As we head into a holiday week next week, we watch as more healthcare providers receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the discussions around who will get it next. Here are our bullet points for the morning:
- State officials urge continued adherence to COVID-19 health measures until vaccines widely available;
- Medical City begins to administer vaccine to caregivers;
- County reports 1,382 new COVID-19 cases, 10 deaths;
- Abbott lifts temporary vehicle registration waiver.
State Officials Urge Caution Until Vaccines Widely Available
Shortly before a U.S. Food and Drug Administration Advisory Committee gave the green light to an emergency use authorization for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday ‘widespread distribution’ beyond the frontline healthcare workers receiving vaccines now can be expected by March as Pfizer and Moderna increase production and more vaccines potentially become available.
“There will be multiple vaccines available to us by the time we get to March and we will be providing far more doses of vaccines than what we currently have,” Abbott said during a press conference.
State officials stressed that patience and continued adherence to public health measures like masking and social distancing will be needed until the vaccine becomes more widely available.
“We need to be patient. It’ll still be weeks, perhaps months before it is absolutely available to anyone who chooses to have it,” said Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt. “In the meantime, we need to continue the kinds of things that have gotten us this successful so far, so those what we call non-pharmaceutical interventions–the physical social distancing, the wearing masks, the hygiene, the personal responsibility.”
Still, Hellerstedt called the vaccines, “the ray of hope at the end of the tunnel,” and Abbott called them “transformational medicine that will help Texans get back to normal as quickly as possible.”
“We’re not done yet. This is a marathon. We’re at that point in the marathon, I think, where we’re all about to just hit that wall, as they say, and we need that extra boost of confidence and optimism that’ll get us across the finish line, and that is the vaccine, in my opinion, as well as the monoclonal antibody therapies that the governor talked about,” Hellerstedt said.
Abbott said more than 224,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been delivered across 110 providers (hospitals and medical schools) in 34 counties this week.
By the end of the month, he expects over a million vaccines will have been distributed to a variety of providers in Texas as Pfizer vaccines continue to be distributed and the Moderna vaccine begins to be distributed.
“Those numbers will continue to increase as the production continues to increase and as both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines come online,” Abbott said.
The next round of vaccines will go to health centers, clinics, and other medical practices, pharmacies, freestanding emergency rooms, urgent cares, long-term care facilities, local health departments, state hospitals, state supported living centers, and Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities.
Additionally, DSHS will begin reserving doses of COVID-19 vaccine next week for the federal Long-Term Care Pharmacy Partnership. This program will begin the week of December 28.
Medical City Begins To Administer Vaccine to Caregivers
Medical City Healthcare began administering the FDA approved COVID-19 vaccine to frontline caregivers and staff, according to the state and federal prioritization guidelines, the hospital announced Thursday.
“Clinical operations teams have developed a comprehensive plan to provide COVID-19 vaccinations that includes storage, scheduling and an administration process,” the healthcare system explained. “Prioritized colleagues have signed up, in advance, for a specific time and location to receive vaccine. COVID-19 patient caregivers and other frontline support staff are the first to receive vaccine.”
Medical City also announced that they are “well prepared” to eventually give the vaccine on a more widespread basis. They have received 6,825 vaccines on Thursday, and are expecting thousands more.
“Healthcare worker vaccination is a positive step toward controlling this global pandemic,” says Miguel Benet, MD, Medical City Healthcare chief medical officer. “Until vaccine is available for everyone who wants it, it is vital that the community continue to protect themselves and their loved ones with the scientifically proven safety measures of wearing a mask, washing hands frequently and socially distancing. Only by continuing to remain vigilant will we be able to save more lives as we continue to fight this pandemic.”
All Medical City Healthcare facilities will receive vaccine and the state anticipates sending shipments weekly. Medical City Healthcare vaccine operations will support administration of all vaccine doses provided by the State. While COVID-19 vaccination is not required for Medical City Healthcare colleagues, infectious disease experts including those at the CDC are strongly encouraging vaccination as a critical step to protect individuals from this coronavirus.
“For now, it is too early to know when more vaccines will be approved or when we may have additional guidance around vaccine availability for our patients and community,” Medical City’s statement concluded, adding that it would add updates on its COVID-19 hub.
County Reports 1,382 New COVID-19 Cases, 10 Deaths
Dallas county health officials reported 1,382 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, with 976 confirmed and 406 probable.
The county also reported 10 new deaths attributed to COVID-19. Among the dead are a Dallas woman in her 60s, a DeSoto woman in her 70s, a Dallas man in his 70s, a Balch Springs woman in her 70s, and two Dallas men in their 80s.
There are currently 93 active long-term care facility outbreaks. Over the past 30 days, a total of 848 COVID-19 cases have been reported from these facilities, including 317 staff members. Of these cases 32 have been hospitalized, and 33 have died, including 2 deaths of staff members. Four of the deaths reported by the county Thursday were from long-term care facilities, including a woman in her 60s, a man in his 80s, and a man in his 90s who lived in Dallas facilities; and a man in his 70s who lived in a Mesquite facility.
Twenty-six outbreaks of COVID-19 in congregate-living facilities (e.g. homeless shelters, group homes, and halfway homes) have been reported in the past 30 days associated with 165 cases, including six hospitalizations. One facility has reported 89 COVID-19 outbreak cases since October.
Over the past 30 days, there have been 4,520 COVID-19 cases in school-aged children and staff reported from 735 separate K-12 schools in Dallas County, including 681 staff members. Of these cases, 534 have been associated with extracurricular activities, including athletics.
The county said that the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Monday was 821 patients. Emergency room visits for COVID-19 symptoms represented about 22% of all ER visits, according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council.
“Today we report an additional 1,382 cases and ten new deaths. As the holidays approach, now is the time to remember the adage ‘an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure,'” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “Thinking ahead on your holiday needs, whether it’s groceries or gifts, and ordering those online now so they’ll arrive on time, or ordering them for curbside pick-up, will lead to less crowds and less spread.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel with vaccinations happening and thousands of our healthcare heroes have received their vaccination,” he added. “By the end of this month, we expect hundreds of thousands of North Texas’ healthcare heroes and nursing home residents to have received their first shot but that great news should not be taken as an excuse to disregard doctors’ advice to wear a mask, avoid crowds, and forgo get-togethers.”
Governor Lifts Temporary Vehicle Registration Waiver
If you’ve been taking advantage of that temporary waiver of some vehicle title and registration requirements, county and state officials want you to be aware: That waiver disappears on April 14, 2021.
Dallas County officials said that there is no reason to wait until then to renew expired vehicle registration, and encouraged those who have been waiting to start making plans to do so.
“My team has been working hard to continue offering vehicle registration and title transfer services during the waiver period,” said Dallas County Tax Assessor/Collector John R. Ames. “We look forward to assisting the residents who were unable to register or title during this period.”
Options for renewing vehicle registration include:
- Online: Visit www.dallascounty.org/tax. There is a $1 discount if you renew online. Online renewal is available up to nine months past your registration expiration date.
- Mail: Return the bottom portion of your registration renewal form, payment and other required information to the Dallas County Tax Office at PO Box 139033, Dallas, TX 75313-9033
- In Person: Visit www.dallascounty.org/tax to find a Tax Office Branch (wait times available online) or a neighborhood location partner convenient to you.
Prior to renewing registration, the vehicle will need to obtain a passing inspection at a state vehicle inspection station of your choice, unless the vehicle is exempt from inspection requirements.
The expiring temporary waiver covers the following services:
- Initial vehicle registration.
- Vehicle registration renewal.
- Vehicle titling.
- Renewal of permanent disabled parking placards.
- 30-day temporary permits.