Efforts to provide COVID-19 tests and vaccinations are ramping up in Dallas County.
Dallas County reported the highest number of cases on Thursday at more than 6,000 as more people get tested and the contagious omicron variant continues to spread.
Friday and Saturday, the West Dallas Multipurpose Center on Fish Trap Road is serving as a free dual-pop-up clinic offering vaccines for children and adults and those sometimes hard-to-find tests.
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The clinic opened an hour earlier than expected because of the long lines, said Narvaez.
Members of the National Guard tested 80 people and vaccinated 50 people within the first hour, he added.
Narvaez says his effort to bring vaccination and testing clinics to his district has resulted in over 10,000 tests and vaccines being distributed.
“I’ve already had a family member die because of the COVID-19 virus, and I was elected to take care of these folks,” Narvaez said. “It means a lot to me if we can save one person. If we can stop you from ending up in the hospital and dying and not being here for that next important event in your family’s life. That’s why this is so important.”
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says the county is opening additional testing sites in the coming week, including Northlake College in Dallas and Trinity View Park in Irving on Monday; Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center on Tuesday; and Fair Park on Wednesday.
“The headline today is this is fast-spreading, and we need to know our status before we go to school or work,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins says the number of COVID-19 cases is estimated to be larger, in part, because at-home test results are not tracked by the county.
Parkland Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Chang says models show the Omicron variant is expected to peak in two to three weeks.
Asked how he gets through to those who consider any mention of COVID-19 as ‘white noise’ at this point in the pandemic, Jenkins said: “The virus doesn’t care that we’re tired… The virus is just relentlessly looking for a host. And this new variant with so many spikes on it is able to infect people who’ve already been vaccinated.”
Change previously stated that it’s likely the number of breakthrough cases is up because the omicron variant has many mutations, which were not included in the current COVID-19 vaccinations available.
To reiterate what health experts have continually said, COVID-19 vaccines have never been able to offer 100% protection against contracting the virus, but they do offer very strong protection against severe illness or death.
Approximately 90% of the nearly 200 people hospitalized at Parkland this week are unvaccinated.
The remaining patients are mostly older, or those with compromised immune systems said Chang.
There are, however, fewer people requiring care in the ICU in this spike, further confirming that while very contagious the Omicron variant appears to cause less severe illness, especially among those who are fully vaccinated, said Chang.
“The deaths we’re seeing now are not Omicron, they’re Delta deaths,” said Jenkins on Friday. “The positivity rate is as high as we’ve seen it. It’s in the 30s. In some hospitals, it’s 39% of the tests.”
Chateau Matthews was among those in line at the West Dallas Multipurpose Center on Friday waiting for a COVID-19 test and her first vaccine.
She says she had been in quarantine for nearly two years because she was pregnant.
Now that she has had her baby and is returning to work, she wants peace of mind after co-workers have tested positive for the virus.
“I’m outside more,” Matthews said. “Before, I was going to the grocery store and picking up groceries more so than going inside. Now, I’m back in the general public, so I’d rather be more safe than sorry.”
The vaccination clinic at the West Dallas Multipurpose Center runs until 7 p.m. on Friday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 8.