Jenkins: Local Officials Taking Over COVID-19 Testing In County

As Dallas County continues to report 1,000 new cases or more of the novel coronavirus per day, officials work to increase testing capacity, and respond to the pandemic, there’s a lot of information to keep up with. Here are today’s bullet points:

  • Jenkins: local officials taking over COVID-19 testing in county;
  • Dallas County reports 1,114 new COVID-19 cases, six more deaths; 
  • Dallas County Tax Offices closed to public;
  • Dallas receives $500,000 for immigrant communities impacted by COVID-19.
Jenkins: Local Officials Taking Over COVID-19 Testing In County

Dallas County will end its agreement with the federal government this week and take over control of publicly-funded COVID-19 testing in hopes of getting results returned quicker, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tweeted Monday.

The private lab serving the northern half of the county returns results in about two days, while the lab contracted by the federal government to run the testing at the Ellis Davis Field House is taking between eight and 10 days, as reported in the Dallas Morning News.

Jenkins said the federal testing at the Ellis Davis Field House will end Wednesday and Parkland will administer up to 500 tests per day at Ellis Davis while local officials work to find another vendor to fulfill the testing, the paper reported.

The new contract would be funded by local tax dollars, Jenkins told the paper, though he hopes the federal government will reimburse some of the cost.

“We have greatly appreciated the federal COVID-19 testing support we have received since March. The Community-Based Testing Sites have been vital to our response to this pandemic. But in recent weeks, because of the significant demand for tests nationwide, we have seen long delays for results from the federal test kits,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said about the announcement. “Dallas County, the City’s contracted public health authority, believes these delays put the public at risk and that continuing the status quo is not in the best interest of our community. Accordingly, Parkland staff will take over the Ellis Davis Field House drive-through testing site and will administer up to 500 tests each day. The swabs will be taken to a local lab, which will hopefully allow us to receive results in a more timely manner.”

The federal government previously granted a request to extend operations of the community-based testing sites back in late June.

Jenkins also announced new hours for the testing site at the University of Dallas campus in Irving. It’s open from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Saturday at 1845 E. Northgate Drive starting today.

Parkland also was forced to delay the opening of the new walk-up COVID-19 testing site at the Salvation Army’s Pleasant Grove Corps Community Center after equipment and supplies were stolen, WFAA reported.

Despite that, Parkland Monday announced plans to open the Pleasant Grove Corps Community Center at 7:30 a.m. today. 

Dallas County Reports 1,114 New COVID-19 Cases, Six More Deaths 

Dallas County Health and Human Services Monday reported more than 1,000 additional cases of COVID-19 for the 11th straight day.

Specifically, the county reported 1,114 additional positive cases of COVID-19 Monday, bringing the total case count in Dallas County to 34,914, as well as an additional six deaths.

Among the dead are a 50-something-year-old Dallas man, a 60-something-year-old Dallas man, another 60-something-year-old Dallas man, and a 70-something-year-old Dallas man. Each had been hospitalized, and two of those four had underlying health conditions. A 70-something-year-old man who lived in a long-term care facility in DeSoto and a 90-something-year-old woman who lived in a long-term care facility in Mesquite also died after being hospitalized, the county reports. Of the 457 total deaths the county’s reported to date, about a third have been associated with long-term care facilities.

The percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for COVID-19 was 30% among symptomatic patients presenting to area hospitals in week 27.

Of cases requiring hospitalization who reported employment, over 80% have been critical infrastructure workers with a broad range of affected occupational sectors, including healthcare, transportation, food and agriculture, public works, finance, communications, clergy, first responders, and other essential functions. 

 Of the cases requiring hospitalization to date, more than two-thirds have been under 65 years of age. Diabetes has been an underlying high-risk health condition reported in about a third of all hospitalized patients with COVID-19. 

“We continue to see over 1,000 new positive COVID-19 cases each day and we know there is still rampant community spread of this virus. It has been just over four months since we reported our first case in Dallas County and I know everyone is ready to find some sense of normalcy, even if that means our ‘new normal.’ However, you are much more likely now to come into contact with someone who has the virus than you were a few months ago during the Safer at Home orders. Whenever you leave your house, please take your mask, and wear it whenever you go in a store or business and whenever you are within six feet of someone outside your home. Remember, my mask protects you and your mask protects me. We are in this together and we will get through this together,” said Jenkins.

Johnson shared Monday that 25 hospitals reported their bed and ventilator capacity statistics to the city. Of 5,870 total beds, 68% were occupied, of 909 total ICU beds, 71% were occupied, and of 962 total ventilators, 373 (39%) were in use.

Statewide, 264,313 cases have been reported of 2,540,125 tests from 247 counties as of July 12. There are also 10,405 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the state.

UT Southwestern’s latest data indicates hospitalizations because of COVID-19 in the DFW area have increased 19% compared to a week ago, and by 167% compared to a month ago. 

In Dallas County, hospitalizations increased by 148% compared to a month ago and by 13% compared to a week ago. 

The latest UT Southwestern forecast projects total COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county will increase to between 840 and 1,360 concurrent hospitalized cases by July 23, and states that roughly 1,800 new COVID-19 infections per day are expected by July 23.

Gov. Greg Abbott during a Monday interview with NBCDFW again called for local officials to enforce existing orders requiring masks and limiting gatherings rather than returning to shelter-in-place.

“One day does not make a trend, however, today is the first day in more than a month in which the state of Texas has fewer hospitalizations than the day before. That would match up timing wise when we imposed the mask request, when we shut down bars, and so we need to see if this first day will be the first of several days that could turn out to be a trend of showing some real results from more people wearing masks and having some facilities shut down that were leading to the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott told the station. “If your local officials think that a shutdown is going to actually shut things down, they’re going to have to enforce it. The people they would use to enforce it–they need to have them enforcing the mask requirement and the size and occupancy limitations that exist right now. If local officials will do that, we will, assuredly, slow the spread.”

Dallas County Tax Offices Closed To Public

The Dallas County Tax Office announced that its locations are closed to the public for face-to-face transactions until further notice.

Customers are encouraged to process their vehicle registrations and property tax payments online.

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) worked with Gov. Abbott to temporarily waive certain requirements for vehicle registration, vehicle titling, and disabled parking placards. 

As for property taxes, in addition to the website, county residents can also pay property taxes by phone through JP Morgan Chase Bank at 866-863-8323 (English) or 866-361-1741 (Español).  

People can also  mail tax payments to P.O. Box 139066, Dallas, TX 75313- 9066. The Dallas County Tax Office’s Customer Care Center is available from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday at 214-653-7811. 

Dallas Receives $500,000 For Immigrant Communities Impacted By COVID-19

Lastly, we end today’s digest with a new resource for people impacted by COVID-19. The city of Dallas Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs (WCIA) announced last week they partnered with the Open Society Foundations (OSF) to establish the Emma Lazarus Resilience Fund, a public-private effort providing $500,000 in financial assistance to individuals and families ineligible for federal COVID-19 relief programs. The Emma Lazarus Resilience Fund will be administered by the Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT).  

The $500,000 will be disbursed to Dallas families who have been severely financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritizing those who are out of reach of the federal relief programs, including immigrant workers. 

“Dallas is a vibrant, diverse, and welcoming city,” Johnson said. “Our people are our greatest asset, and they routinely help their neighbors during times of crisis. As we fight the COVID-19 pandemic, this private fund will help provide relief to the many communities in need.” 

CFT, together with WCIA, will select nonprofit organizations with demonstrated track records serving immigrant families in Dallas.

“About 25% of Dallas’ residents are immigrants and refugees, and WCIA was established to ensure our City responds to their needs,” said Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax. “This type of public-private partnership with OSF and CFT is critical to support our residents during this critical time of COVID-19. We thank the Open Society Foundations for identifying Dallas as a partner in making financial assistance available to Dallas’ immigrant communities.” 

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

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