As Dallas County continues to report record COVID-19 hospitalizations and vaccine rollout begins to ramp up, here’s what you need to know today:
- Local entities, state provide vaccine distribution updates;
- State identifies first case of UK variant;
- Dallas County reports 2,590 COVID-19 cases, 20 deaths.
Local Entities and State Provide Vaccine Distribution Updates
Although the vaccines for COVID-19 are still slowly being replenished, Dallas, Dallas County, and the state have begun making plans to better administer new supplies of it.
Texas health officials said Thursday that the state will direct most of the COVID-19 vaccine received from the federal government to large providers who can vaccinate a total of more than 100,000 people. Additional vaccine will be distributed to smaller providers in other parts of the state.
As the vaccination effort continues to expand to people who are at a greater risk of hospitalization and death, in addition to front-line health care workers, these vaccination hubs will provide people in those priority populations with identifiable sites where vaccination is occurring and a simpler way to sign-up for an appointment with each provider.
Providers that receive the larger amounts of vaccine will vaccinate health care workers, people who are 65 and older, and those who have a medical condition that increases their risk of severe disease or death. They also agree to provide a registration phone number and website and focus on areas and populations hardest hit by COVID-19 while vaccinating people from surrounding areas.
The Texas Department of State Health Services surveyed vaccine providers about their capacity to operate large, community vaccination sites the week of Jan. 11 and will publish a list of vaccine hub providers later this week once vaccine allocation is finalized.
Large and small sites around Texas will receive a total of about 200,000 doses of vaccine next week. That will be the last week the state is required to reserve doses to vaccinate residents and staff of long-term care facilities under the federal pharmacy-LTC partnership, freeing up more vaccine for use in other settings in the future.
“Vaccine remains limited based on the capacity of the manufacturers to produce it, so it will take time for Texas to receive enough vaccine for the people in the priority populations who want to be vaccinated,” the Texas Department of State Health Services said. “The supply is expected to increase in the coming months, and additional vaccines are in clinical trials and may be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.”
People can find more information on COVID-19 vaccine and its availability at dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/immunize/vaccine.aspx.
County health officials said Thursday that a vaccine mega center will open in Fair Park next week, and that hub will have the ability to vaccinate up to 2,000 people a day.
Officials said they plan to begin operations on Monday, but that was dependent on the state providing more doses. The county currently is only vaccinating front-line workers under 1A status, but will soon move to phase 1B – probably when the mega center opens.
However, to get the vaccine, individuals must get on the county waiting list, and have an appointment. Walk-ups will not be taken.
Dallas ISD alerted staff Wednesday that it was working with Dallas County health officials and Parkland Hospital to secure vaccines for employees who were eligible to receive it under 1B status.
The Jan. 6 memo said that school nurses had been receiving the vaccine under their 1A status as front-line workers since December.
“The district is working to secure vaccines for staff as they become available starting with employees who meet the Phase 1B conditions,” the memo said. “In the coming weeks, these employees will receive instructions to register to receive the COVID-19 shot through the district. As the first vaccines become available, the priority will be to vaccinate campus staff and those who work directly with students.”
Texas Reports First Case of UK-Variant of COVID-19
State health officials Thursday reported that the first known Texas case of the so-called UK variant of COVID-19 has been identified in a resident of Harris County.
“The adult male resident, who has no history of travel, was recently diagnosed with COVID-19,” TDSHS officials said. “Results of genetic sequencing this week showed that the infection was caused by the variant. The case is being investigated by Harris County Public Health and the Texas Department of State Health Services.”
Dr. John Hellerstedt, TDSHS commissioner, said the background of the patient may mean that the variant is more widespread than just a single individual.
“The fact that this person had no travel history suggests this variant is already circulating in Texas,” he said. “Genetic variations are the norm among viruses, and it’s not surprising that it arrived here given how rapidly it spreads. This should make us all redouble our commitment to the infection prevention practices that we know work: masks any time you’re around people you don’t live with, social distancing, and personal and environmental hygiene.”
The COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant was first identified in the United Kingdom in the fall and appears to spread much more easily from person to person than most strains of the coronavirus. The current scientific evidence is that the variant does not cause more severe disease and that vaccines are expected to be effective against it. It is thought to be responsible for only a small proportion of the current COVID-19 cases in Texas and the United States.
Dallas County Reports 2,590 COVID-19 Cases, 20 Deaths
Dallas County Thursday reported 2,590 more COVID-19 cases–2,207 confirmed and 383 probable cases–and 20 additional deaths.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the county’s reported a cumulative total of 186,181 confirmed cases, 23,211 probable cases, and 1,735 deaths.
The additional deaths reported Thursday include a Dallas man in his 30s who didn’t have underlying conditions, a Mesquite woman in her 40s who died in an area hospital, a Dallas man in his 40s, a Dallas man in his 50s who didn’t have underlying conditions, a Garland man in his 60s who didn’t have underlying conditions, a Dallas woman in her 60s, a Mesquite man in his 60s, a Balch Springs man in his 60s, a Mesquite man in his 60s, a Dallas woman in her 60s, a Seagoville woman in her 70s, a Mesquite man in his 70s, a Desoto woman in her 70s, a Farmers Branch man in his 70s, a Dallas man in his 80s who died in a hospital emergency room, a Mesquite man in his 80s, and two Dallas women in their 80s.
Also among the deaths reported Thursday were a woman in her 50s who lived at a Dallas long-term care facility, and a man in his 70s who lived at a Dallas long-term care facility.
“January and February are modeled to be our worst months for COVID positive cases and deaths assuming that the population continues to make good choices and avoid crowds throughout that time and in the following months,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said. “If we’ll do that, we’ll begin to see the benefits of the people who have been vaccinated thus far, both in the capacity of our healthcare heroes to be at work and not be sick with COVID and with our most at risk residents being protected from COVID. We’ll continue to improve and get back to our pre-COVID activities, but it takes all of us making good, smart decisions to make that happen by wearing your mask, washing your hands and avoiding crowds.”
Jenkins also said the county’s working to ramp up vaccination efforts. “We are working feverishly to get the sites open that will increase vaccination to our 1B population next week. It will be an effort led by Dallas County but with the help of EMTs from all of our cities. The shots are by appointment only and those who come without an appointment will be turned away. The only persons who will receive those appointments are people who sign up on the Dallas County registration website. Once you have signed up, you need not do anything else to be on the Dallas County list and you may not hear from us for some time as the list is worked based on the doctors’ calculations of the persons on the 1A and 1B list that are most vulnerable to a bad outcome should they get COVID.”
Dallas County reported there were 1,166 COVID-19 patients in hospitals Wednesday and the number of emergency room visits for COVID-19 like symptoms in Dallas County was 592 for the same time period, which represents around 22% of all emergency department visits in the county according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council.
The percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 remains high, the county says, with 27.2% of symptomatic patients presenting to area hospitals testing positive in the week ending Dec. 26. Since the beginning of the pandemic, over 3,864 healthcare workers and first responders have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Dallas County.
UT Southwestern Medical Center’s latest data shows COVID-19 hospitalizations increased by 14% over the past two weeks.
UTSW’s latest model shows Dallas County total COVID-19 could reach to between 1,150 and 1,870 concurrent hospitalized cases by Jan. 19 with roughly 3,500 new COVID-19 infections per day expected by Jan. 19.
Over the past 30 days, there have been 5,309 COVID-19 cases in school-aged children and staff reported from 677 separate K-12 schools in Dallas County, including 454 staff members.
As of Thursday, Highland Park ISD reported four COVID-19 cases among staff members assigned to Armstrong Elementary, three among students, one case among a staff member assigned to Boone Elementary, five cases among students, one case among a student at Bradfield Elementary, three among students at Hyer, one case among a student at University Park Elementary, two among students there, two cases among staff members assigned to McCulloch Intermediate, two among students, three cases among staff members assigned to Highland Park Middle School, three among students, four among staff members assigned to Highland Park High School, and 20 among students, according to the district’s COVID-19 webpage.
Dallas ISD reported 2,766 cases districtwide, 1,358 among campus staff, 308 among central staff, and 1,100 among students, according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard.
There are also 106 active long-term care facility outbreaks, the highest number of long-term care facilities with active outbreaks reported in Dallas County since the beginning of the pandemic. A total of 3,201 residents and 1,808 healthcare workers in long-term facilities in Dallas have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Of these, 688 have been hospitalized and 361 have died.
About 22% of all deaths reported to date have been associated with long-term care facilities. Forty outbreaks of COVID-19 in congregate-living facilities (e.g. homeless shelters, group homes, and halfway homes) have been reported in the past 30 days associated with 99 cases.