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'Single best solution': As COVID hospitalizations, cases surge in Tarrant County health director urges vaccines

He urged people to wear a mask when out in public and avoid unnecessary large crowds.

TARRANT COUNTY, Texas — The surge in hospitalizations and cases in Tarrant County needs to be diminished to keep students and teachers safe for the upcoming year, the county health director said Thursday.

Director of Tarrant County Public Health Vinny Taneja and Devan Allen, commissioner for Tarrant County precinct 2, held a Facebook Live Thursday morning to share where the county stands on COVID cases, hospitalizations and vaccines.

As of Monday, the seven-day average for positivity rate is 17.69%. That is part of the rate that has been climbing since the end of June. The last time the positivity rate was around 17% was in late February.

The county is at a high level of spread within the community. The hospitalization rate is 7%, Taneja said.

"We need to taper down that surge so students can return to the classroom safely and so teachers are safe," Taneja said.

He urged people to wear a mask when out in public, even if vaccinated, and to avoid unnecessary large crowds.

"More contagious variants don’t automatically mean more severe reactions," Taneja said. "The variants will cause problems in the unvaccinated -- they are the ones that are at the most risk."

Taneja said that 40% of the country's recent COVID cases are from Texas, Florida, and Missouri.

"Let’s get vaccinated. That is the single best solution to the COVID pandemic," Taneja said.

Vaccination rates

Tarrant County data shows that 44% of eligible residents have one dose and 39% of residents are fully vaccinated.

The county still lags behind the other three major counties of Dallas, Denton and Collin, according to the state dashboard

"We are not where we want to be," Allen said.

The county is keeping track of which ZIP codes have been vaccinated.

The ZIP code 76010 has a 32% vaccination rate. 

Children ages 12-15 have received about 3% of the 2 million doses in Tarrant County.

Parents and back-to-school

Taneja urged parents to educate their children on the health and safety protocols, like hand hygiene and wearing face masks, while children under 12 remain ineligible for vaccines.

"What we’re hoping for is that (a vaccine) will come soon (for kids under age 12)," Taneja said. "Until then, be sure your child is very well educated and that they will leave their mask on and won’t get peer pressured into taking it off."

Legislative decisions, along with orders from Abbott, have left districts and parents with few options

"If a parent wants their child to wear a mask, they're free to do so," Abbott told WFAA on Tuesday. "But, we're past the point where government will be dictating mask mandates."

The current CDC guidance recommends schools increase ventilation by opening doors and windows and using air filtration systems. It also says students should keep at least a 3-foot distance and recommends screening, testing and contact tracing, along with isolation. 

In addition, the CDC says districts should have disinfecting procedures and all students who have not been vaccinated should wear a mask.

Vaccine sites

The county's main COVID site for vaccines is at Ridgmar Mall in Fort Worth from Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

There is a vaccine clinic in Arlington at 536 W. Randol Mill Road from Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – Noon and 1 - 5 p.m.

It has extended hours, so parents can have time to get their children vaccinated before back to school.  

Vaccine sites in the county can be found here.