SMU Moves To ‘High’ Operational Level For COVID-19

As local officials monitor the potential effect of the opening of schools and the Labor Day holiday on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, here’s what you need to know today:

  • SMU moves to ‘high’ operational level;
  • Dallas County reports 261 more COVID-19 cases;
  • Gov. Abbott extends statewide disaster declaration for COVID-19.
SMU Moves To ‘High’ Operational Level For COVID-19

SMU announced Monday it’s increasing its overall operational level from “moderate” to “high” in response to the number of COVID-19 cases on campus and other related factors, including the availability of spaces to isolate on-campus students who test positive.

The university reported 203 active cases among students and four among employees with 44% of isolation space on campus occupied as of Monday.

The university noted on-campus students who test positive have a choice as to where they will isolate, whether that is on campus or at some other location, and they will continue to have that choice.

“To ensure we can accommodate those students who choose to isolate on campus, we are working this week to increase the numbers of isolation beds available,” a post from the university reads. “Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our consultant epidemiologist is that it is preferable for students to isolate on campus (as long as it is feasible) in lieu of travelling home to prevent the spread of the virus to other areas.”

The university is also reportedly opening the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center for limited hours during the weekends to ensure students have access to testing on campus.

“We should all remain vigilant about wearing face coverings, social distancing and hand-washing. We expected to see an increase in cases, as we have seen with many other universities that started fall classes before we did, and we are responding within expectations to these circumstances. Even with the current number of cases, we have a manageable situation and will continue in-person operations,” the statement reads. 

The university reports the following areas are expected to continue to operate at the “moderate” level, as there is no data to support spread through these settings: classrooms, lecture halls and academic buildings: religious group services, shared office spaces, labs, and research (Human Subjects Research is already operating at “high” level), library spaces, residence halls and common areas, student organizations, and events (events remain at “Orange event level”), dining halls, athletic events and activities, Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports, the Health Center, and the Meadows Museum. 

Dallas County Reports 261 More COVID-19 Cases 

Dallas County Health and Human Services Monday reported 261 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the total confirmed case count in Dallas County to 73,961 including 946 confirmed deaths.  

Of the 261 new cases the county reported Monday, 177 came through the Texas Department of State Health Services’ (DSHS) electronic laboratory reporting (ELR) system, with 142 of the results coming from collection dates in September and 35 from August.

The total number of probable cases in Dallas County is 3,184, including 10 probable deaths from COVID-19. 

From August 15-28, 317 school-aged children between 5 and 17 years of age were diagnosed with COVID-19 in Dallas County. About 43% of these cases were high school age (14 to 17 years). By zip code of residence, 167 (53%) of these children were projected to have been enrolled in Dallas ISD schools. 

Of all confirmed cases requiring hospitalization to date, more than two-thirds have been under 65 years of age. Diabetes has been an underlying high-risk health condition reported in about a third of all hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

Of the total confirmed deaths reported to date, about 25% have been associated with long-term care facilities. 

“I hope everyone had a fun and enjoyable Labor Day weekend; and celebrated the holiday responsibly by staying away from people in your family who were unmasked. If we did a good job this weekend, we shouldn’t see a big spike in two weeks, and we should continue to see improving numbers on COVID. Our next challenge is with the opening of schools. And, again, the key for success is for everyone to practice good safety. Masking is the most important component, along with six-foot distancing, handwashing, avoiding unnecessary crowds, and avoiding people who are not wearing their masks. If we all continue to work together for the good of the community, we’ll see less sickness and death, more businesses and jobs thrive, and more kids in school,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins Monday.

The percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 increased, the county says, with 10.8% of symptomatic patients presenting to area hospitals testing positive in week 35. 

UT Southwestern Medical Center’s latest forecast projects total COVID-19 hospitalizations in Dallas County could remain flat or decline slightly to between 270 and 490 concurrent hospitalized cases by Sept. 14, and roughly 540 new COVID-19 infections per day are expected by Sept. 14.

Gov. Abbott Extends Statewide Disaster Declaration For COVID-19
Photo courtesy Office of Gov. Greg Abbott

Gov. Greg Abbott Monday issued a proclamation extending his Disaster Declaration for all Texas counties in response to COVID-19. Originally issued March 13th, the Disaster Declaration provides the state a variety of resources as the Lone Star State continues to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

“Renewing this Disaster Declaration helps ensure that we have the resources and strategies in place to help communities across Texas respond to COVID-19,” said Governor Abbott. “I urge Texans to take precautionary steps to protect their health by wearing a mask, social distancing, and sanitizing their hands. Working together, we will slow the spread and keep our communities safe.”

View Abbott’s proclamation here.

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

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