Dallas ISD Unlikely to Remain Online Only After Oct. 5

As schools began welcoming students last week – either in person for the first time or online – many also continued to watch the new cases reported by the county. Some schools are also beginning to report small outbreaks of COVID-19 as well. These are some bullet points for your Monday morning.

  • Dallas ISD not likely to remain online only after Oct. 5;
  • County health officials keeping eye on potential upward trend;
  • Trustee to hold town hall to provide re-entry and construction updates.
Dallas ISD Unlikely to Remain Online Only After Oct. 5

Although the Texas Education Agency has allowed for a total of eight weeks of remote instruction, Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa told school board trustees last week that it was unlikely he would ask them to extend online only instruction past Oct. 5.

As we first reported two weeks ago, the district will phase-in a return, with the youngest students from each campus returning first.

But what is unknown, Hinojosa said at last week’s board briefing, is how many parents will choose in-person instruction over online, despite an ongoing survey asking parents to indicate their choice. So far only 20% of parents have answered.

If a school ends up with more than 60% of its students returning to campus, the district would need to review the space available at that school, and begin working to figure out how to keep the student population adequately spaced out. Officials could opt for a hybrid plan that would alternate on-campus instruction with distance learning, but district officials said that would be a last resort.

And, of course, all these plans hinge on a continued flattening of the curve. If numbers begin to go back up, and county health officials move the risk level from orange back to the “safer at home” red level, the district will likely need to go back to distance learning only.

“If the county goes back to red, all of these plans are off,” Hinojosa said.

County Health Officials Keeping Eye on Potential Upward Trend

A total of 580 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported by Dallas County health officials between Friday and Sunday, and an additional 10 deaths, bringing the county’s total case count up to 75,052 including 973 confirmed deaths.

For reference, last Sunday, the total case count was 73,700, and 945 deaths.

On Friday, the county reported 259 confirmed cases and one confirmed death (with 109 coming from the state’s reporting system and 64 from previous months); on Saturday, 165 confirmed cases and six confirmed deaths (with 165 coming from the state reporting system and 15 coming from older months); and on Sunday, 156 confirmed cases and three deaths (with 28 coming from the state system and 17 from previous months).

Among the dead are a Mesquite man in his 50s who died at a hospital emergency room, an Irving woman in her 50s who died in a hospital emergency room and did not have underlying health conditions, a Dallas woman in her 50s, a Grand Prairie woman in her 60s who was found dead at her home, a Mesquite man in his 60s, a 78-year-old Sunnyvale woman without high-risk health conditions, a Dallas woman in her 80s who was found dead at her home, and a Dallas woman in her 80s. Unless otherwise indicated, all had underlying high-risk health conditions.

On average, long-term care facilities continue to account for a quarter to a third of all COVID-19 deaths, including a man in his 50s who lived in a Dallas facility, and a man in his 90s who lived in a Garland facility. Both died at their respective long-term care facilities.

“We have indicators that show some increase in COVID-19 activity and some that are remaining flat or trending lower. The Public Health Committee is looking at these closely and will have more information when it becomes available,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “In the meantime, it’s very important that you continue wearing your mask, maintaining six-foot distancing, frequently washing your hands, and avoiding unnecessary trips and indoor crowds where people are not wearing their mask 100% of the time.”

The county said that the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Friday was 325 patients. Emergency room visits for COVID-19 symptoms represented about 16% of all ER visits, according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council.

UT Southwestern’s latest forecast projects that by Sept. 22, Dallas County hospitals could see concurrent hospitalizations rise to between 280 and 530 cases, with roughly 800 new cases per day on average. The new modeling does take into account the return to school campuses.

In the county’s Sept. 11 aggregate report, most confirmed cases continue to be between the ages of 18 and 60, with the 18-40 age group accounting for 46% of the cases, and the 41-64 age group accounting for another 34% of the total cases.

From Aug, 15-28, 317 school-aged children between 5 to 17 years of age were diagnosed with COVID-19 in Dallas County. About 50% of these cases were high school age. By zip code of residence, 167 (53%) of these children were projected to have been enrolled in Dallas ISD schools.

Close contact or community transmission continues to be the biggest risk factor for contracting COVID-19, accounting for almost 94% of all cases. Being incarcerated in federal prison, living in a long-term care facility, or being incarcerated in the county jail accounted for 1.9%, 1.9%, and 0.9%, respectively.

Of the testing done, positive cases accounted for 10.8% as of Sept. 5, with 604 positives coming from 5,602 tests. Testing for the week prior found that positive cases accounted for 10.8% of all testing.

Ten percent of all cases ended up hospitalized – 24% ended up in intensive care, and 13% ended up on a ventilator.

In a city-by-city breakdown, Dallas still comes in with the highest number of cases – 39,398 confirmed cases and 1,773 probable cases. Highland Park has 77 confirmed cases (up from 73 last week) and another 26 probable cases, and University Park has 171 confirmed cases (up from 157), and 172 probable cases.

Trustee to Hold Town Hall to Provide Re-entry, Construction Updates

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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