The number of new coronavirus cases in Dallas County slowed over the last week, but officials remain concerned about the weeks ahead.
New confirmed cases of the virus totaled 1,858 on Jan. 26. The seven-day average now sits at 1,814, which is a rate of 68.8 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, according to a county news release. The seven-day average at this time last week was 2,545, which is a rate of 96.9 new daily cases per 100,000 residents.
“Medical experts continue to predict that January and February will be challenging months for COVID[-19], but I continue to hope we’ll turn the corner soon as vaccine production ramps up and is more accessible to our community,” county Judge Clay Jenkins said in a statement.
There have been 221,012 cases and 2,052 deaths in Dallas County since officials began data collection in March. About 22% of deaths countywide have been associated with long-term care facilities.
Hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions and emergency room visits are among the key indicators health experts use to determine the severity of the virus's spread, according to the county. The week ending Jan. 25 saw 1,133 COVID-19 patients in acute care and 453 patients reporting to the ER with COVID-19-like symptoms. This number represents about 21% of the total emergency room visits in the county during that time period, according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council.
Nearly every day since Nov. 27, patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have accounted for more than 15% of total hospital capacity in Trauma Service Area E, which comprises 19 counties in North Texas, including Dallas County.
As of Jan. 25, 21.83% of the hospital beds in TSA E were occupied by confirmed COVID-19 patients, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services dashboard.
Per an October executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott, municipal governments are required to tighten restrictions for most businesses if COVID-19 patients occupy 15% or more of the available hospital beds for seven consecutive days in a specific trauma service area.
On Dec. 3, when Trauma Service Area E passed the 15% threshold for seven consecutive days, restaurants and most businesses were required to reduce capacity from 75% to 50%, and bars were required to close. Businesses will be allowed to increase capacity once COVID-19 hospitalizations for the area are below 15% for seven days in a row.
Modeling by UT Southwestern predicts hospitalizations in Dallas County will remain elevated and could reach 1,600 patients by Feb. 5, the county release said. County data shows there were 37 ICU beds available countywide as of Jan. 25.
Long-term care facilities continue to be hard hit by the virus, with 111 active outbreaks recorded as of Jan. 26. Over the past 30 days, 518 cases, including 168 in staff members, have been reported from these facilities.
Data also showed the number of confirmed cases in school-age children is on the rise in Dallas County despite dropping statewide. Over the past 30 days, 8,810 cases among students and staff have been reported across 716 K-12 schools in the county, according to the news release.
New cases among students statewide decreased by nearly 50% between the second and third weeks of January, according to the state’s public school dashboard. During the week ending Jan. 17, 4,851 additional cases were reported, which was a significant drop from the 9,591 cases reported at the end of the week prior. Cases among staff are also decreasing statewide, according to the dashboard.
In Richardson ISD, 1,299 students and 575 employees have been diagnosed since Aug. 19, according to the district’s dashboard, which launched in early September. In Plano ISD, 1,190 students and 588 employees have been diagnosed and have since recovered, according to PISD's dashboard, which began reporting data Aug. 12 and is updated daily Monday through Friday.
Both dashboards show all confirmed coronavirus cases districtwide, including those reported in students learning from home. They also include a breakdown of cases by building. Of cases confirmed in RISD, 139 students and 48 employees still had the virus as of Jan. 26. In PISD, 178 student cases and 65 employee cases were still active as of Jan. 26.
Dallas County residents can register for the COVID-19 vaccine with Dallas County Health and Human Services here, while Collin County residents can submit a COVID-19 vaccine request to Collin County Healthcare Services here. According to a city of Richardson spokesperson, the city is not involved in vaccine distribution at this time.
As of Jan. 26, 1,571,093 people had received at least the first dose of the vaccine in Texas, according to data on the DSHS dashboard. There are an estimated 2 million residents age 16 or older in Dallas County. Of those residents, about 22,290 people have received both doses. In Collin County, about 9,330 of the estimated 806,242 residents age 16 or older have received both doses of the vaccine.
“Yesterday, we vaccinated over 2,700 individuals at our Fair Park location and have about 6,300 doses remaining for the week,” Jenkins said in his Jan. 26 statement. “We are also providing some second doses this week for 1A individuals that were vaccinated at our DCHHS Stemmons location about a month ago.”
Dallas County Health and Human Services reports that 21,574 vaccinations have been administered at the Fair Park mega-vaccine clinic since the site began operations Jan. 11. Collin County Health Services plans to begin vaccine distribution at Plano ISD’s Clark Stadium on Jan. 27.
Collin County announced last fall that it would no longer report city-specific information. The city of Richardson does not regularly report its own case numbers.