The number of new coronavirus cases in Dallas County rose over the last week, and officials confirmed the county has seen new cases of the B.1.1.7 and B.1.526 variants of COVID-19 over the last two weeks.
New cases of the virus totaled 351 on March 11. The seven-day average now sits at 457, which is a rate of 17.3 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, according to a county news release. The seven-day average at this time last week was 230, which is a rate of 8.7 new daily cases per 100,000 residents.
“The more contagious variants [of COVID-19] have arrived here in Dallas County,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a statement. “The person diagnosed with the B.1.526 variant did not have a history of travel outside of Dallas County. It is likely that many others with milder symptoms, who were not tested, are transmitting these more contagious variants.”
There have been 248,724 cases and 3,236 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 March 10 saw 268 COVID-19 patients in acute care and 396 patients reporting to the emergency room with COVID-19-like symptoms. This number represents about 15% 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.
Gov. Greg Abbott lifted state mask requirements March 10 and said all businesses are allowed to operate at full capacity.
Since early January, when COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations peaked across the state, numbers have been steadily declining.
According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, there were 4,406 COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals as of March 11, down from more than 5,000 on March 4. Abbott said March 2 that "people and businesses don't need the state telling them how to operate." However, if COVID-19 hospitalizations do rise above a certain level—15% of all hospitalizations within a certain region—county judges will be able to take action. Abbott said county judges will be able to reduce business capacity to no lower than 50%.
As of March 10, less than 6% of the hospital beds in Trauma Service Area E were occupied by confirmed COVID-19 patients, according to the DSHS dashboard.
Data shows the number of confirmed cases in school-age children has continued to slow in Dallas County. Over the past 30 days, 1,714 cases among students and staff have been reported across 504 K-12 schools in the county, according to the news release.
According to the state’s public school dashboard, new student cases were down by more than 35% statewide in the first week of March compared to the final week of February. During the week ending March 7, 1,887 additional cases were reported, which was a drop from the 2,917 cases reported at the end of the week ending Feb. 28. Cases among staff also decreased between the weeks of Feb. 28 and March 7, according to the dashboard.
In Richardson ISD, 1,625 students and 716 employees have been diagnosed since Aug. 19, according to the district’s dashboard, which launched in early September. In Plano ISD, 1,740 students and 782 employees have been diagnosed and have since recovered, according to PISD's dashboard, which began reporting data Aug. 12 and was last updated March 8.
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, 28 students and 7 employees still had the virus as of March 11. In PISD, 43 student cases and 10 employee cases were still active as of March 8.
Dallas County residents can register for the COVID-19 vaccine with Dallas County Health and Human Services here. Collin County Judge Chris Hill announced March 11 that the county has completed its COVID-19 vaccine waitlist and that it would open its vaccine appointment portal on Friday mornings. According to a city of Richardson spokesperson, the city is not involved in vaccine distribution at this time.
As of March 11, more than 4.8 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 224,000 people have received both doses. In Collin County, nearly 108,000 of the estimated 801,716 residents age 16 or older have received both doses.
The DSHS announced March 3 that Texas educators and child care workers are now eligible to receive coronavirus vaccines. The DSHS released guidance this week that all Texans over age 50, all health care workers, school teachers, child care workers and those with underlying medical conditions will become eligible to be vaccinated beginning March 15.
“The emergence of these [COVID-19 variants] is another strong reason to continue to wear a mask, social distance, wash hands frequently, avoid crowds and forego get-togethers,” Jenkins said in his March 4 statement. “By practicing the fact-based approaches that provided protection for the past year, coupled with registering in as many places as you are willing to drive, and being vaccinated as soon as it is your turn, we will beat COVID-19 this year. It takes resolve on all of our parts and grace towards one another.”
Dallas County Health and Human Services reported more than 148,000 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 7,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in that county’s portion of Richardson.