County Reverses Vaccine Prioritization Plan After State Warning

As COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues and Dallas County continues to report near record-high cases and hospitalizations, here’s what you need to know today:

  • County reverses vaccine prioritization plan after state warning;
  • County reports 3,469 COVID cases, 30 deaths.
County reverses vaccine prioritization plan after state warning

The Dallas County Commissioners Court Wednesday, facing pressure from the state, backpedaled from a decision to prioritize about 10 ZIP codes identified as vulnerable for COVID-19 vaccines, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Wednesday’s reversal came after state health officials warned they could reduce vaccine supply sent to the county if county officials went through with the plan. The warning reportedly said focusing solely on those ZIP codes violated the terms of an agreement for the county to be a vaccine hub provider.

“While we ask hub providers to ensure the vaccine reaches the hardest-hit areas and populations, solely vaccinating people who live in those areas is not in line with the agreement to be a hub provider,” Imelda Garcia, an associate commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, wrote, as reported in the Dallas Morning News. “If Dallas County is unable to meet these expectations, we will be forced to reduce the weekly vaccine allocation … and no longer consider it a hub provider.”

The commissioners’ Tuesday vote to prioritize certain ZIP codes for vaccines came after it was revealed that more than half of the early doses the county received went to residents of affluent neighborhoods above Interstate 30, including some Park Cities and Preston Hollow ZIP codes, the paper first reported Jan. 16.

County reports 3,469 COVID cases, 30 deaths

Dallas County Wednesday reported 3,469 more COVID-19 cases – 3,197 confirmed and 272 probable cases – and 30 additional deaths.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Dallas County’s reported a cumulative total of 212,188 confirmed cases, 27,495 probable cases, and 1,917 deaths.

The additional deaths reported Wednesday include a Garland woman in her 50s, a Mesquite man in his 50s, a Rowlett man in his 50s, a Glenn Heights woman in her 60s who died in hospice care, a Dallas man in his 60s who died in hospice care, two Garland women in their 60s, a Wilmer man in his 60s, a Rowlett man in his 60s, three Dallas men in their 70s, two Garland men in their 70s, a Dallas woman in her 70s, a Richardson woman in her 70s who died in hospice, a Rowlett woman in her 70s, a Grand Prairie man in his 80s, a Cedar Hill woman in her 80s, a Farmers Branch man in his 80s, a Garland woman in her 80s, an Irving man in his 80s who died in hospice, and a Dallas man in his 80s who died in hospice care. 

Also among the dead Wednesday were a woman in her 70s who lived at a Dallas long-term care facility, a man in his 70s who lived at a Mesquite long-term care facility, a woman in her 70s who lived at a Richardson long-term care facility, a woman in her 80s who lived at a Mesquite long-term care facility, a man in his 80s who lived at a Mesquite long-term care facility, a woman in her 90s who lived at a Dallas long-term care facility, and a woman in her 90s who lived at a Mesquite long-term care facility.

“While these are concerning numbers, and I hope the number of new cases and deaths decreases very soon, I am thankful we’ve been able to vaccinate almost 15,000 individuals at the Fair Park mega-vaccine clinic since last week, with thousands of more scheduled for today,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Wednesday. “As of this morning, we had about 3,000 doses left for the week. While we wait for vaccine distribution to continue to ramp up, we must not forget the prevention measures we know that work: wear your mask, wash your hands, and avoid crowds.”

The provisional seven-day average of daily new confirmed and probable cases for the week ending Jan. 9 was 2,612, which is a rate of 99.1 daily new cases per 100,000 residents—the highest case rate in Dallas County since the beginning of the pandemic. The percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 also remains high, the county says, with 31.5% of symptomatic patients presenting to area hospitals testing positive during that time. 

Dallas County reported 1,187 COVID-19 patients in hospitals Tuesday with 522 emergency room visits for COVID-19 like symptoms in Dallas County during the same time, which represents around 20 percent of all emergency department visits in the county according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council.  

“While we have seen minor fluctuations, we remain close to record highs,” the county notes.

Dallas County also reports 114 active long-term care facility outbreaks.  

UT Southwestern Medical Center’s data shows total hospitalizations in Dallas and Tarrant Counties are projected to stay flat over the next two weeks.

UTSW’s data also shows COVID-19 hospitalizations increased by 21% over the past two weeks. 

UTSW’s model shows total COVID-19 hospitalizations in Dallas County are predicted to reach between 940 and 1,440 concurrent hospitalized cases by Jan. 29, and roughly 2,700 new COVID-19 infections per day are expected by the same time.

A total of 3,453 residents and 1,982 healthcare workers in long-term facilities in Dallas have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Of these, 717 have been hospitalized and 386 have died. About 22% of all deaths reported to date have been associated with long-term care facilities. 

Additionally, 36 outbreaks of COVID-19 in congregate-living facilities like homeless shelters, group homes, and halfway homes have been reported in the past 30 days associated with 93 cases. 

Over the past 30 days, there have been 7,310 COVID-19 cases in school-aged children and staff reported from 674 separate K-12 schools in Dallas County, with 1,842 of these cases reported during the last week of December. One COVID-19 outbreak in a school in December originated with spread among 11 staff members, with transmission to 10 students, and subsequent additional COVID-19 infections documented among at least 13 household members of these students and staff. One death and one hospitalization occurred from this outbreak. 

As of Wednesday, Highland Park ISD reported three cases among staff members assigned to Armstrong Elementary, one case in a student there, two cases among staff members assigned to Bradfield, two among students there, two among students at Hyer, two among students at University Park, one case in a staff member assigned to McCulloch Intermediate, five among students, two among students at Highland Park Middle School, one case in a staff member assigned to Highland Park High School, and eight among students, according to the district’s COVID-19 webpage.

Dallas ISD reported 3,445 cases districtwide, 1,710 among campus staff, 370 among central staff, and 1,365 among students, according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard.

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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