The number of new coronavirus cases in Dallas County slowed over the last week, but officials confirmed the county again reached its single-day high of 50 deaths related to COVID-19 on Feb. 18.
New confirmed cases of the virus totaled 266 that day. The seven-day average now sits at 990, which is a rate of 37.6 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, according to a county news release. The seven-day average at this time for the previous week was 1,381, which is a rate of 52.4 new daily cases per 100,000 residents.
“These last few days have been about survival, and I know many of us have been forced to be in close quarters with people that we are not normally around,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a statement. “The rules still apply to protect yourself from COVID-19: wear a mask, maintain distance, avoid crowds and forgo get-togethers.”
There have been 242,094 cases and 2,751 deaths in Dallas County since officials began data collection in March 2020. 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 Feb. 17 saw 596 COVID-19 patients in acute care and 373 patients reporting to the ER with COVID-19-like symptoms. This number represents about 20% 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.
The Texas Department of State Health Services sent letters Feb. 17 to 19 county judges in North Texas, including in Collin and Dallas counties, informing them it was loosening capacity restrictions for North Texas businesses following a decline in hospitalization rates for COVID-19 patients, according to DSHS spokesperson Lara Anton.
“[Trauma Service Area E] no longer meets the definition of a high hospitalization area and so [it] may reopen to the higher levels allowable under GA-32,” the letter stated.
As of Feb. 18, about 13% of the hospital beds in TSA E were occupied by confirmed COVID-19 patients, according to the DSHS 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 available hospital beds in a specific trauma service area for seven consecutive days.
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. Per Abbott’s order, businesses are allowed to increase capacity once COVID-19 hospitalizations for the area are below 15% for seven days in a row.
Data reported for Feb. 9-15 showed that threshold was met, allowing bars to reopen and many businesses to return to 75% capacity.
Data showed the number of confirmed cases in school-age children has continued to slow in Dallas County. Over the past 30 days, 7,012 cases among students and staff members have been reported across 713 K-12 schools in the county, according to the news release.
According to the state’s public school dashboard, new student cases decreased by more than 30% statewide between the last week of January and the first week of February. During the week ending Feb. 7, 6,651 additional cases were reported, which was a drop from the 9,648 cases reported at the end of the week prior. Cases among staff are also decreasing, according to the dashboard.
In Richardson ISD, 1,525 students and 687 employees have been diagnosed since Aug. 19, according to the district’s dashboard, which launched in early September. In Plano ISD, 1,536 students and 703 employees have been diagnosed and have since recovered, according to PISD's dashboard, which began reporting data Aug. 12 and was last updated Feb. 12.
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, 83 students and 11 employees still had the virus as of Feb. 19. In PISD, 130 student cases and 46 employee cases were still active as of Feb. 12.
Dallas County residents can register for the COVID-19 vaccine with Dallas County Health and Human Services here. Collin County commissioners voted Feb. 8 to temporarily suspend processing new registrations to the county's online COVID-19 vaccine waitlist due to an imbalance of available doses and demand for them. According to a city of Richardson spokesperson, the city is not involved in vaccine distribution at this time.
As of Feb. 18, about 3 million people had received at least the first dose of the vaccine in Texas, according to data on the DSHS dashboard. There are just over 2 million residents age 16 or older in Dallas County. Among those residents, more than 101,000 people have received both doses. In Collin County, more than 38,000 of the estimated 801,716 residents age 16 or older have received both doses.
Dallas County announced Feb. 18 that its Fair Park vaccine clinic will resume Feb. 21 from 1-6 p.m. It will be providing second doses to those who were due for their second dose Feb. 12 or earlier.
“Vaccine operations will resume on Sunday with us only seeing the people who need a second shot who have waited the longest for their second shot,” Jenkins said in his Feb. 18 statement. “We will catch up on second shots throughout this next week. You need not worry, if you are due a second shot, you will receive one. We will resume first shots when the throughput for second shots is sufficient to ensure the second shots are given timely.”
Dallas County Health and Human Services reports that 43,823 vaccinations have been administered at the Fair Park vaccine mega-clinic since the site began operations Jan. 11. Collin County announced no appointments are being scheduled at its vaccine hub at Plano ISD’s Clark Stadium through Feb. 21.
Collin County announced in August that it would no longer report city-specific information. The city of Richardson does not regularly report its own case numbers; however, Mayor Paul Voelker said during his Jan. 26 State of the City address that more than 4,500 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 40 have died.