandates this week include Garland ISD — which is also in North Texas — and Lufkin ISD in East Texas.
However, the Lufkin ISD superintendent says face coverings will be required again after Thanksgiving. All of the mask policies defied the governor's order banning such mandates.
Some immunocompromised people can get a 4th vaccine shot
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now says people who are immunocompromised can get a fourth COVID vaccine six months after their third shot.
People who have compromised immune systems sometimes need three shots of the mRNA vaccines to generate immunity against the COVID virus. So, their third shot technically isn’t a booster.
Dr. Tracey Baas of Texas Biomed and the vaccine development center of San Antonio says that means they may need a fourth shot after six months to boost their immunity.
“Most likely because they are immunocompromised, they will, this is something that will have to be decided by that person and their healthcare provider," she said.
Wednesday, Oct. 27
Texas doctor explains approval process for Pfizer's pediatric vaccine
An FDA Advisory panel voted Tuesday to recommend Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccines for 5 to 11-year-olds.
Dr. Louis Appel is president-elect of the Texas Pediatric Society. He told Texas Standard that’s just the first step.
"After the FDA makes their determination, then the CDC meets next week on November 2nd and 3rd to provide the formal guidance," he said. "Then after the CDC’s advisory group makes that recommendation to the CDC director, the CDC director provides the final recommendations.”
In anticipation of the pediatric shots receiving federal emergency authorization next month, Texas health officials have already pre-ordered 1.3 million doses. About 2.9 million Texas kids would be eligible.
Tuesday, Oct. 26
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson Tests Positive For COVID-19
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson on Tuesday announced he’s tested positive for the coronavirus. Johnson, who is fully vaccinated, said he's experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms. His wife has tested negative.
The mayor said he'll miss Wednesday’s Dallas City Council meeting and other events this week.
Johnson is encouraging Dallas residents to get vaccinated and receive booster shots when they're eligible.
Texas officials are preparing for government approval of COVID-19 vaccines for kids 5 to 11
About 1.3 million doses of the Pfizer pediatric vaccine have been ordered for Texas under a government process called “pre-order prior to launch.”.
Imelda Garcia with the state health department said the agency plans to roll vaccine allocations in three phases.
"There are about 134 counties that will not receive the COVID vaccine in the first wave of shipments because they did not place orders," said Garcia. "Note that this number may change as additional requests may come in before we finalize allocations."
AnFDA committee meets today on whether to recommend the vaccine to the larger agency for approval.
The Crowley school district will lift its temporary mask mandate Thursday
In a video message to the district from Superintendent Michael McFarland said the decision stemmed from declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
"As we review our pandemic protocols, we see proof that our strategies to safely educate students in a high-quality way have been successful," McFarland said.
Crowley adopted a mask mandate in August, in defiance of the Governor's order against such mandates.
Watch the full video message on Crowley ISD's website.
Tarrant and Denton County see a declining number of hospitalizations and cases
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Tarrant County continues to go down.
Public health director Vinny Taneja updated County Commissioners on Tuesday.
"We have 398 people in the hospital in Tarrant County that are confirmed COVID, that's 9.8% of our capacity," he said. "Pediatric hospitalizations are also down, but they're ebbing and flowing a little bit. I think we hit a low of eight and we're back to about 11. But it's again a far cry. Just three or four weeks ago, we had forty-eight kids in the hospital."
Taneja said the demand for testing is also down while the number of people with COVID-19 continues to increase. Which is why Taneja says it’s important residents get tested if they are uncertain.
As of today, 50% of Tarrant County residents are vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Denton County's cases also continue to be on a downward trend.
Matt Richardson is the health director for the county. He told commissioners vaccination rates are rising as well.
"Seventeen thousand boosters and almost 12 hundred third doses given, so that's fantastic," he said. "I think today we would go over 425 thousand shots given by Denton County Public Health, so we're excited about that."
Richardson said Denton County's now offering Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots at its clinics, along with Pfizer doses. More information is available on the Denton public health county website.
Monday, Oct. 25
Moderna says its low-dose COVID shot works for kids 6 to 11
Moderna said Monday that a low dose of its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and appears to work in 6- to 11-year-olds, as the manufacturer joins its rival Pfizer in moving toward expanding shots to children.
Pfizer’s kid-size vaccine doses are closer to widespread use. They are undergoing evaluation by the Food and Drug Administration for youngsters in nearly the same age group, 5 to 11, and could be available by early November. The company’s vaccine already is authorized for anyone 12 or older.
Moderna hasn’t yet gotten the go-ahead to offer its vaccine to teens but is studying lower doses in younger children while it waits.
Read the full story by theAssociated Press.
Texas universities with federal contracts are caught between Greg Abbott and Joe Biden over COVID-19 vaccine mandates
Many Texas universities — which collectively hold billions of dollars in federal contracts — are wrestling with how to navigate the Biden administration’s mandate that all federal contractors be vaccinated by Dec. 8 in a state that bans vaccine mandates.
While more public universities across the country are announcing that all employees must be vaccinated to comply with the federal requirement, several Texas public universities — all managed by Gov. Greg Abbott appointees — told The Texas Tribune they are still evaluating the executive order, which applies to new federal contracts of $250,000 or greater and awarded as of Nov. 14 or existing contracts that have been renewed as of Oct. 15.
“This is unprecedented,” said Michael LeRoy, a labor law expert at the University of Illinois College of Law. “There have been conflicts between the state and federal government, but not at this magnitude with this kind of money on the line.”
LeRoy believes the issue will be resolved in the courts because of the two conflicting issues at the center. State universities receive funding from the state and federal level but they are run by a board of regents appointed by the Texas governor.
While LeRoy said it’s unlikely the federal government will immediately terminate a grant if universities don't comply, he said a university’s actions could impact future bids for federal grants. The federal government could begin to give notice to rescind a grant, he speculated, but that is a lengthy process. For now, universities are awaiting guidance from their own lawyers.
Read the full story by The Texas Tribune.
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