Experts Call Lowered Risk Level a ‘Triumph’

Thanks to a lot of masking, social distancing, and, yes, vaccinations, one metric used to gauge the county’s progress in flattening the curve when it comes to COVID-19 is yielding positive news.

At the end of March, Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation’s COVID-19 Vulnerability Index showed the lowest infection risk since the index was launched last June.

“After the holidays, we had vulnerability index ratings at nearly 200, which meant the COVID-19 virus was running rampant through our community,” said Dr. George “Holt” Oliver, vice president of clinical informatics at PCCI. “It is a great relief to see that the highest vulnerability index rating now is only 16.91. This is a triumph for our county’s public health leaders, providers, and residents who have made the sacrifices and efforts needed to bend the curve.”

PCCI said that one of the hardest-hit zip codes last year, 75211, at one point saw a vulnerability risk of 196.9 in January. By mid-March, it was at 8.74.

“This is very good news for the residents of the 75211 ZIP code; however, we advise caution going forward,” said Oliver. “I believe that our new normal will be continued vigilance. To keep COVID-19 from resurging, everyone who can be vaccinated should seek it, and adhere to local health official guidance that includes direction on social distancing and face covering.”

The index identifies communities at risk based on comorbidities like hypertension, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease; as well as areas with high density of populations age 65 and older. Areas where residents are more likely to experience social deprivation like lack of access to food, medicine, employment, and transportation are also considered vulnerable.

“These factors are combined with dynamic mobility rates and confirmed COVID-19 cases where a vulnerability index value is scaled relative to July 2020’s COVID-19 peak value,” PCCI explained.

PCCI’s forecast of the county hitting herd immunity by summer is also still on pace, but experts warn that this is highly dependent on everyone who is eligible lining up for their vaccinations.

“With vaccinations available to all adults, we need to get in line and get immunized,” said Dr. Steve Miff, PCCI president and CEO. “We don’t want another year to go by where grandparents can’t hug their grandchildren. We have seen how safe and effective the current vaccines are, so it is the responsible thing to do for our friends, families and co-workers to get immunized.” 

PCCI said that the current “hold” on giving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine won’t likely impact that forecast much, either.

“The FDA pause for the J&J vaccine will not significantly impact the PCCI initial estimate for Dallas County’s path to herd immunity by June,” a release from PCCI said. “We were progressing towards herd immunity at a rate of approximately 3% per week, which was ahead of initial predictions.  While the allocations for J&J were scheduled to increase and the latest developments will pause those vaccinations likely for days, up to several weeks, we forecast that Dallas county will continue to make progress at 2-2.5% per week, which maintains the pace for mid-June.”

In other news:

  • Dallas County health officials reported 152 new COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths on Friday, and 292 new cases and 11 deaths on Saturday.
  • The Texas Department of State Health Services said that more than 1.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be shipped to providers this week, including 733,090 first doses to 381 providers in 119 counties, and 500,000 first and second doses to pharmacies, federally-qualified health centers, and dialysis centers. To see where those vaccines are going locally, click here.
  • Gov. Greg Abbott announced that at the request of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has extended the Individual Assistance registration period for Texans impacted by the winter storm. Individuals who live in qualifying counties now have until May 20 to submit damages and make claims to FEMA. Applications can be submitted here.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital 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 is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *