Hospitalizations Up By 40%, County Reports

As we get closer to Election Day this week with the start of early voting on Tuesday, the pandemic – and how it is being handled – is at the forefront of the minds of many voters. Here are today’s bullet points: 

  • Hospitalizations up by 40%, county reports;
  • State announces $20 million for disaster crisis counseling;
  • Local rideshare company offers free rides on Election Day.
Hospitalizations Up By 40%, County Reports

A total of 1,297 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus were reported by Dallas County health officials between Friday and Sunday, and an additional 76 probable cases were reported, along with eight deaths.

On Friday, the county reported 448 cases (419 confirmed and 29 probable) and three confirmed deaths; on Saturday, 492 cases (460 confirmed and 32 probable) and one confirmed death; and on Sunday, 433 cases (418 confirmed and 15 probable)  and four deaths.

Among the dead are a Dallas woman in her 40s, a Garland man in his 50s, a Mesquite man in his 70s, and a Dallas man in his 70s. All but the latter had underlying high-risk health conditions.

Long-term care facilities continue to amount to about a third of all deaths in the county, including a woman in her 70s who passed away at a Dallas facility, a woman in her 80s who passed away in a Richardson facility, a man in his 90s who passed away in a Dallas facility, and a woman in her 90s who passed away in a Dallas facility. 

“The raw numbers for the week saw an increase from 350 daily average cases last week to 383 this week, including a total of 15 deaths,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins on Saturday. “The raw numbers are arrived by taking the total number of new cases reported and dividing by seven for the week ending on Saturday; however, the epidemiologists’ DCHHS summary report by CDC week is more accurate because they go back in and strip out test dates and add all tests to their appropriate week. 

“For the last CDC week that was reported late last night, the numbers of new COVID-19 cases are roughly flat,” he added. “If this is correct, that is very good news as we have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases for the last few weeks and continue to see an increase in hospitalizations. Our hospitalizations since September 27 have increased more than 40%. The decisions that you make today and tomorrow and every day that follows will determine what happens a week or two after.”

The county said that the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Friday was 381 patients. Emergency room visits for COVID-19 symptoms represented about 17% of all ER visits, according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council. To compare, a week ago there were 242 patients.

UT Southwestern’s latest forecast projects that by Oct. 20, Dallas County hospitals could see concurrent hospitalizations rise to between 270 and 530 cases, with roughly 1,000 new cases per day on average. 

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 126 cases by Friday afternoon, up from 42 the week before. Of that 126,  53 are campus staff, five are central staff, and 68 are students. 

Walnut Hill Elementary has seven cases, Thomas Jefferson HIgh School has four cases, Sudie Williams Talented and Gifted has one case, W.T. White High School has one case, Pershing Elementary has one case, Benjamin Franklin Middle School has one case, and Hillcrest High School has four cases.

Highland Park ISD is reporting a single staff case and 16 student cases. So far eight staffers and 44 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.

Dallas County reported Friday that a provisional total of 252 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in school-aged children (5 to 17 years) during CDC week 39 – the week ending Sept. 26. The percentage of cases occurring in young adults aged 18 to 22 years was 12% for the month of September.

In the county’s Oct. 9 aggregate report, 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 Oct. 4, the state Texas Education Agency reported that 7,620 students tested positive for COVID-19, and 5,227 staff members, compared to the week before with 5,725 students 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.

Dallas County reported in its Oct. 9 aggregate report that 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 9.8% as of Oct. 3, with 640 positives coming from 5,921 tests. Testing for the week prior found that positive cases accounted for 10.8%% 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 – 44,515 confirmed cases and 2,141 probable cases. Highland Park has 104 confirmed cases (up from 86 last week) and another 37 probable cases, and University Park has 280 confirmed cases (up from 250), and 250 probable cases.

State Announces $20 Million For Disaster Crisis Counseling

Gov. Greg Abbott announced the Texas Health and Human Services Commission will receive more than $20 million in additional federal funding for disaster crisis counseling services for Texans impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding is provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Regular Services Crisis Counseling Program.

“As the State of Texas combats COVID-19, we are ensuring that Texans have access to the mental health support services they need,” said Abbott. “Thank you to our federal partners at FEMA for their continued support throughout the pandemic and for providing this crucial funding for our state’s crisis counseling services.”

“People throughout Texas experiencing mental or emotional stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic can get the support they need with the help of this federal funding,” said Sonja Gaines, HHS deputy executive commissioner for Intellectual and Developmental Disability & Behavioral Health Services. “This grant allows Texas families to have greater access to the services they need during this challenging time.”

The grant is in addition to the $5.8 million in FEMA crisis counseling funds health officials announced in May and will extend counseling services to 28 local mental health and behavioral health authorities in Texas. The grant is expected to connect an additional 240,000 Texans throughout the state to short-term crisis counseling services.

The funding will also continue the COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line and support various organizations that focus on emergency management, public health, social services, and crisis counseling in emergency shelters. Individuals struggling with substance use issues will also benefit from the disaster crisis counseling services.

Local Rideshare Company Offers Free Rides on Election Day

Alto, a Dallas-based rideshare and delivery company, has announced it will provide free rides to election polls throughout its Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston coverage area on Election Day, Nov. 3. Voters with an Alto account can access two rides, up to $15 each, by entering promo code VOTE2020 into the Alto app.

“Alto is proud to mobilize voters on this important day,” said Will Coleman, Founder and CEO of Alto. “We hope that this small act of providing complimentary rides to local polling centers will encourage North Texans to get out and exercise their right to vote.”

All Alto drivers wear masks and gloves during every trip. Furthermore, each Alto vehicle also has a HEPA cabin air filter which removes 99.9% of airborne particles – the same filters used in hospitals to provide clean air to patients – and all Alto vehicle interiors have been treated with PermaSafe, an EPA-registered hospital-grade sanitizing mist that kills 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, including emerging pathogens like COVID-19. The PermaSafe product forms a covalent bond with every surface in the vehicle creating an invisible antimicrobial shield that kills germs on contact for a full three-months, ensuring a safe and clean environment.

For more information, go to www.ridealto.com.

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 bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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