Dallas and Tarrant county health directors Tuesday offered cautiously encouraging news to county commissioners about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hospitalization and emergency room visits in both counties appear to have leveled off and may even be declining slightly but hospitals are still extremely busy with COVID-19 patients.
“The hospitalizations are continuing to trend flat over the last two or three weeks, which is good news,” said Tarrant County Health Director Vinny Taneja. “It's still spreading faster than what we want but we are seeing some signs of stabilization and hopefully a decline coming.”
Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang had a similar report on improvement mixed with caution. The Dallas County COVID-19 threat assessment is still rated at the highest level, Red.
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“It's still all dependent on how we respond. We still need to continue with the masking, avoiding crowds, trying to stay physically distant, as well as getting people who have still not received the vaccine to get vaccinated,” Huang said.
Both counties are preparing for expanded vaccination with booster shots and children as young as 5 years old. The Pfizer vaccine, currently approved for teens 12 and up, is under review for younger children.
The rollout for children could be as it was this summer with teens, with support from schools.
“We’ve been talking with the state health department, but the good thing is we are in a different situation than when the vaccines first rolled out. There is abundant vaccine available. There are many, many more partners that are administering it,” Huang said.
Parents might take kids to the neighborhood grocery store or to their family doctor for vaccination.
Huang said booster shots are already being offered for people with immune deficiencies and could be soon be offered for people 65 and older, pending CDC and FDA review.
Despite the expanding availability, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price Tuesday raised questions about people blocked from access to shots.
“I got a group that's doing the young people. But they bring their parents, they won't do their parents,” Price said.
Dr. Huang said he did not have an explanation.
“We can check into that. We're trying to get, again, shots in arms for everyone,” Huang said.
Tarrant County opened a new vaccination site Tuesday in Fort Worth at the Wilkerson-Greines Activities Center in the hard-hit 76119 zip code.