Experts: County on Pace For Even Higher Case Count by Thanksgiving

On the eve of Election Day, Dallas County is also casting a wary eye at ever-increasing numbers of new COVID-19 cases. We see what the state is doing to try to mitigate new cases in schools and more in today’s bullet points:

  • Experts: County on pace for even higher case count by Thanksgiving;
  • Local schools will participate in a state rapid testing program;
  • Dallas releases RFP for new housing fund.

Experts: County on Pace For Even Higher Case Count by Thanksgiving

A total of 1,996 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus were reported by Dallas County health officials between Friday and Sunday, and an additional 345 probable cases were reported, along with 10 deaths.

On Friday, the county reported 832 cases (670 confirmed and 162 probable) and six confirmed deaths; on Saturday, 759 cases (622 confirmed and 137 probable) and three deaths; and on Sunday, 750 cases (704 confirmed and 46 probable)  and one death.

Among the dead are a Dallas woman in her 40s, an Irving man in his 50s, a Richardson woman in her 60s, a Dallas woman in her 60s, a Mesquite man in his 60s, a Dallas woman in her 70s, a Garland woman in her 70s, a Cedar Hill woman in her 70s, and a Dallas man in his 80s. All had underlying high-risk health conditions.

Of the total confirmed deaths reported to date, about 24% have been associated with long-term care facilities, including a man in his 60s who lived in a Dallas facility. He had no underlying high-risk health conditions.

“For this week, we rose to an average of 681 cases a day, up from 551 last week, with a total of 19 deaths this week, too,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins Saturday. “Our average number of COVID-19 cases per day continues to rise each week as does the number of patients in the hospital and our positivity rate. For the last CDC week, with cases assigned back to the date of test collection, we had an average of 652 new cases per day and today’s numbers are 759 new cases.

“UT Southwestern Medical modelers tell us that we are on pace to have our highest number of average daily cases per week by Thanksgiving if we do not immediately go back to doing the things that we know how to do: wear our mask, avoid crowds and practice good social distancing and hygiene.”

The county said that the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Friday was 462 patients. Emergency room visits for COVID-19 symptoms represented about 19% of all ER visits, according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council

UT Southwestern’s latest forecast projects that by Nov. 10, Dallas County hospitals could see concurrent hospitalizations rise to between 510 and 930 cases, with roughly 1,300 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. On Friday, Dallas ISD’s COVID-19 dashboard indicated that there were now 596 cases throughout the district – 217 among campus staff, 53 among central staff, and 326 among students.

Hillcrest High School has 12 cases (up from 11 last week), W.T. White High School has 12 cases (up from 10), Thomas Jefferson High School has 16 (up from 12), Marsh Middle School has one case, Benjamin Franklin Middle School has three (up from two), Medrano Middle School has two (up from one), Dealey Montessori has two (up from one), Walnut Hill Elementary has 16 (up from 15), Sudie Williams has two, Pershing Elementary has two (up from one), Withers Elementary has three (up from two), Gooch Elementary has five (up from two), Kramer Elementary has two, and Preston Hollow Elementary has one case.

Highland Park ISD is reporting a single staff case and two student cases. 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 Saturday that a provisional total of 587 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in school-aged children (5 to 17 years) during CDC week 43 – the week ending Oct. 24, over twice the numbers of children diagnosed in this age group a month ago.

In the county’s Oct. 30 aggregate report, the county broke down probable cases for children ages 5 to 17 by city. Dallas children in this age group with confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 numbered at 276 for the week ending Oct. 24 and 235 for the week ending Oct. 17. Highland Park children numbered zero for the week ending Oct. 24, and two for the week ending Oct. 17. University Park children numbered two for the week ending Oct. 24 and four for the week ending Oct. 17.

For the week ending Oct. 27, the state Texas Education Agency reported that 15,986 students tested positive for COVID-19, and 10,141 staff members, compared to the week before with 12,765 students and 8,248 staff members.

Dallas County reported in its Oct. 23 aggregate report that most confirmed cases continue to be between the ages of 18 and 60, with the 18-40 age group accounting for 46% 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 more than 94% of all cases.

Of the testing done, positive cases accounted for 15.4% as of Oct. 24, with 1,255 positives coming from 8,154 tests. Testing for the week prior found that positive cases accounted for 14% of all testing.

Nine 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 – 49,369 confirmed cases and 2,878 probable cases. Highland Park has 118 confirmed cases (up from 110 last week) and another 51 probable cases, and University Park has 342 confirmed cases (up from 323), and 313 probable cases.

Local Schools Will Participate in State Rapid Testing Program

At least two area private schools and one school district will take part in a state pilot program to deploy rapid testing for COVID-19.

Gov. Greg Abbott, along with the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Division of Emergency Management said that the rapid testing program will help schools conduct testing of district employees and students (with parent permission) to help slow the spread of COVID-19 on campuses. 

Dallas ISD, Good Shepherd Episcopal School, and Jesuit Preparatory School of Dallas, were included on a preliminary list of participating schools and districts.

Through the program, the state will provide schools with COVID-19 rapid antigen tests that will be administered to students, teachers, and staff who choose to participate. Schools enrolled in the program will also receive personal protective equipment to safely administer the rapid tests, which officials said produce reliable results within 15 minutes. 

Other schools and districts who wished to participate had until Oct. 28 to apply.

“As more students return to campus for in-person instruction, the State of Texas is working alongside school officials to provide resources to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among students and staff,” said Abbott. “Thank you to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for providing these advanced antigen tests to the State of Texas. 

“This rapid testing pilot program will be an effective strategy to protect the health and safety of students and staff while helping to further ensure that Texas students have access to a quality education throughout the pandemic and beyond.”

Dallas Releases RFP for New Housing Fund

The City of Dallas, through the Office of Economic Development, has released a Request for Competitive Sealed Proposals for a qualifying organization to launch the Affordable Housing Revolving Loan Program.

The proposal is calling for the creation of at least 3,264 affordable housing units per year over the next 25 years. This would address 30% of the households predicted to be in need.

The fund will support the development of housing for low- and moderate-income residents within Dallas.

“The City of Dallas believes it will take a multitude of strategies to address, for the long-term, the full volume of households experiencing affordability issues,” said Dr. Eric A. Johnson, City of Dallas Chief of Economic Development and Neighborhood Services. “While the creation of the Affordable Housing Revolving Loan Program is just one of those strategies, it is an immediate step toward creating solutions.”

The selected entity will be tasked to design an Affordable Housing Revolving Loan Program, raise funds to support the fund’s growth, and underwrite affordable housing projects. The entity will manage the fund on behalf of the City of Dallas’ Office of Economic Development and local stakeholders engaged in affordable housing development.

“This process is about the City of Dallas leveraging its limited resources to generate additional funds beyond traditional government resources. This fund is part of the City of Dallas’ Community Transformation Action Roadmap, which was designed to advance the City’s economic and social progress,” said Johnson. “The fund is a critical building block of the Roadmap. It also speaks to the creativity and innovation that is much needed as municipalities look to further the quality of life for its current residents and residents who are considering moving to the City of Dallas.”

The evaluation criteria for Request for Competitive Sealed Proposals include demonstrating experience in this type of fund capacity, how the applicant will design and staff the fund, pricing, and their location within the City of Dallas limits and/or the hiring of City of Dallas residents.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, information collected between 2014 to 2018 identified 53.6% of City of Dallas households are at or below the low-income level. Of those households, 40.3% do not have a complete kitchen or bathroom, have more than one person living in a room, and/or pay more than 30% of their income for housing.

 For more information about submissions, visit: https://bit.ly/3kH8p9A

The deadline for submissions is 2 p.m. on Dec. 3.

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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