COVID Live Updates: Weatherford ISD to close schools through Friday
Get live updates throughout the day on how COVID-19 is affecting North Texas.
» COVID-19 By The Numbers:
- In Texas: More than 4.3 million cases and more than 74,100 deaths have been reported.
- Cases In North Texas: Tarrant County: 376,070; Dallas County: 353,389; Denton County: 112,941; Collin County: 109,534. There have been at least 12,277 reported deaths in the region's four largest counties. (Data as of Dec. 14)
- Counties across Texas: Use the Texas Newsroom's interactive maps.
- Global: See Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 dashboard.
Wednesday, Jan. 19
A new temporary drive-thru COVID-19 testing site opens today in Arlington
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is parterning with Tarrant County to bring more testing centers to the community.
Testing will take place in the Texas Rangers Sienna Lot M on 1205 Pennant Drive. Hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The site will offer tests until early Feb.
In order to receive a test, participants must register ahead at https://ineedacovid19test.com/.
Tuesday, Jan. 18
Weatherford ISD to close schools through Friday
Weatherford ISD is closing schools Wednesday through Friday due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. In a statement Tuesday, Superintendent Beau Rees said the district does not have enough staff or substitutes to keep schools open.
Rees said the decision “was not taken lightly,” and students will not be required to make up the days off. Campuses are set to reopen Monday. The district plans to deep clean facilities during the closure.
Denton County hospitalization rate holds, number of cases rise
COVID-19 cases are rising in Denton County, but hospitalization rates are holding steady.
Public health director Matt Richardson updated county commissioners today.
He says multiple projections indicate the omicron wave could peak by the end of the month. But Richardson says we're still about two weeks away from knowing that.
"So we remain very hopeful, we're also very concerned. The positivity remains very very high, so that's telling us we're still in the thick of it," he said.
The week after Christmas, Denton County reported a record of nearly 8,000 COVID cases in one week.
Saturday, Jan. 15
ACA open enrollment ends today
Today is the last day Texans can sign up for health insurance through healthcare.gov, the online marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. Coverage will start February 1.
"Last year, out of 1.2 million people who signed up for health insurance, 660,000 did it the last week," said Brian Sasser with the Episcopal Health Foundation in Houston. "So hopefully, that’s the case again this year, and there’s even more options and more financial assistance available this year than last.”
At least 1.7 million Texans have already signed up for ACA health insurance, a record high for enrollment in the state.
Thursday, Jan. 13
State officials continue to wind down the Texas Rent Relief Program
Bobby Wilkinson, with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, gave an update Thursday on how much money has been distributed through the Texas Rent Relief Program.
"We've distributed approximately $1.97 billion in rent and utility assistance to more than 307,000 households across the state," Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson stated less than 2% of the assistance funds remain in the rent relief program. He expects them to be distributed by the end of the month.
The program stopped accepting new applications in November due to overwhelming demand.
Wednesday, Jan. 12
Another weekly COVID-19 testing site and vaccination clinic opens in Dallas County
Friendship-West Baptist Church is hosting a free-COVID 19 rapid testing clinic, starting today. Tests will be administered every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Rapid test results will be available within 3 to 5 hours.
The Dallas church will also host a vaccine clinic until Feb. 11th. Vaccines and boosters will be available every Sunday from 10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. and every Thursday from 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Appointments are not required for either service. Vaccines and testing will be administered on a first-come, first-served basis.
Health officials are encouraging rural hospitals to apply for pandemic relief funds before today's deadline
The federal funding is made available through the American Rescue Plan Act and is aimed at supporting critical staffing needs during the pandemic.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission have about $90 million dollars in grants for nursing facilities.
Each can receive up to $75,000 in funding. HHSC has another $38 million to distribute to rural hospitals, which can each get $250,000.
So far, roughly 90% of eligible nursing facilities and hospitals have applied.
State researchers project the latest surge in COVID hospitalizations will surpass last year's peak
University of Texas researchers project the U.S.'s latest surge in coronavirus hospitalizations will surpass last year's peak by later this month.
UT-Austin's COVID Modeling Consortium based its projections on the omicron variant's transmissibility, severity, and the population's immunity from prior infections and vaccinations.
Anass Bouchnita is a researcher with the university. He said their best-case scenario shows about half as many deaths and slightly more hospitalizations than the peak last January.
"The number is that we will exceed the prior level of hospitalizations by 20% on average," Bouchnita said.
Bouchnita emphasized the worst-case scenario projects slightly more fatalities and nearly three times as many hospital admissions as seen a year ago.
Tuesday, Jan. 11
State education officials reduce the isolation period for school staff
Texas education officials have reduced how long school staff should isolate after contracting COVID-19 from 10 to 5 days.
The Texas Education Agency's recommendations updated Friday are based on the latest CDC guidelines. Ovidia Molina, President of the Texas State Teachers Association, emphasized a shorter quarantine time should also come with more local control.
"We would like to see our education agency in Texas actually look at what is happening in our schools and not follow what our governor is saying -- who does not know what is happening in our school systems," Molina said.
Members of the Texas State Teachers Association are currently calling for Governor Greg Abbott to lift his ban on school mask mandates.
Denton County hospitals challenged by staff shortages
Denton County hospitals are facing staffing challenges as the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads.
Public health director Matt Richardson updated county commissioners this morning. He said patients are facing lengthy delays in emergency rooms while trying to get care.
"So many of our hospitals are experiencing E.R. holds. Some are hours and some are multiple hours, maybe double-digit hours in the E.R., waiting for a staffed bed," Richardson said.
Richardson encouraged all eligible residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and get booster shots.
If you've been exposed to COVID, get tested five days later or sooner if you develop symptoms.
Testing is available at the Denton County Public Health building and Westside Baptist Church this week. Appointments are required.
Monday, Jan. 10
Dallas ISD boosting substitute pay, shuffling staff to cover teacher absences
The recent surge in COVID-19 cases across North Texas is affecting schools as teachers and staff are out sick.
Sherry Christian, Deputy Chief of Staff with Dallas ISD, updated Dallas City Council members Monday. "We are seeing an uptick in the number of individuals who test positive,” she said. “So we are having to request quite a few subs, and it is difficult to get subs sometimes.”
Christian says so one of the district’s strategies right now includes having central staff subbing in several classrooms.
Dallas ISD is among several North Texas districts boosting pay for substitute teachers as a way to try to attract more workers.
Christian also says, per CDC recommendation, the quarantine time for DISD staff who test positive for COVID-19 is five days.
Dallas County opens up four new drive-thru testing sites this week
Growing demand for COVID-19 testing has prompted Dallas County to open four new drive-thru testing sites this week.
Here are the times and locations for the new testing sites:
- Dallas College North Lake Campus 5001 N MacArthur Blvd | 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. | Monday - Thursday
- Trinity View Park 2221 E. Highway 356 | 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. | Monday - Saturday
- Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center 5150 Mark Trail Way | 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. | Monday - Thursday
- Fair Park — Lot 13 3809 Grand Ave | 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. | Monday - Sunday
Appointments can be made at My-COVID-Appointment.com.
Federal health officials recommend getting tested at least five days after being exposed to COVID, or as soon as symptoms start.
Saturday, Jan. 8
Richardson ISD to require face masks as cases rise
Richardson ISD will require face masks in pre-K through grade 12 schools beginning Monday. In a statement Friday, Interim Superintendent Tabitha Branum cited "an unprecedented rise in positive cases."
“We continue to focus on the goal of keeping our schools open for in-person teaching and learning, and this is a necessary step if we hope to keep our students learning in school," Branum said.
Officials say they'll assess conditions by the end of the month to decide whether to keep the universal mask requirement in place.
Friday, Jan. 7
State educators are concerned for faculty and students amid the surge in COVID-19 cases ahead of the spring semester
As universities and colleges reopen this month for the Spring semester, the Texas Faculty Association is concerned for faculty and students amid the surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant.
Cary Wintz is the Vice President of the group’s board. He’s also a distinguished professor of History at Texas Southern University. He says while online learning is not the best way to teach, it can stop the spread of the virus.
“It’s a tough decision, but certainly, I have no doubt if we fill our campuses up with students, we’re going to have a shutdown in three to four weeks.”
Earlier this week, state health officials reported that Texas surpassed 4 million COVID-19 cases.
Dallas County reports the highest single-day total of new cases since the beginning of the pandemic
Dallas county yesterday reported 6,310 new cases of COVID-19. The highest single-day total reported since the beginning of the pandemic.
The actual number could be higher because county officials report the data doesn't include home test kits.
Tarrant County is also experiencing an alarming rise in new cases as the Omicron variant continues to spread. Tarrant County reported more than 6,040 new cases, yesterday.
The new data follows a report from UT Southwestern Medical Center showing Dallas County could see more than 1,200 hospitalizations by the end of the month. Tarrant County could see about 2,000.
According to a study by state health officials, unvaccinated Texans are twenty times more likely to die from COVID-19 and thirteen times more likely to test positive.
Thursday, Jan. 6
COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Texas are expected to see record numbers this month
COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Texas are expected to see record numbers this month. That's according to the latest forecast from U-T Southwestern Medical Center.
The model released yesterday shows Dallas County could see more than 1,200 hospitalizations by the end of the month. Tarrant County could see about 2,000 hospitalizations. Both counties are expected to see more than 5,000 new cases per day in Jan.
As of today, the Omicron variant makes up the majority of the cases reported in the area.
According to a study released by the Texas Department of State Health Services, unvaccinated Texans are twenty times more likely to die from COVID-19.
FEMA is set to open six COVID-19 testing centers in Texas
Local officials are welcoming news that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is opening six COVID-19 testing sites across Texas.
One will be located in Tarrant County, which like many other communities, is facing a surge of infections and hospitalizations fueled by the omicron variant.
"A shortage of staff in our hospitals. It's not so much that we don't have beds available. It's the problem of staffing those beds," said Judge Glen Whitley of Tarrant County. He spoke with public radio's Texas Standard about the challenges his county is facing.
Whitley emphasized the staffing shortage is because health care workers are coming down with COVID-19.
Wednesday, Jan. 5
State officials sue the Biden administration over vaccine mandate affecting Texas National Guard
Governor Abbott is suing the Biden administration to block a vaccine requirement that applies to Texas National Guard members.
In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, state officials are refusing vaccinations in defiance of a Biden administration order that requires National Guard members on state duty to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
Approximately, 40% of the state's Army National Guard are currently refusing to receive the vaccine. The state currently has more than 20,000 National Guard members, the largest contingent of any state.
Texas has previously sued over federal vaccine requirements for large companies, health care workers, federal contractors, and the Head Start program.
FEMA distributed more than $159 million in financial assistance to help cover funeral expenses for COVID-19 related deaths
In Texas, the agency distributed more than $159 million to 24,386 people. Nearly 75,000 Texans have died from COVID-19 during the pandemic. Only California has confirmed more fatalities than Texas.
The assistance is limited to $9,000 per funeral.
FEMA says it has distributed more than $1.6 billion to at least 247,000 people nationwide to help with COVID-19 related funeral costs.
Tuesday, Jan. 4
Parkland Hospital opens new COVID-19 testing site
Amid a surge of coronavirus cases, Dallas’s Parkland Health and Hospital System opened up a new COVID-19 testing site at their Amelia Court Clinic.
Hospital spokesperson Jared Lange said, while the clinic is open to everyone, some people’s testing needs may be more urgent.
“In regards to who we can test, it is open to anybody,” Lange said. “But we do stress that you only get tested if you are symptomatic, or if you had exposure. There's a lot of demand right now. So we want to conserve those tests for those that truly needed.”
The testing is by appointment only, Monday through Saturday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. To make an appointment, visit www.parklandhospital.com/covidtest.
Tarrant County sees rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations
COVID-19 spread remains high in Tarrant County. Officials say they're also seeing an uptick in hospitalizations.
Public health director Vinny Taneja updated county commissioners Tuesday.
He says Tarrant County has seen an increase in hospital admissions tied to COVID — in adults and children.
"We're starting to see an increase in pediatric hospitalizations, I think the last I checked we were at 29, we've had a pandemic high of about 44. All indications from looking elsewhere, it is coming for the kids too, and a little worried that schools are about to open, so let's see what happens."
Taneja encourages residents to take precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. That includes avoiding crowds, getting vaccinated and wearing well-fitting face masks.
Monday, Jan. 3
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tests positive for COVID-19
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is completing a self-quarantine after contracting COVID-19 with mild symptoms.
His campaign says he tested positive last week, quarantined at home where he continues to work, and now tests negative.
No one in his household is positive, and Patrick plans to resume a public schedule by week’s end, his campaign announced.
FDA authorizes booster shots for 12- to 15-year-olds
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine Monday for teens as young as 12 as the omicron surge continues.
The decision still needs approval from the CDC, which plans to make a final decision later this week.
Meanwhile, cases in Dallas county continue to rise with twice as many cases reported compared to the previous week.
“It's just readily apparent that this is so easily spread now and so it's concerning, especially with school coming back. We want to make sure everyone takes all the precautions and does everything they can to slow the spread," said Dr. Philip Huang, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.
Huang said he encourages everyone who’s eligible to get boosted to do so as soon as possible. The FDA recommends the eligibility for teens will be five months instead of six.
Thursday, Dec. 30
Pediatric COVID admissions at Cook Children's hospital have more than tripled in the past week
Dr. Mary Whitworth is the medical director of infectious diseases at the Fort Worth hospital. She says 29 children are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.
"So our peak in September, I think, was 50. But just to give you some perspective, a week ago we had eight in the hospital," Whitworth said. " And so we are saying for sure rising numbers throughout the country of children in the hospital with this."
As of Tuesday, 75 kids across North Texas were hospitalized with the virus. That's about 8% of the total bed capacity available.
Whitworth stressed a vast majority of the children hospitalized at Cook Children's are unvaccinated.
COVID-19 patients are taking up roughly 82% of the ICU bed capacity in North Texas
Head of the DFW Hospital Council Stephen Love says as of Tuesday, there were more than 1,600 adults and at least 75 children hospitalized with COVID in North Texas.
"We definitely have seen an increase in adults and in pediatrics, so we're definitely seeing a surge," Love said.
The highly contagious Omicron variant is partly to blame for the spike, as well as large gatherings over the holidays.
Infectious disease experts say the best defense against severe illness and hospitalization is to get vaccinated and get a booster shot, if eligible.
Tuesday, Dec. 28
Dallas County moved to "red" after major uptick in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations
Citing a “dramatic increase” in the number of COVID-19 cases due in part to the highly contagious Omicron variant, the Dallas County Public Health Committee has moved the county’s threat level to Red, or “high risk of transmission.”
In a letter to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the committee said it was “very concerned” and pointed out that Dallas County data currently shows a spike in positive cases of COVID-19, lack of access to testing supplies and more ER visits and hospitalizations, including elevated pediatric hospitalizations.
The committee ends its letter asking Jenkins and the Dallas County Commissioners for help in increasing the vaccination rate, including booster shots, and expanding COVID-19 testing. The committee also wants to limit public gatherings and enforce universal masking.
Dallas county released its latest COVID-19 case count Tuesday evening, revealing 1,619 new positive cases and 19 deaths. Jenkins tweeted about the significant spike in cases.
“The numbers for today (Tuesday) are doubling the numbers from our last reported day before Christmas (Dec. 23) of 874 cases which was an 82% increase of the day before. COVID is now spreading rapidly again.”
In a lengthy Twitter thread, Jenkins urged people in Dallas County to get vaccinated, get the booster shot, wear surgical masks or N95s outside of the household, consider using drive up and delivery services to shop, and work remotely, if possible.
The Dallas Stars' next two games have been postponed due to the omicron variant
The National Hockey League announced the Stars' next two games against Colorado this week have been postponed. The team was set to play the Colorado Avalanche both at home and away.
All tickets for Friday's scheduled home game will be valid for the rescheduled date.
Currently, Dallas has eight players in the NHL's COVID-protocol, along with two support staff members.
Several Texas facilities run out of monoclonal antibody treatment as a surge in omicron variant cases continues
The Texas Department of State Health Services says five facilities in Texas have run out of a monoclonal antibody treatment that is effective against the omicron variant.
The affected infusion centers are located in Austin, El Paso, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and The Woodlands.
The Department of State Health Services said the sites will not be able to offer this monoclonal antibody treatment until the federal government is able to ship more of it. The expected date is sometime in January.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the omicron variant accounts for more than 90% of all COVID-19 cases in Texas.
Studies show vaccines still give adequate protection against the omicron variant
Amid the Omicron surge, experts say the COVID-19 vaccines are still protecting people against severe illness.
Dr. Trish Perl is chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine at UT-Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. She talked to public radio's Texas Standard.
"We still may be having breakthrough infections, and in fact, we are having breakthrough infections. When we give someone a booster, what we're doing is really enhancing the immune response," Perl said.
Dr. Perl stressed regardless of vaccination status COVID-19 precautions are still vital at this time.
Monday, Dec. 27
The city of Fort Worth offers new mobile testing sites
The Fort Worth ISD Scarborough-Handley Fieldhouse and Como Community Center will be open for testing on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Appointments are not required and saliva tests will be given out at no cost. Insurance is not required.
Here are the times and locations for the new testing sites:
- FWISD Scarborough-Handley Fieldhouse, 6201 Craig St. | 8-11:30 a.m.
- Como Community Center, 4660 Horne St. | 1-4:30 p.m.
- FWISD Scarborough-Handley Fieldhouse, 6201 Craig St. | 8 - 11:30 a.m.
- Como Community Center, 4660 Horne St. | 1 - 4:30 p.m.
The city plans to keep these testing sites open for the next few weeks.
If you need help getting a free COVID-19 test, contact the COVID-19 hotline or call 817-392-8478. Check out more information about testing and vaccination in Tarrant County.
Thursday, Dec. 23
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic enters NBA's COVID-19 protocols
Tonight's matchup against Milwaukee would have marked his return from a five-game injury absence, but The Dallas Morning News reports Doncic yesterday entered the NBA's COVID-19 protocols.
It is unclear if Doncic will be on the starting lineup for the game against The Utah Jazz on Saturday night in Salt Lake City. The matchup is the final one of ESPN/ABC's five Christmas Day games.
He joins several other Mavs players now sidelined.
Players have to test negative twice or be sidelined for 10 days to return to the court.
Read more from The Dallas Morning News about what that means for the Dallas Mavericks here.
Wednesday, Dec. 22
State officials are distributing more federal pandemic relief to support higher education and public schools
Governor Greg Abbott says Texas is distributing another $123 million in federal pandemic relief to support higher education and public schools in the state.
Texas is going to spend $20 million of this final allocation of funding on the Supplemental Special Education Services program.
It helps families of students with disabilities cover the cost of services, such as tutoring, from state-approved vendors.
More than $30 million will go toward initiatives that help with student enrollment and retention. Another $10 million was allocated for a grant program for charter schools.
Tuesday, Dec. 21
County officials worry about holiday spread of omicron
Dallas County officials are keeping the county’s COVID-19 risk level at “orange” for now. Orange means “extreme caution,” a step below the highest risk level of red, or “high risk of transmission.”
Yet County Health Director Philip Huang said the omicron variant is a “serious concern” due to its high rate of spread. In remarks to the county commissioner’s court, Huang noted recent CDC data showed omicron is the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S. This development came less than a month after the first reported U.S. case of the variant.
“More data are needed to know if omicron infections … cause more severe illness or death than infection with other variants,” according to the CDC.
Either way, Huang said higher transmissions could strain the health care system.
“Even if it’s a lower percentage that are severe illness, with huge numbers that can still lead to increased numbers of hospitalizations.”
Further strain could come from health care staff getting omicron, Huang said.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins encouraged people to move some Christmas celebrations outdoors, where COVID-19 is less transmissible. Forecasters predict highs in the 80s this weekend in North Texas.
Tarrant County awaits inevitable surge in COVID-19 cases
Tarrant County Public Health director Vinny Taneja told county commissioners Tuesday that COVID-19 data is currently stagnant in the region.
“The post-Thanksgiving bump, we got over that, and with the holidays less testing's happening, labs are closed, or less staff are there, people are just enjoying the holiday time,” he said. “And so there's less demand on testing, so we'll find out after Christmas what is really happening."
Taneja says more than half of all eligible people in the county are fully vaccinated (58%), and is urging people also get a booster shot.
"All indications are that if you're boosted you have a better chance of fighting off any variant, including the omicron,” he said. “So let's do that, and other folks who are not yet vaccinated, certainly it's time to get vaccinated."
Tarrant County reported 421 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, and six additional deaths on Tuesday.
Vaccine expert says Texans need to take extra precautions over the holidays amid omicron spread
Dr. Peter Hotez with the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital told NPR it's important to keep gatherings small.
"Make certain that everyone who is eligible for that booster get boosted," Hotez said. "And if you have vulnerable people that you're celebrating with keep that in mind."
Texas has seen a growing number of coronavirus cases with nearly 9-thousand new infections confirmed yesterday.
Harris County reports its first death related to the Omicron COVID-19 variant
The first county in Texas to confirm an omicron case is now reporting its first death from the COVID-19 variant.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo yesterday said the man in his 50s was not vaccinated.
"As we've been expecting the omicron variant of COVID-19 has arrived in full force," Hidalgo said.
Hospitals in North Texas are preparing for a COVID-19 surge in cases and hospitalizations sparked by omicron that may come in early next month.
Dr. Joseph Chang called it inevitable. The chief medical officer at Parkland Health and Hospital System told The Dallas Morning News the hospital closed most of its COVID-19 units recently as cases dwindled. Chang now expects to open more of those units again.
Monday, Dec. 20
COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Texas are expected to increase over the holidays
COVID-19 Hospitalizations in North Texas are expected set to increase over the holidays. That's according to a new COVID-19 forecast from UT Southwestern Medical Center.
In Dallas County, a 6% increase is expected in the next two weeks. In Tarrant County, it's forecasted to be a 13% spike.
Delta is still the prominent COVID variant, with Omicron not too far behind. Currently, there are confirmed cases of the new variant in Collin, Dallas, and Tarrant counties.
As cases increase, vaccination rates are expected to stay the same.
Unvaccinated Texans are 20 times more likely to die from COVID-19, state health officials say. They also make up the majority of hospitalizations in the region.
Read the full report from UT Southwestern Medical Center here.
Saturday, Dec. 18
NFL tightening COVID-19 protocols after surge in cases
The NFL is updating its COVID-19 policies in response to an increase in cases, as well as the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. All 32 football teams must require masks in their facilities, only offer grab-and-go meals and hold meetings virtually for at least the next few days.
Dallas Cowboys Coach Mike McCarthy, who recently had COVID-19, said Friday switching to virtual meetings was fine.
"We're much better prepared to do the virtual clearly, and I thought it was very smooth," McCarthy said.
The NFL is also making it easier for players who are vaccinated and asymptomatic to return to games.
Wednesday, Dec. 15
Judge Clay Jenkins urges residents to get booster shots
Dallas County leaders are urging residents to be aware of the growing dangers of COVID-19 variants.
Today at a town hall conducted by telephone, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins urged people to get their COVID booster shots.
"The booster will provide you significantly more protection against the omicron, the omicron variant, than just your two shots.”
Jenkins is also encouraging people to wear masks.
Tuesday, Dec. 14
UT Southwestern scientists have found its first omicron variant case
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center has identified its first omicron variant case using genomic sequencing, according to a story in the Dallas Morning News.
The Texas Department of State Health Services verified the case Monday, UT Southwestern spokesperson James Beltran said. The UT Southwestern lab declined to share details of the case, including where the patient is from and when they were diagnosed with COVID-19.
The first two cases of omicron were found in North Texas last week: a 35-year-old man from Tarrant County and a 40-year-old man from Collin County.
Monday, Dec. 13
Experts say omicron variant not top concern in Dallas this holiday season — delta is
The Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation in Dallas County (PCCI) has been tracking COVID-19 data since March 2020, including the new omicron variant recently found in Texas.
However, omicron is not their top concern in North Texas this holiday season, according to the group’s CEO, Steve Miff.
“Relative to omicron, we anticipate that we're not going to see that to be a dominant strain in the Dallas area in Texas for the next six to 12 weeks,” Miff said. “So we're still going to have need to have our guard up relative to delta.”
While the omicron variant is still new, Miff said there are a few things that the group knows for sure: it spreads faster than any other variant.
“Just to put in perspective what we're talking about is, about 3.5% reproduction rate versus a 1.5% rate with Delta, so significantly higher,” Miff told KERA News.
Hospital administrators advise people to get fully vaccinated and get a booster shot.
Saturday, Dec. 11
Dallas County to continue offering gift cards at vaccine clinics
Dallas County will continue offering $25 gift cards to those getting a COVID-19 vaccine. The county has already been distributing Walmart gift cards, as well as other incentives, at certain vaccine clinics. During a special-called meeting Friday, Dallas County Commissioners approved funding for more gift cards.
District Four Commissioner Elba Garcia praised the vaccine incentive and said it's important to accurately track how many gift cards the county is handing out.
"[An] overabundance of caution, that's it," Garcia said, "and be sure there's a process for accountability."
Eligible residents can earn up to $75 in gift cards, one for each dose, including a booster shot.
In a statement Friday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins stressed the importance of getting boosters ahead of holiday gatherings.
Friday, Dec. 10
First-time jobless claims in Texas jumped to more than 18,000 last week
Texas set a new low during the pandemic a week before.
The number of Texans seeking first-time benefits increased more than 75% for the week ending Dec. 4th.
A week earlier, roughly 10,400 Texans filed claims, which would be considered especially low even before the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.
Nationwide, the Labor Department reports initial jobless claims last week hit their lowest level in 52 years.
Texas Workforce Commission urges businesses to report to their employers if they're subjected to a vaccine mandate
The governor's executive order against such mandates says no entity in the state - including private businesses - can require anyone to take the COVID vaccine if they cite a medical, religious or personal exemption. It carries a $1,000 fine.
In a statement to the Dallas Morning News, Greg Abbott said a hotline has been created so employees can report illegal vaccine mandates.
The Governor said he encourages Texans to get vaccinated, but it's a voluntary choice.
The omicron COVID-19 variant has been detected in North Texas
Officials received a report from a lab in Frisco yesterday showing a man from Tarrant County in his 30s and a man from Collin County in his 40s tested positive.
Neither of the patients traveled internationally and both received two doses of the COVID vaccine.
Public health officials say the third booster dose appears to provide better protection against the new strain.
Thursday, Dec. 9
CDC expands boosters to include 16- and 17-year-olds
U.S. health authorities said Thursday that 16- and 17-year-olds should get a booster dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine once they’re six months past their last shot.
The U.S. and many other nations already were urging adults to get booster shots to pump up immunity that can wane months after vaccination, calls that intensified with the discovery of the worrisome new omicron variant.
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for 16- and 17-year-olds to get a third dose of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech. And hours later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted the last barrier — saying those teens should get their booster as soon as it’s time.
A top vaccine expert in Texas is warning about the next wave of COVID-19 cases this winter
Doctor Peter Hotez, with Texas Children's Hospital Center for vaccine development in Houston, said his current concern is not the omicron variant detected in the city's wastewater earlier this week.
"My first is this Delta Wave that's gonna start revving up, and it's maybe already starting in Texas," said Hotez. "You know, that hit us so hard over the summer, and we're up for another round... When I think about things that keep me up at night, it's the next round of the Delta variant."
Hotez stressed he's watching for a possible rise in cases and hospitalizations as people gather indoors and meet over the holidays.
Wednesday, Dec. 8
State and local officials are investigating omicron's arrival in Texas
State and local health officials are investigating the omicron variant’s arrival in Texas.
Chief State Epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Shuford said they’re hoping to identify where the new strain is, and how quickly it’s spreading.
“One thing that we’re doing is really trying to ramp up our sequencing efforts very quickly," said Shuford. "We have established a sequencing partnership with the UT School of Public Health, as well as other academic medical centers in Texas and some commercial labs."
Shuford stressed improved surveillance across the state is also important in the short term as the variant spreads throughout the state.
A Harris County woman is the state’s first known case so far.
West Texas hospital expects to lose staff over vaccine mandate for healthcare workers
A West Texas hospital expects to lose staff if the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers eventually goes into effect. A federal judge blocked the requirement last week.
Russell Meyers is the CEO of Midland Health. He said Tuesday they are prepared to comply with the mandate but welcome the reprieve.
"We certainly were concerned and remain concerned that we could have a loss of staff," Meyers said.
Texas and other Republican-led states have sued the Biden administration over vaccine mandates for health care workers, large companies, and federal contractors. Federal courts have now blocked each of the requirements nationwide.
Tuesday, Dec. 7
Unvaccinated people make up vast majority of Dallas County hospitalizations, deaths from COVID-19
Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang told the Dallas County Commissioners Court on Tuesday the vast majority of people hospitalized are unvaccinated.
“When you look at the percentage of the hospital admissions of people who are fully vaccinated versus not fully vaccinated, [at least] 80% are not vaccinated,” he said.
Similarly, Huang said, deaths are also afflicting non-vaccinated people way more than those who’ve had the shot.
About a million Dallas County residents have not received a vaccine for COVID-19. More vaccine and infection data for the county is here.
People can get a vaccine in several ways — calling their doctor, visiting the county health department, or visiting a vaccine site like Dallas College Eastfield Campus. There are also vaccines at pharmacies.
Find more information at vaccines.gov.
Denton County health officials increase efforts to get people vaccinated
COVID-19 cases are no longer trending up in Denton County, after a slight uptick last month. Currently, there are more than 5,000 active cases throughout the county.
Public Health Director Matt Richardson updated County Commissioners Tuesday on efforts to increase vaccinations as cases decrease.
"We're both doing large population eligibility. We're also reaching out in this phase of the pandemic to those individuals who might have limited access," said Richardson.
The county is focusing on reaching people in jail and juvenile detention centers and those without permanent housing.
Denton County continues to offer COVID vaccines at its community clinics.
Officials will administer pediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine at the Morse Street Facility Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 6
Texas reports its first case of omicron COVID-19 variant
A Houston-area resident is the first known Texas case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
State health officials announced Monday night that the adult female, a Harris County resident, was recently diagnosed with COVID-19. Genetic sequencing results indicated the infection was caused by the omicron strain, officials say.
The woman is in her 40s and had no recent travel history, County Judge Lina Hidalgo said on Twitter.
Harris County and state health officials are investigating the case.
Dr. John Hellerstedt, Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner, says he’s not surprised the omicron variant showed up in Texas.
“It’s normal for viruses to mutate,” Hellerstedt wrote in a statement. “Getting vaccinated and continuing to use prevention strategies, including wearing a mask when you are around people you don’t live with, social distancing, handwashing and getting tested when you have symptoms, will help slow the spread of the virus and help end the pandemic.”
Gov. Abbott says state officials are preparing for omicron variant
More than a dozen states have confirmed cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While Texas has not yet detected it, Gov. Greg Abbott told Fox News Channel on Sunday that state health officials are taking steps to prepare for a possible increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
"We're working to make sure that vaccines are available to anyone who wants a vaccine and also working to make sure that we make it easier for people to get a test so they can determine whether or not they have the new variant or the delta variant — whatever the case may be," Abbott said.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have already been trending up in Texas over the last week or so. Nearly 60 %of Texans ages 5 and older are fully vaccinated.
Texas educators say they're concerned about omicron variant
A group representing Texas teachers says educators are increasingly concerned about the omicron variant, especially as the holiday break approaches. Ovidia Molina heads the Texas State Teachers Association.
“There’s a fear for the students who cannot get a vaccine yet, our young students," Molina said. "There’s a fear for family members that may be immunocompromised or themselves or in a higher risk. So, we’re always looking to have as many safety protocols, precautions in place to ensure we all survive the pandemic.”
The group has repeatedly criticized Gov. Greg Abbott for banning mask mandates in schools.
Even though a federal appeals court recently upheld the Republican governor's order, several of the largest school districts in Texas — including Houston ISD and Dallas ISD — continue to defy it.
Friday, Dec. 3
Tarrant County Public Health will host a series of pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinics over the weekend
Sites will have Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna shots available. Pediatric and booster shots will also be administered.
- Dan Dipert Career + Technical Center
2101 Browning Drive Arlington, TX 76010
Open on Saturday, Dec. 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Grace Methodist Church of the Metroplex
1310 Collard Street Fort Worth, TX 76105
Open on Saturday, Dec. 4 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
- First Presbyterian Church Fort Worth
1000 Penn Street Fort Worth, TX 76102
Open on Sunday, Dec. 5 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Parents need to bring proof of the child’s age and their own ID for the vaccination. The vaccination is free.
You can find a full list of local vaccine sites on the county's website.
Texas jobless claims hit another record low since the start of the pandemic
The U.S. Labor Department reports first-time jobless claims in Texas fell sharply last week to hit another record low since the onset of the pandemic.
Less than 10,000 Texans filed initial claims for benefits in the last full week of Nov. That's a 38% drop from the week before and the lowest level reported since Dec. 2019.
For more than a month, weekly claims in Texas have hit new lows since the pandemic began. But, the job market recovery is still ongoing.
Preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show there were about 770,000 out-of-work Texans in Oct. That's down from the peak of roughly 1.7 million in April 2020.
Thursday, Dec. 2
Ken Paxton celebrates court's decision to keep Texas ban on mask mandates in schools
The Texas Attorney General is praising a federal appeals court for upholding Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates in schools amid the pandemic.
Republican Ken Paxton said on the Mark Davis Show this morning the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stayed a decision from a federal judge in Austin. That judge ruled Abbott's order violated the rights of students with disabilities.
"He stopped the governor's executive order from being enforced in any school district in the entire state and we were able to go to the Fifth Circuit and have that stay stayed," Paxton said.
Disability Rights Texas, which filed the lawsuit challenging Abbott's mask mandate ban, said it's disappointed with the Fifth Circuit's decision.
Wednesday, Dec. 1
First U.S. case of COVID-19 omicron variant identified
A person in California became the first in the U.S. to have an identified case of the COVID-19 omicron variant, the White House announced Wednesday as scientists continue to study the risks posed by the new strain of the virus.
The Biden administration moved late last month to restrict travel from Southern Africa where the variant was first identified and had been widespread. Clusters of cases have also been identified in about two dozen other nations.
“This is the first case of COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant detected in the United States,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said at the White House. He said the person was a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive on Nov. 29.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is taking steps to tighten U.S. testing rules for travelers from overseas, including requiring a test for all travelers within a day of boarding a flight to the U.S. regardless of vaccination status. It was also considering mandating post-arrival testing.
Read the fully story by the Associated Press.
Marcus Lamb, Founder of Dallas-Area Christian TV Network Daystar, Dies at 64
Dallas-area televangelist Marcus Lamb has died, his Daystar Television Network announced.
Daystar said in a post on its website that Lamb died Tuesday morning. He was 64.
“He leaves behind a legacy of fiercely loving the Lord, all the people of the world and, most of all, his family,” the network said.
The network did not say how Lamb died, but a Facebook post from Perry Stone Ministries on Nov. 18 said Lamb was being treated for a severe case of COVID-19.
Judge blocks federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers after Texas, other states sue
The Texas Attorney General is praising a federal judge for blocking the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors in three states.
Republican Ken Paxton said on Twitter he has sued to block the same requirement. He has criticized the president's vaccine mandates as federal overreach.
Read the full story by The Texas Tribune.
Texas worker wages surged this month, according to Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reports Tuesday worker wages surged this month in the Texas service and retail sectors.
The Dallas Fed says average employee wages in both sectors increased in November faster than any other time since 2007.
Respondents to a monthly survey noted that hiring in the tight labor market remains a challenge. Global supply chain disruptions are also driving up costs for businesses.
Still, executives in both sectors expressed optimism about future business activity.
Tuesday, Nov. 30
Denton County continues to see an increase in cases
Denton County officials report more than 5,400 active cases.
Public Health Director Matt Richardson updated County Commissioners on Tuesday. He said a spike in COVID cases would further strain local hospitals.
"This is going to squeeze our hospital staff. This is going to squeeze access," Richardson said. "So be thinking about strokes and heart attacks and babies with fewer nurses being able to respond with increasing infections. This is an issue."
Richardson also addressed the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus. He said information is limited, but he expects to know more about how transmissible the variant is in the coming weeks.
Denton County will host two pediatric vaccine clinic this week at the Morse Street Facility. Shots are available by appointment only this Thursday and Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 29
Texas vaccine expert says delta variant still the biggest threat in the U.S.
Dr. Peter Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston says scientists should know within the next two weeks whether current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the omicron variant. He told CNN he remains most concerned about another variant.
"Right now, I think it's, it's important to focus on what we do know is the biggest threat in the United States and that is the delta variant," Hotez said. "It is accelerating now and the U.S. population isn't completely vaccinated."
The U.S. did impose travel restrictions today on South Africa and seven other countries in response to the omicron variant.
Rebecca Fischer, Texas A&M University epidemiologist told Texas Standard it's important to keep an eye on COVID-19 numbers in the weeks ahead.
"We should be really cautious here in Texas and continue to practice those preventive and protective behaviors that we have become so familiar with, Fischer said.
According to the latest data from the Department of State Health Services, just under 59% of Texas' eligible population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Anyone 5 and up can get the shots.
Manufacturing up in Texas
Texas factory activity picked up speed this month, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas' monthly manufacturing survey.
Indexes measuring production, new orders and shipments all increased this month from levels already well-above average. More than 90 manufacturing executives who took the survey also reported ongoing growth in employment and wages. But, the Dallas Fed also found the price of raw materials continued to climb.
Almost 93% of those surveyed said they faced supply chain disruptions or delays. Most do not expect their supply chains to return to normal for months.
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