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Tracking COVID-19: New cases in Dallas County drop as officials confirm increase in variant



DALLAS, TX – The number of new COVID-19 cases in Dallas County fell over the last week; however, officials confirmed additional cases of the B.1.1.7 variants of the virus.

New cases of the coronavirus totaled 190 on March 18. The seven-day average now sits at 291, which is a rate of 11 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, according to a county news release. The seven-day average at this time last week was 457, which is a rate of 17.3 new daily cases per 100,000 residents.

“The B.1.1.7 variant is emerging here in North Texas and is up to 70% more contagious than the variant we’ve been battling, a strong reason to keep the mask on … to wash your hands frequently and avoid those unnecessary crowds,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a March 18 statement.

There have been 250,149 cases and 3,350 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 226 COVID-19 patients in acute care and 331 patients reporting to the ER with COVID-19-like symptoms. This number represents about 13% 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 3,846 COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals as of March 8, which is down from more than 4,400 on March 11. Abbott said March 2 that “people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate.” However, if COVID-19 hospitalizations rise above a certain level—15% of all hospitalizations within a certain region—county judges can take action. Abbott said county judges will be able to reduce business capacity no lower than 50%.

As of March 17, less than 5% of hospital beds in Trauma Service Area E, which includes Dallas and Collin counties, 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, 1,297 cases among students and staff have been reported across 425 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 71% statewide between the first and second weeks of March. During the week ending March 14, 615 additional cases were reported, which was a drop from the 2,168 cases reported at the end of the week prior. Cases among staff also decreased between the weeks of March 7 and March 14, according to the dashboard.

In Richardson ISD, 1,630 students and 716 employees have been diagnosed since Aug. 19, according to the district’s dashboard, which launched in early September. In Plano ISD, 1,787 students and 792 employees have been diagnosed and have since recovered, according to PISD’s dashboard, which began reporting data Aug. 12 and was last updated March 19.

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, 30 students and 3 employees still had the virus as of March 15. In PISD, 33 student cases and 11 employee cases were still active as of March 19.

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 18, more than 5.8 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, nearly 248,000 people have received both doses. In Collin County, nearly 122,000 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 last week that all Texans over age 50, all health care workers, school teachers, child care workers and those with underlying medical conditions are now eligible to be vaccinated.

“It’s also important as new variants are emerging that we get as many people vaccinated as possible, so register everywhere you are willing to drive,” Jenkins said in his March 18 statement. “There’s no way to know exactly which provider will get you the vaccine the fastest, so signing up in multiple places—though tedious—is your best move. Get your shot as soon as you’re eligible. Together we will defeat COVID[-19] before the new variants have a chance to defeat the vaccine.”

Dallas County Health and Human Services reported more than 180,000 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.