Dallas County Reports 645 New COVID Cases, Warns Number is ‘Artificially Low’

County health officials expect cases to continue their precipitous rise, and are watching to see if Thanksgiving gatherings exacerbate the problem. We have more information – including promising at-home testing and a virtual Thanksgiving service – in today’s bullet points.

  • Dallas County reports 645 new COVID cases, but warns that number is “artificially low;”
  • FDA authorizes first at-home COVID-19 test;
  • Area churches offer interfaith Thanksgiving service.
Dallas County Reports 645 New COVID Cases, Warns Number is ‘Artificially Low’

Dallas County health officials reported 645 new cases of COVD-19 – a significantly lower number than days past. But Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins warned that it doesn’t mean there was suddenly an improvement in statistics.

“There have been problems with the State’s electronic laboratory reporting system in the past and today it appears the system is reporting artificially low numbers to several counties,” he said Tuesday. “In the meantime, there is little reason to believe that if the full numbers were reported, they would be different than the trend we’ve been seeing for the last several days or the projections that the medical modelers have made for North Texas.”

So far, 111,174 people in the county have been sickened with the virus, and 1,147 have died from complications from it.

Among the dead are a Dallas woman in her 60s, a Farmers Branch man in his 60s with no underlying health conditions, and two Dallas women in their 70s. Unless noted, all had underlying high-risk health conditions. 

The county said that the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Tuesday was 691 patients. Emergency room visits for COVID-19 symptoms represented about 23% – up from 20% Monday – of all ER visits, according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council

“Our hospitals remain concerned about the unmitigated spread and the strain on their staff,” the county noted.

 UT Southwestern’s latest forecast projects that by Nov. 24, Dallas County hospitals could see concurrent hospitalizations rise to between 640 and 1,150 cases, with roughly 2,500 new cases per day on average. 

According to trackers provided by Dallas ISD and Highland Park ISD, cases of COVID-19 are cropping up at schools. On Tuesday, Dallas ISD’s COVID-19 dashboard indicated that there were now 1,091 cases throughout the district – 447 among campus staff (up from 292), 108 among central staff, and 536 among students.

Highland Park ISD is reporting 10 staff cases and 21 student cases. Neither district provides information on how many students and staff have quarantined due to classroom exposure to the virus. 

Dallas County reported Tuesday that a provisional total of 919 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in school-aged children (5 to 17 years) during CDC week 45 – the week ending Nov. 7, a three-fold increase from five weeks earlier. Last week, 10 schools in Dallas County were temporarily closed to in-person instruction because of outbreaks of COVID-19.

In the county’s Nov. 17 aggregate report, the county broke down probable cases for children ages 5 to 17 by city. Dallas children in this age group with confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 numbered at 386 for the week ending Nov. 7 and 287 for the week ending Oct. 31. Highland Park children numbered two for the week ending Nov. 7 and zero for the week ending Oct. 31. University Park children numbered six for the week ending Nov. 7 and four for the week ending Oct. 31.

Dallas County reported in its Nov. 17 aggregate report that most confirmed cases continue to be between the ages of 18 and 60, with the 18-40 age group accounting for 46% of the cases, and the 41-64 age group accounting for another 34% of the total cases.

Of the testing done, positive cases accounted for 15.3% as of Nov. 7, with 1,533 positives coming from 10,018 tests. Testing for the week prior found that positive cases accounted for 15% of all testing.

Nine percent of all cases ended up hospitalized – 23% ended up in intensive care, and 12% ended up on a ventilator. However, experts warn that deaths and hospitalizations are a lagging indicator, meaning that hospitals may not see the brunt of the current uptick for the next week or two.

In a city-by-city breakdown, Dallas still comes in with the highest number of cases – 56,440 confirmed cases and 5,263 probable cases. Highland Park has 159 confirmed cases (up from 142 Friday) and 69 probable cases (up from one), and University Park has 439 confirmed cases (up from 387), and 410 probable cases.

On Tuesday, Jenkins beseeched his constituents to reconsider their routines and eliminate contact with many people, including utilizing curbside pickup or delivery for meals, groceries, and restaurants, as well as asking visitors to wear masks and socially distance at any at-home get togethers.

“It’s imperative that we stop our increased gatherings,” he said. “The number one cause of spread at this time are in-home gatherings with friends and family.

 “COVID won’t be with us forever. The vaccines are very promising and will be here soon, but wishing that it would go away and pretending that things are better than they are will not work.”

FDA Authorizes First At-Home COVID-19 Test

Lucira Health has developed an at-home COVID-19 test – the first to be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, Politico reported Tuesday.

The test can be used by anyone 14 and older when their health care provider feels their symptoms are consistent with COVID-19. The test can be used on younger children, but a health care provider must collect the sample. The patient’s health care provider will report the results to public health officials.

The test requires the user to swab the inside of the nose, and then place the swab in a vial and swirl before putting it in a test unit. The process gives results in about 30 minutes. “Now, more Americans who may have COVID-19 will be able to take immediate action, based on their results, to protect themselves and those around them,” FDA medical device director Jeff Shuren said.

Lucira said that the test was able to correctly identify 94% of positive samples and 98% of negative samples.

To read more, click here.

Area Churches Offer Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

Faith Forward Dallas and the Thanks-Giving Foundation will offer a Thanksgiving Interfaith Prayer Service Nov. 19 beginning at 6 p.m., in partnership with several local churches.

Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church will host the event, and the Ismali Jamatkhana and Center will broadcast the service on its Youtube channel. 

The service, entitled “Embracing Gratitude in Adversity,” will feature choral performances from the Ismali Muslim Youth Choir, as well as choirs from several other local churches. It will also highlight the work of the Dallas Street Choir.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, deputy editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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