Students, teachers and parents should remain vigilant against COVID-19, even as the holidays are done and students have returned to classrooms, health experts across North Texas warn.
UT Southwestern says that the impact of the New Year’s holiday appears to be less than was expected, but it's still possible that there is undetected spread in younger populations, which could shift back to older groups in the coming weeks.
A report from UTSW shows that the 15-year-old age group has had the most significant increase of cases over time from the end of October to January.
And according to numbers posted by North Texas school districts, many of them reported more COVID-19 cases in early January than they did in early December.
Dallas County did see some general increases in cases with the holidays and more indoor gatherings, said Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Phil Huang on Thursday.
Virtual learning is still the preferred method of learning as advised by the county and its team of medical experts, Huang said. Hospitalizations are at record-high levels and it’s still a very vulnerable and critical time.
On Jan. 19, Dallas County Health and Human Services said there had been 7,310 COVID-19 cases in school-aged children and staff reported from 674 k-12 schools in Dallas County, with 1,842 of those cases reported during the last week of December,
One month prior there were 6,050 cases in school-aged children and staff, according to county officials. Of those cases, 603 were associated with extracurricular activities, including athletics.
Huang said districts have been doing a good job following health protocols in the classroom setting.
"Some of the highest transmission in the schools wasn’t necessarily occurring in the classrooms, I think they were doing a pretty good job in those settings, but a lot of it was with youth sports or even social events that occurred around some of those activities," Huang said.
In the fall, the department associated a number of cases with youth sports activities.
One COVID-19 outbreak in a school in December was spread among 11 staff members with transmission to 10 students. That led to more COVID-19 infections with 13 household members of those students and school staff getting infected, which led to one death and one hospitalization, DCHHS said.
The increase in cases among young people come during a time of significant community spread and as hospitalizations increase across North Texas.
In Tarrant County, hospitalizations have gone up by 11% over the past two weeks, a recent UT Southwestern report said. In Dallas County, they have increased by 21% over the past two weeks.
On Jan. 20, Cook Children's said the current seven-day positivity rate is 12.7%.
The Texas Education Agency reported that across the state, there were 7,863 new positive student cases and 4,031 new positive staff cases for the week ending on Jan. 10.
The last time numbers were in that range was the week ending on Dec. 6, when there were 8,191 student cases and on the week ending on Dec. 13 with 7,865 student cases.
Staff cases were 4,245 for the week of Dec. 6. The state estimates that there are 2,873,692 students on campus and 800,078 staff members on campus in the state.
Local district cases
Here’s how the cases compare at some of the largest districts:
Arlington ISD active cases
Dallas ISD case totals for the month as of
Cases so far this month: 1,114
Cases so far this month: 723
Cases so far this month: 317
Fort Worth ISD
Frisco ISD active cases
Students on campus: 209
Garland ISD active cases
Lewisville ISD active cases
Plano ISD active cases
Preventing further spread
Now is a critical time to help slow down the spread by avoiding crowds, social-distancing and wearing a mask, Huang said.
"Don't let up at all," he said. "All of those things are just as important as ever."
He said it will take time to get everyone vaccinated as the county gets more vaccine allocations from the state.
Currently, the state is allowing groups 1A and 1B to get vaccinated.
Mark Wiggins with the Association of Texas Professional Educators says that teachers are frontline workers who need to have priority access to the vaccine.
“The quicker we get our schools back to normal, the quicker we can get our economy back to normal,” Wiggins said.