Tracking COVID-19: New cases drop after power outages, testing site closures in Dallas County

See how COVID-19 impacted Dallas County over the last week. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
See how COVID-19 impacted Dallas County over the last week. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

See how COVID-19 impacted Dallas County over the last week. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Editor’s note: This is the latest information reported by Dallas County, Richardson ISD and Plano ISD through their public dashboards.

After a recent decline in new coronavirus cases in Dallas County, officials expect the case counts to rise again in the coming days as testing facilities have reopened following winter storm closures from being without power last week.

New confirmed cases of the virus totaled 614 on Feb. 25. The seven-day average is 657, which is a rate of 24.9 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, according to a county news release. The seven-day average at this time last week was 990, which is a rate of 37.6 new daily cases per 100,000 residents.

“While these case numbers are higher than we've seen in the previous days, you should not be alarmed as all these numbers are artificially low due to the lack of testing in the week of the power outages,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a statement. “In the coming days, we should get to a more accurate count of COVID[-19] positive cases. While that number will be higher than we've seen this week, it will be much lower than what we've seen at our highest. The trends are good and the numbers are moving in the right direction.”

There have been 244,335 cases and 2,923 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 Feb. 24 saw 529 COVID-19 patients in acute care and 428 patients reporting to the ER with COVID-19-like symptoms. This number represents about 16% 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. 24, about 10% 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 TSA 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, 3,894 cases among students and staff have been reported across 628 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 47% statewide between the first and second weeks of February. During the week ending Feb. 14, 4,191 additional cases were reported, which was a drop from the 7,977 cases reported at the end of the week prior. Cases among staff are also decreasing, according to the dashboard.

In Richardson ISD, 1,75 students and 705 employees have been diagnosed since Aug. 19, according to the district’s dashboard, which launched in early September. In Plano ISD, 1,701 students and 765 employees have been diagnosed and have since recovered, according to PISD's dashboard, which began reporting data Aug. 12 and was last updated Feb. 26.

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, 36 students and 14 employees still had the virus as of Feb. 26. In PISD, 39 student cases and 17 employee cases were still active as of Feb. 26.

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. 25, about 3.2 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. Of those residents, more than 135,000 people have received both doses. In Collin County, nearly 55,000 of the estimated 801,716 residents age 16 or older have received both doses.

“We all have a role to play in defeating COVID,” Jenkins said in his Feb. 25 statement. “Your role is to follow the doctors’ advice based on the science and the facts: wear a mask, maintain distance, avoid crowds, and forego get-togethers for the time being. Of equal importance is to register for the vaccine in as many places as you are willing to drive and to get your vaccine as soon as you are eligible.”

Dallas County Health and Human Services reported 45,643 vaccinations have been administered at the Fair Park mega vaccine clinic since the site began operations Jan. 11. Collin County restarted scheduling appointments at its vaccine hub at Plano ISD’s Clark Stadium on Feb. 22.

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, Dallas County’s COVID-19 analytics dashboard shows there have been more than 6,800 confirmed coronavirus cases in that county’s portion of Richardson. Mayor Paul Voelker said during the Jan. 26 State of the City address that more than 40 Richardson residents have died.
By William C. Wadsack
William C. Wadsack is the senior reporter for the Plano and Richardson editions of Community Impact Newspaper. He previously served as managing editor of several daily and weekly publications in North Texas and his native state of Louisiana before joining Community Impact Newspaper in 2019.


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