As officials continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19, including new variants, and determine the best way to get vaccines to people who need them most, here’s what you need to know today:
- Dallas County reports 1,698 COVID cases, 22 deaths;
- DMN: Dallas to start vaccinating at convention center;
- Moderna announces potential vaccine improvements;
- Financial assistance for immigrant families during the pandemic.
County reports 1,698 COVID cases, 22 deaths
Dallas County Monday reported 1,698 more COVID-19 cases–1,476 confirmed and 222 probable–and an additional 22 deaths.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the county’s reported a cumulative total of 219,515 confirmed cases, 29,003 probable cases, and 2,030 deaths from COVID-19.
Among the additional deaths reported Monday were a Dallas man in his 40s who was found dead at his home, a Dallas man in his 50s, an Irving woman in her 50s, three Dallas men in their 60s, one of which was found dead at his home, four Dallas men in their 70s, a Mesquite woman in her 70s, a Dallas woman in her 70s, a Garland man in his 80s, two Dallas men in their 80s, and a Desoto woman in her 90s.
Also among the deaths reported Monday were a man in his 60s who lived at a Dallas long-term care facility and died in hospice, a man in his 70s who lived at a Richardson long-term care facility and died in hospice, a man in his 80s who lived at a Dallas long-term care facility, a woman in her 80s who lived at a Dallas long-term care facility and died in hospice, a man in his 90s who lived at a Dallas long-term care facility and died in the facility where he lived, and a woman in her 90s who lived at a Coppell long-term care facility.
“While we just reported our deadliest week to date last week, and we’re still seeing near record levels for COVID hospitalizations, we are starting to see some metrics go in the right direction,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “For CDC week 2, ending Jan. 16, we saw our average daily number of new COVID cases and our positivity rate both decrease from the week before. The average number of new daily cases went from 2,628 to 1,814 and the positivity rate decreased from 31.5% to 25.5%. These are encouraging trends and I hope these numbers continue to go down.”
UT Southwestern Medical Center’s data shows COVID-19 hospitalizations remain near record-highs in North Texas but have declined slightly since their peak in mid-January.
UTSW’s data also shows COVID-19 hospitalizations in Dallas County increased by 4% over the past two weeks.
UTSW’s model projects total COVID-19 hospitalizations could reach between 1,000 and 1,600 concurrent hospitalized cases by Feb. 5, and roughly 2,700 new COVID-19 infections per day expected by Feb. 5.
While hospitalizations remain high, the vaccine rollout continues.
The county reported 18,859 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given at the Fair Park mega-vaccine site. Dallas County Health and Human Services received an allotment of 9,000 doses from the state for this week.
“For those who received their first dose at Fair Park, you received a vaccination card. On the back of that card is the date you need to return for your second dose and you can come at the same time. There is no need to schedule the second dose or make an appointment,” Jenkins added.
Local officials are also monitoring for COVID-19 variants. There have been four cases of the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the U.K. in people with no recent travel outside the U.S.
Also, over the past 30 days, there have been 8,810 COVID-19 cases in school-aged children and staff reported from 716 separate K-12 schools in Dallas County.
One COVID-19 outbreak in a school in December originated with spread among 11 staff members, with transmission to 10 students, and subsequent additional infections documented among at least 13 household members of these students and staff. One death and one hospitalization occurred from this outbreak.
Cases have cropped up at local schools.
As of Monday, Highland Park ISD reported two cases among students at Boone, three among staff members assigned to Bradfield, one case in a student at Hyer, eight cases among students at McCulloch Intermediate, one case in a staff member assigned to Highland Park Middle School, two among students there, three among staff members assigned to Highland Park High School and 21 among students there, according to the district’s COVID-19 webpage.
Also as of Monday, Dallas ISD has reported 3,643 cases districtwide, 1,820 among campus staff, 385 among central staff, and 1,438 among students, according to the district’s COVID dashboard.
The county also reported 111 active long-term care facility outbreaks.
A cumulative total of 3,669 residents and 2,091 healthcare workers in long-term facilities in Dallas have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Of these, 745 have been hospitalized and 402 have died. About 22% of all deaths reported to date have been associated with long-term care facilities.
The county also reported 27 outbreaks of COVID-19 in congregate-living facilities, such as homeless shelters, group homes, and halfway homes, in the past 30 days.
A cumulative total of 350 residents and 168 staff members in congregate-living facilities in Dallas have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
DMN: Dallas to start vaccinating At Convention Center
Dallas will restart Tuesday a drive-through COVID-19 vaccination site at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center to give 2,000 second doses to city employees, then to another 5,000 residents who were already registered for vaccines, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Second doses of the Moderna vaccine will be given to city paramedics, firefighters, and police officers on Tuesday.
The city’s first shots for eligible people are planned for Thursday by appointment, Rocky Vaz, Dallas’ emergency management director, told the DMN.
Vaz added that residents who registered with the county to get their vaccines in Fair Park will be contacted ahead of time to get their shots at the convention center instead.
“Our goal is to put 5,000 vaccines in arms by the end of the day on Saturday,” Vaz told the paper.
Moderna announces potential vaccine improvements
Moderna announced Monday its COVID-19 vaccine provides protection against variants found in the U.K. (B.1.1.7) and South Africa (B.1.351), but will test a new booster shot targeted to the variant found in South Africa after finding a reduced response against that strain with the current vaccine.
The company said Monday that a study found no impact on the immune response against the U.K. variant, and a “six-fold reduction in neutralizing titers was observed with the B.1.351 variant relative to prior variants.”
As a result, the company is looking into whether either a booster dose of its existing vaccine or a new shot designed to target the South African variant would improve immune response in the future.
“As we seek to defeat the COVID-19 virus, which has created a worldwide pandemic, we believe it is imperative to be proactive as the virus evolves. We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine should be protective against these newly detected variants,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution and leveraging the flexibility of our mRNA platform, we are advancing an emerging variant booster candidate against the variant first identified in the Republic of South Africa into the clinic to determine if it will be more effective to boost titers against this and potentially future variants.”
Financial assistance for immigrant families during the pandemic
Since November 2020, the city of Dallas Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs Division partnered with Communities Foundation of Texas and Crossroads Community Services to provide grocery assistance using gift cards through the Emma Lazarus Resilience Fund (ELRF). The fund provides direct financial assistance to immigrant and refugee individuals and families impacted by COVID-19.
For the families awarded, each member in the households received a $100 Walmart gift card this past holiday season. A total of 156 households consisting of 789 individuals collectively received $78,900 worth of gift cards.
The ELRF was established by the city with its partners, in addition to a sizable contribution from the Open Society Foundation and United Metropolitan Dallas. With the new collaboration with Crossroads Community Services, a total of $678,900 in financial assistance has been distributed to Dallas’ residents who were not eligible for federal COVID-19 relief since the creation of the fund.
“The creation of the Emma Lazarus Resilience Fund is in alignment with the City of Dallas’ core value of equity,” said Dallas’ Chief of Equity and Inclusion, Liz Cedillo-Pereira. “Thanks to the public-private partnerships between the City of Dallas, Communities Foundation of Texas and Crossroads Community Services, aid can be distributed quickly to immigrant families in need. We hope that this response to the pandemic will lead towards a more welcoming and resilient future for Dallas.”
Communities Foundation of Texas is administering the ELRF through nonprofit organizations that were selected through an open application process. The recent effort with Crossroads Community Services provided an opportunity for increased financial support for families that qualified.
“Communities Foundation of Texas is grateful for the expanded partnership with the City of Dallas and Crossroads Community Services to help provide additional resources to our immigrant and refugee neighbors in need through the Emma Lazarus Resilience Fund,’ said Senior Director of Community Philanthropy for Communities Foundation of Texas, Wende Burton. “We know that these gift cards have gone a long way to help families with additional expenses, especially during the holiday season.”
Crossroads Community Services has been operating a drive-thru food pantry since March 2020. The nonprofit organization collaborated with the ELRF nonprofit network to identify and refer recipients for the gift card initiative. Crossroads focused its efforts on households living within the organization’s service area which is 18 ZIP codes in southern Dallas County for the past two months.
“Crossroads Community Services is grateful for the opportunity to partner with the City of Dallas and its public and private partners to increase the impact of the Emma Lazarus Resilience Fund,” said Crossroads’ Client Services Manager Jesse Kramer. “Together, we are bringing immediate economic relief, in the form of grocery gift cards, to households affected by COVID-19 but ineligible for federal COVID-19 relief programs.”
To learn more about the Emma Lazarus Resilience Fund visit: dallascityhall.com/emmalazarusresiliencefund.