COVID-19 cases in Dallas County are slowly trending down, but not enough to relax precautions and reduce the threat from the highest level, the county health director says.
Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang told county commissioners Tuesday that COVID-19 emergency room visits and hospitalizations peaked in September and appeared to be declining, but levels remain still high.
“Every time when we've seen these improvements then relax, people relax too much. Then we wind up getting back with resurgence,” Huang said.
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*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
Dallas County still requires masks in indoor public places, but there is no enforcement of the mandate that remains the subject of a legal dispute with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
Huang said about 72% of eligible Dallas County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but it still leaves nearly 50% of people not fully protected.
“That’s a lot of people, still a lot of vulnerable population,” he said.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins (D) said he visited Parkland Hospital Friday night and heard about the ongoing challenge there.
Jenkins said some intensive care patients no longer tested positive for COVID-19 but were still in such poor health that they could not leave the hospital.
Behind the red doors of the Parkland COVID-19 ward where extremely ill patients are quarantined, Jenkins said there were 179 at the high point on Sept. 6 -- and still 104 on Tuesday.
For everyone else, Jenkins said precautions like indoor masking in public places and social distancing were still needed since even fully vaccinated people can carry and transmit the disease.
“It’s just a reminder to people to continue to have those courageous conversations with your family member, your employees, your coworkers,” Jenkins said. “We want to run this thing down as much as we can before winter brings us inside and celebrations bring us around one another.”
In the effort to reach people where they are with vaccines, Huang said Dallas County has provided more than 650 shots at the State Fair of Texas, most of them booster shots as opposed to one of the first doses.
County Commissioner Elba Garcia said she was sad about what she saw visiting the vaccine booth near Big Tex at the fair.
“The day that I was there, sadly there were a lot of people making fun of people taking the vaccine. It’s sad to see,” she said.
To boost vaccine acceptance, Commissioner John Wiley Price received his first shot in March with TV cameras present.
Tuesday, Price said he received his booster shot last week, But voiced concern about health department efforts to promote vaccination in high-risk areas.
“I need to know what’s going on north versus south. You don’t fish the same way. You’ve got a different deployment in terms of how you’re reaching the population,” Price said.
The Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation (PCCI) tracks neighborhoods most at risk on several criteria to identify where resources are needed.
Huang said the health department is receiving that data daily and is using it to schedule door-to-door block walkers and pop-up vaccination sites in neighborhoods.
“That’s what we’re working with PCCI on, cutting it by ZIP code, by census blocks,” Huang said.
He said the partner organizations like pharmacies and grocery stores that are providing vaccination are also receiving the same data to focus their efforts.