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COVID-19 In DFW Nov. 22-Nov. 28: Uptick in cases in North Texas over the past two weeks

A healthcare worker administers a vaccine through a needle in the arm of a young girl.
Nam Y. Huh
COVID case rates are up again, but health officials are encouraged by vaccination rates and seeing more parents get their kids the shots.

After a period of declining numbers, COVID cases have gone up. But officials are encouraged by current vaccine rates and will keep monitoring the virus as cold weather sets in.

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

Friday, Nov. 26

There’s been an uptick in North Texas cases over the past 2 weeks

Counties across North Texas are seeing COVID-19 cases climb the past two weeks after a period of declining numbers.

Phillip Huang with Dallas County Health and Human Services said this year has been a whirlwind.

“We continue to learn something new every day, and then you know, you get thrown a wrench like the Delta variant, and it’s been very hard to predict, and we’ve had to be able to be nimble and respond to whatever new does come about,” Huang said.

He said he’s monitoring the way the virus is hitting colder places such Colorado and the northeast, as that could predict what’s coming for Texas.

Huang is encouraged by the vaccine turnout so far, as that’s the surefire way to protect against COVID-19. More than 1 million people are fully vaccinated in Dallas County.

He said it’s important people think of this as a public health issue, not a political one, especially as people travel to see family and friends for the holidays.

While COVID-19 cases have plateaued in Tarrant County, public health director Vinny Taneja is preparing for an increase in cases over the next few months.

That was the trend last year, but he says there’s also been plenty he couldn’t predict—like the Delta variant.

“Last couple of years there’s been no normal in public health," Taneja said. "There’s no work life balance. Uh, you know, lotta people are working long hours and working real hard.”

He said he expected to have a bigger surge of parents getting their kids vaccinated when the Pfizer vaccine was approved, but that didn’t happen.

A little over 7% of children between 5 and 11 in the county have gotten their first dose.

Juan Rodriguez, Chief Epidemiologist for Denton County Public Health, echoes some of the same sentiments. He urges people to wear a mask and get vaccinated.

“It’s still here," Rodriguez said. "We still have cases. We still have elevated transmission. And we’re still doing vaccinations. So, this is the new normal, we still see surges and yet we’re still trying to do the routine, regular work that we do all of the day.”

While cases are increasing, Rodriguez said it’s hard to tell whether this will mean a big surge like this past July.

Because the seasonal flu is unpredictable like COVID, he said prevention methods like vaccinations and masks help limit the spread of both viruses.

Wednesday, Nov. 24

North Texas pediatric hospitals are figuring out the new baseline for COVID-19 cases

Pediatric hospitals across North Texas are taking stock after a year of unpredictability and stress due to the COVID-19 surge across the state.

Cindy Darnell Bowens. the director of Children’s Medical Pediatric ICU in Dallas, says while cases are down statewide, it’s tough to figure out what the new baseline is.

“In healthcare, I don’t know that we are talking about normal yet. Everybody is still talking about the new normal," Darnell Bowens said. "That may be what we call the future from here on out is the new normal.”

Health officials are expecting an uptick in cases as the weather gets colder and people travel for the holidays.

But it’s different this year, as booster shots are more widely available and children between 5 and 11 can get vaccinated.

More than 3 million kids in this age range have been vaccinated with at least one dose across the country.

Dallas Summer Musicals performance of "Hamilton" canceled due to COVID-19 breakthrough cases

Dallas Summer Musicals canceled Tuesday night's performance of Hamilton due to breakthrough cases of COVID-19 detected within the company, but Wednesday's show will still go on.

The Summer Musicals website said no other performances are expected to be canceled.

An additional performance has been added for Dec. 5 at 7:30.

Ticketholders will be able to exchange their tickets from Tuesday night or receive a refund if they are unable to attend the new show date.

Tuesday, Nov. 23

Holiday travel bounces back

Dallas Fort Worth and Houston Intercontinental airports are two of the world’s busiest. Both, along with the smaller Dallas Love Field, are reporting holiday traffic almost back to pre-pandemic numbers. Chris Perry is a spokesperson for Dallas Love Field.

“We're tracking right at about 95% of what we did in 2019 in terms of passengers," Perry said. "We're more than double of the amount of passengers that we had a year ago for Thanksgiving week."

Perry said he is not worried about any slowdowns from the TSA. Meanwhile, the TSA says 93% of its employees have complied with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, and that the new policy will not affect holiday travel.

Parkland Health offers booster shots to people 18 and over

Beginning Tuesday, the Parkland health system will offer COVID booster shots to anyone over 18 at their primary care health centers in Dallas County.

Those who have an account with Parkland Health, and those who are patients within the health system can schedule appointments through their online accounts. People who do not have an online account with Parkland can call (214) 590-7000 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday to schedule an appointment.

To get the booster shot, patients must have received their second Pfizer or Moderna shot at least six months ago, or gotten the Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago.

Tarrant County health officials optimistic, but cautious

Even as COVID cases continue to trend downwards, Tarrant health officials are still cautious heading into Thanksgiving.

Currently, there are 230 hospitalizations in the county, about eight more than last week.

Public health director Vinny Taneja talked to county commissioners Tuesday.

"I like a one-way trend and that's down, but this flatlining of cases and all the other indicators obviously seasonally worries me," he said. "We saw this last year around this time and then holidays were pretty rough for us."

Health officials are closely monitoring a slight increase in virus spread leading up to this week.

Currently, the alert level for county community spread is "substantial," the second-highest tier.

Monday, Nov. 22

Texas vaccine expert encourages all adults to get boosters

A top vaccine expert is encouraging all adults to get COVID-19 booster shots after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for everyone 18 and older on Friday. The CDC quickly backed the authorization.

Dr. Peter Hotez, with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, says boosters will help prevent breakthrough infections.

"If enough Americans get three doses we can even halt transmission of the virus," Hotez said, speaking on MSNBC.

The FDA and CDC recommend people who received the Moderna or Pfizer shots get a booster six months after the second dose.

More than 2.4 million people in Texas have received an additional dose of a COVID-19 vaccine according to the Department of State Health Services.

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

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