As local officials monitor a recent uptick in COVID-19 numbers and warn about the importance of continuing to follow public health guidance as capacity’s increased at businesses and more students are returning to campuses, here’s what you need to know today:
- Jenkins: COVID-19 numbers in Dallas County “moving higher;”
- Gov. Abbott, HHSC announce extension of emergency SNAP benefits for October;
- Dallas launches Stay on Guard campaign.
Jenkins: COVID-19 Numbers In Dallas County ‘Moving Higher’
Of the 249 newly reported confirmed cases, 247 confirmed cases were from the month of September.
Of the 249 new reports of positive molecular COVID-19 tests, 164 came through the Texas Department of State Health Services’ (DSHS) electronic laboratory reporting (ELR) system and only two were from previous months.
The cumulative confirmed case count in Dallas County is 82,410 including 1,024 confirmed deaths. The cumulative probable case count in Dallas County is 4,090 including 13 probable deaths from COVID-19.
The additional deaths reported Wednesday include a Dallas woman in her 30s and a Duncanville woman in her 60s. Both had been hospitalized and had underlying health conditions.
Of all confirmed cases requiring hospitalization to date, more than two-thirds have been under 65 years of age. Of the total confirmed deaths reported to date, about 25% have been associated with long-term care facilities.
“Our numbers in Dallas County are now moving higher and that makes it very important that we all exercise good decision making. This includes wearing our mask one hundred percent of the time and maintaining six-foot distancing, washing our hands regularly, avoiding unnecessary exposures, and avoiding indoor activities where the mask cannot be worn one hundred percent of the time,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “The fall can lead to a good situation with the weather cooling and more opportunities to space out outdoors. However, over the last two weeks, increased capacities at retail establishments and a letting down of the guard at functions at home, along with some outbreaks at schools (although those numbers have been manageable), and a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 positive cases in people 18-22, both in college and not in college, has led to the stop of our improvement. These increases now threaten to push us back into the sort of numbers that we saw in August if we don’t all work together to make smart decisions.”
A provisional total of 237 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in school-aged children between 5 and 17 years of age during the week ending Sept. 19, an increase from the previous week for this age group. The percentage of cases occurring in young adults aged 18 to 22 years has increased to 13% for the month of September.
Highland Park ISD had 23 total confirmed and probable cases in staff and students in the week ending Sept. 19, Dallas ISD had 91 confirmed and probable cases in staff and students the same week, and there was one total confirmed and probable case among staff and students at private schools in the county in the same week, according to Dallas County Health and Human Services’ Sept. 29 COVID-19 summary report.
There were 330 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Dallas County Tuesday.
The number of emergency room visits for COVID-19 like symptoms in Dallas County was 394 Tuesday, which represents around 16% of all emergency department visits in the county according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council.
“While these numbers represent a significant decline from record highs in July, regionally and in the county we are seeing an increase in the number of hospitalizations,” the county noted.
The percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 has increased and remains high, the county noted, with 11.9% of symptomatic patients presenting to area hospitals testing positive in the week ending Sept. 19.
UT Southwestern Medical Center’s latest data projects both hospitalizations and the number of patients in the ICU could increase over the next two weeks in Dallas and Tarrant Counties.
UTSW’s latest forecast projects total COVID-19 hospitalizations could slightly increase to between 250 and 460 concurrent hospitalized cases by Oct. 9, and roughly 520 new COVID-19 infections per day are expected by Oct. 9.
Gov. Abbott, HHSC Announce Extension Of Emergency SNAP Benefits For October
Gov. Greg Abbott Wednesday announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) will provide approximately $196 million in emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits for the month of October as the state continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Thank you to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for extending these emergency SNAP benefits for Texas families,” said Abbott. “The State of Texas will continue to ensure that Texans have access to nutritious and healthy food throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“We are grateful Texans will continue receiving these expanded benefits, bringing nutritious foods to those families who are in need of assistance,” said Texas HHS Access and Eligibility Services Deputy Executive Commissioner Wayne Salter. “The Texans we serve will always remain our top priority, especially in times like these.”
More than 994,000 SNAP households will see the additional amount on their Lone Star Card by Oct. 15. The emergency October allotments are in addition to the more than $1.2 billion in benefits previously provided to Texans between April and September. HHSC received federal approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend the maximum, allowable amount of SNAP benefits to recipients based on family size.
Administered by HHSC, SNAP is a federal program that provides food assistance to approximately 1.4 million eligible low-income families and individuals in Texas.
Texans in need can apply for benefits, including SNAP and Medicaid, at YourTexasBenefits.com or use the Your Texas Benefits mobile app to manage their benefits.
Dallas launches Stay on Guard Campaign
The city of Dallas launched a public awareness campaign, designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 through personal testimonials from residents, community leaders, and organizations.
“We know this year has been very difficult for many of us and we’re all tired of staying at home, wearing masks, and seeing our friends and loved ones through screens; but now is not the time to let our guard down,” said Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. “We must continue to encourage each resident to stay on guard as businesses reopen, students return to school, and families participate in fall sporting events and holiday celebrations.”
The campaign focuses on four priorities: home, work, school, and health — shining a light on essential workers who live in high density, multigenerational households, those who can’t work from home, or may not have the option to maintain social distance from co-workers; children and college students returning to in-person learning and the school staff who are supporting them. The campaign encourages all Dallas residents to Stay on Guard by keeping their health a priority and get a free test when in doubt of their COVID-19 status.
“Some of us are already planning holiday celebrations and visits with family and friends, but I want to remind everyone that our fight against the deadly coronavirus is far from over,” said Council Member Thomas. “As a nation we have surpassed a grim milestone of 200,000 thousand deaths due to COVID-19 and here in Dallas County, we’ve lost more than 1,000 residents.”
Stay On Guard Dallas is a bilingual campaign that engages residents to become advocates within their communities to slow the spread of COVID-19. Dallas residents may creating PSAs and promote them on social media with the tags #StayOnGuard or #EnGuardiaDallas.
Residents and business leaders can find a complete social media strategy in English and Spanish, including sample posts, downloadable logos, social media graphics and more to promote the campaign at DallasCityHall.com/StayOnGuard.
“These months will be a very critical for our City, so we ask all Dallas residents to stay safe at home, work, school and take every precaution to stay healthy as we approach cold and flu season,” said Dr. Baggett. “Get tested before you go back to school and work, wear a mask, wash your hands and avoid large crowds.”