Potential for Thanksgiving Community Spread Simple Math, Experts Say

As we head into a holiday weekend, local, state, and national experts continue to plead with the public to keep Thanksgiving celebrations small and limited to people they live with. Here are today’s bullet points:

  • Dallas County reports 1,716 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday;
  • City COVID czar ‘deeply concerned’ about Thanksgiving;
  • Paxton announces settlement on Home Depot data breach.
Dallas County Reports 1,716 New Cases of COVID-19 Wednesday

Dallas County health officials reported an additional 1,716 cases of COVID-19 Tuesday – with 1,516 of those being confirmed cases, and 200 probable cases.

There were also an additional seven deaths reported, including a Garland man in his 30s, a Mesquite man in his 60s, a Dallas woman in her 70s, a Lancaster man in his 70s, two Dallas women in their 80s, and a Dallas woman in her 90s. All had underlying high-risk health conditions.

The county said that the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Monday was 758 patients. Emergency room visits for COVID-19 symptoms represented about 19% of all ER visits, according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council

A provisional total of 1,224 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in school-aged children (5 to 17 years) during the week ending Nov. 14, a three-fold increase from five weeks earlier.

Since Nov. 1, there have been 2,851 COVID-19 cases in school-aged children and staff reported from over 558 separate K-12 schools in Dallas County, including 393 staff members.  A total of 1,224 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in school-aged children (5 to 17 years) during the week ending Nov. 14 — which is 50% more than the number of cases in this age group reported during the second-highest peak week of cases in July. Since Nov. 1, there have been over 116 COVID-19 cases in children and staff reported from 60 separate daycares in Dallas County. 

“Today’s 1,716 cases include 1,516 cases derived from PCR tests, also known as confirmed cases, and 200 cases derived from antigen tests, also known as probable cases,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “Included in the numbers are seven deaths, ranging in age from a man in his 30’s to a woman in her 90’s.”

Jenkins asked residents to follow county and national guidance about Thanksgiving. He also pointed out that “being around 10 people exposes you to a 35% risk that one of those 10 individuals is COVID-19 positive and can infect the group. If that number rises to 20 people in your gathering, then it is near statistical certainty that there will be a COVID-19 positive individual at your gathering.”

“As the CDC, President Trump’s Task Force, and our local doctors have said before, please limit your Thanksgiving get-togethers to those who live in your home and forgo in-person shopping experiences and crowds,” he said. “Online shopping this year for the holidays is the far safer option. Similarly, curbside pickup for groceries and other items is far safer than going inside the store.”

City COVID Czar ‘Deeply Concerned’ About Thanksgiving

We will have more on hospital bed capacity later this week, but Dr. Kelvin Baggett, the city of Dallas’ COVID Czar, said the numbers are concerning – but not just because beds are becoming scarcer.

Baggett told D CEO’s Will Maddox that the big worry is staffing. Hospitals can expand and convert space for more COVID-19 patients, but the real scarcity is doctors and nurses to treat them. Caregivers are catching COVID, too, and the entire country is in the throes of uncontrolled community spread, which means that there aren’t traveling doctors and nurses available to help relieve local healthcare professionals.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the trauma service area that includes Dallas-Fort Worth has only 9 percent of its total hospital beds available and just 6 percent of its intensive care unit beds,” Maddox writes. “Under normal circumstances, one in three beds is empty at this time of year.

“We are deeply concerned about overwhelming healthcare capacity,” says Baggett, who is keeping his eye on the data. “They are overburdened and have combated this for over eight months now.”

Read the whole story here.

Paxton Announces Settlement on Home Depot Data Breach

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Tuesday announced that his office, along with the Attorneys General of 45 other States and the District of Columbia have obtained a $17.5 million-dollar settlement against retailer The Home Depot, resolving a multistate investigation of a 2014 data breach which exposed the payment card information of approximately 40 million Home Depot consumers nationwide. Texas led this settlement alongside Connecticut and Illinois and will collect $ 1,777,440.00. 

The breach occurred when hackers gained access to The Home Depot’s network and deployed malware on the retailer’s self-checkout point-of-sale system. The malware allowed the hackers to obtain the payment card information of customers who used self-checkout lanes at Home Depot stores throughout the U.S. between April 10, 2014 and Sept 13, 2014. 

“The Home Depot has agreed to implement and maintain a series of data security practices designed to strengthen information security programs and safeguard consumers’ personal information,” said Paxton. “This settlement serves to promote fair but rigorous compliance with state laws which require businesses that collect sensitive personal information to implement procedures to protect consumers’ information from unlawful use or disclosure.” 

In this settlement, Home Depot agreed to develop and maintain a comprehensive information security program, including providing resources for the program’s implementation and required training; employing a duly qualified Chief Information Security Officer to oversee the program, and advise Home Depot’s Board of Directors of the company’s security risks, and undertaking a post-settlement information security assessment. 

Read a copy of the settlement here.  

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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