As More Students Report to Campuses, COVID Cases Rise

Today marks the first day that all grades will report to Dallas ISD campuses, and Friday was the deadline for Highland Park ISD parents to decide whether their children would attend on campus for the second nine weeks, or learn from home. We have today’s bullet points:

  • As more students report to campuses, COVID cases rise;
  • Weekly average of new cases increases;
  • Governor Abbott, HHSC announce $3.5 Million for nursing facility safety projects;
  • Teach for America, Kendra Scott celebrate World Teacher Day.
As More Students Report to Campuses, COVID Cases Rise

Monday morning, Dallas ISD began welcoming all students back to their campuses – last week pre-K, kindergarten, sixth grade, and ninth grade came back, this week everyone else reports. 

Elementary (with the exception of Lakewood) schools and middle schools are now open for five-day schedules, while high schools and the aforementioned Lakewood will have hybrid schedules to ensure there is enough space for social distancing.

As more students return, reports of new cases are continuing to pop up. A teacher at Nancy Cochran Elementary reportedly died from COVID-19 last week, and throughout the week, parents began reporting emails from their respective schools alerting them to new positive cases.

According to trackers provided by Dallas ISD and Highland Park ISD, cases of COVID-19 are cropping up at schools. Dallas ISD reported a total of 42 cases by Friday afternoon, up from 16 the week before. Of that 42, 19 are campus staff, one is central staff, and 22 are students. Thomas Jefferson High School has one case, Hillcrest has two, Franklin Middle School has one, and Sudie Williams Elementary has one case.

Highland Park ISD, who has offered on-campus instruction for a longer period of time, is reporting a total five staff cases and 18 student cases. So far two staffers and 29 students have been cleared to return to class. 

Neither district provides information on how many students and staff have quarantined for 14 days due to classroom exposure to the virus.

In the county’s Sept. 29 aggregate report, the percentage of cases occurring in young adults aged 18 to 22 years has increased to 13% in September to date. A provisional total of 237 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in school-aged children (5 to 17 years) during CDC week 38, an increase from the previous week for this age group. A provisional total of 226 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in school-aged children (5 to 17 years) during CDC week 39 (week ending 9/26/2020). 

Dallas County health officials reported that private schools reported 12 cases in the week ending Sept. 5, 19 cases in the week ending Sept. 12, and one case for the week ending Sept. 19. Charter schools in the county reported five, nine, and seven cases on those respective weeks.

The county reported that Dallas ISD had 55 cases in the week ending Sept. 5, 48 in the week ending Sept. 12, and 91 in the week ending Sept. 19. It should be noted that the county’s case counts include cases that are in zip codes within the district, and that teachers did not begin working on campus until Sept. 17.

As for Highland Park ISD, the county reported that it had one case in the week ending Sept. 5, seven cases in the week ending Sept. 12, and 23 cases for the week ending Sept. 19.

For the week ending Sept. 27, the state reported that 5,725 students tested positive for COVID-19, and 4,132 staff members. 

Case counts will be updated on the dashboard each Wednesday. Private schools are not included in the counts or reports. Out of privacy concerns, districts with fewer than 50 students are not included in the district-level reports, but their counts will be added to the statewide tally.

In an August letter to administrators, the TEA outlined two requirements that will provide the basis for state reports with the aim, the agency said, of giving state and local officials, as well as parents, the ability “to make future decisions on how to keep school populations healthy while supporting students’ educational needs.”

The letter detailed an online case report form that districts began submitting weekly beginning Sept. 8. Districts are required to report confirmed cases within 24 hours.

Weekly Average of New Cases Increases

A total of 1,385 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus were reported by Dallas County health officials between Thursday and Sunday, and an additional 282 probable cases were reported, along with 10 deaths, bringing the county’s total confirmed case count up to 83,795 including 1,036 confirmed deaths. 

For reference, last Sunday, the total case count was  81,175, and 1,020 deaths.

On Friday, the county reported 712 cases (508 confirmed and 204 probable) and two confirmed deaths; on Saturday, 317 cases (260 confirmed and 57 probable) and seven confirmed deaths; and on Sunday, 638 cases (617 confirmed and 21 probable)  and three deaths.

It should be noted that Friday’s case count is for two days – Thursday and Friday – as the county did not report new cases on Thursday as it switched to a new reporting system.

“For the week, we had an average of 350 new cases per day, an increase from 282 last week and a total of 16 confirmed deaths,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins on Saturday. “These numbers, along with the Governor’s recent decision to move the occupancy limit at businesses to 75%, are a strong reminder of the importance of wearing a mask and maintaining six-foot distancing with frequent hand washing.”

Among the dead are an Irving man in his 40s with no underlying high-risk health conditions, a Mesquite man in his 50s, a Dallas woman in her 50s, a Dallas man in his 60s, two Dallas women in their 70s, a Garland woman in her 70s, and a Dallas man in his 70s. All had underlying high-risk conditions unless noted.

Long-term care facilities continue to attribute to about a third of all deaths in the county, including a woman in her 70s who lived in a DeSoto facility, a man in his 80s who lived in a Cedar Hill facility, a woman in her 90s who lived in a Dallas facility, and a man in his 90s who lived in a Lancaster facility.

The county said that the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Friday was 242 patients. Emergency room visits for COVID-19 symptoms represented about 16% of all ER visits, according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council.

UT Southwestern’s latest forecast projects that by Oct. 13, Dallas County hospitals could see concurrent hospitalizations rise to between 280 and 520 cases, with roughly 850 new cases per day on average. 

Hospitalizations are also on the rise – up 13% from a week ago and 19% from two weeks ago.

In the county’s Sept. 29 aggregate report, most confirmed cases continue to be between the ages of 18 and 60, with the 18-40 age group accounting for 47% of the cases, and the 41-64 age group accounting for another 34% of the total cases.

Close contact or community transmission continues to be the biggest risk factor for contracting COVID-19, accounting for almost 94% of all cases.

Of the testing done, positive cases accounted for 11.9% as of Sept. 19, with 626 positives coming from 5,256 tests. Testing for the week prior found that positive cases accounted for 10% of all testing.

Ten percent of all cases ended up hospitalized – 24% ended up in intensive care, and 13% ended up on a ventilator.

In a city-by-city breakdown, Dallas still comes in with the highest number of cases – 42,910 confirmed cases and 2,040 probable cases. Highland Park has 86 confirmed cases (up from 85 last week) and another 34 probable cases, and University Park has 250 confirmed cases (up from 228), and 242 probable cases.

Governor Abbott, HHSC Announce $3.5 Million For Nursing Facility Safety Projects

Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced $3.5 million in federal funding for nursing facilities to purchase plexiglass barriers and tents to allow for safe visitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nursing facilities may apply for this funding through HHSC beginning Oct. 5.

“As we open nursing facilities to essential caregivers and visitors, the State of Texas is working to protect the health and safety of both residents and their families,” said Abbott. “With this funding, we will help keep nursing facility residents and their families safe while ensuring that residents can be with their loved ones and receive the support they need.” 

“This funding will enhance the health and safety of nursing facility residents and their families as facilities across the state welcome essential caregivers and other visitors, who are providing much-needed support to their loved ones,” said HHSC Executive Commissioner Cecile Erwin Young.

Nursing facilities that complete an application and are approved by Texas HHSC can receive up to $3,000 per facility to purchase the plexiglass barriers and tents to help facilitate in-person visits for residents. The tents can be used for outdoor visitation and screening of visitors before they enter a facility. The plexiglass barriers can be used for indoor visits with residents for nursing facilities in counties with a COVID-19 positivity rate of less than 10 percent, per federal direction. People can have in-person visitation with their loved ones under the agency’s new expanded visitation rules, which apply statewide.

For more details on how to apply for funding, visit the Texas HHS website.

Teach for America, Kendra Scott Celebrate World Teacher Day

In honor of World Teacher Day, Teach For America DFW and Kendra Scott Dallas are partnering together to recognize the importance of education in Dallas.

Not only on Monday, Oct. 5 and Tuesday, Oct. 6 will 20% of all purchases at any Kendra Scott DFW store (with mention of “Teach For America DFW”) benefit Teach For America DFW, but the brand will highlight two jewelry pieces specifically reflecting the organization leading educational excellence in the metroplex: the Davie Gold Pendant Necklace in Cobalt Howlite and the Davie Gold Cuff Bracelet in Cobalt Howlite.To participate in this giveback partnership in honor of World Teacher Day, visit a Kendra Scott DFW store and mention “Teach For America DFW” at check-out, or shop online at: www.givebackforteachforamericadfw.splashthat.com and use code: GIVEBACK9617.

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 [email protected].

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