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Dallas County moves COVID-19 threat level back up to orange, or ‘extreme caution’

The move is in response to the rising case and hospitalization numbers that have followed a slowdown in vaccinations and surge in the highly contagious delta variant.
delta varian
A microscopic view of the delta variant of the coronavirus.(iSTOCK / Getty Images)

By Praveena Somasundaram

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced late Friday that effective immediately the county has increased its coronavirus threat level to orange for unvaccinated people in response to a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

The change, which Jenkins announced on Twitter shortly before 10 p.m. Friday, means there’s a moderate risk of COVID-19 transmission. Drive-through, curbside, delivery and takeout dining options are recommended. Indoor dining at restaurants is discouraged but allowed, with county guidelines calling for social distancing and masks

The county’s guidelines further recommend avoiding nonessential travel, limiting outdoor gatherings to under 10 people and attending entertainment events only if COVID-19 safety measures are in place.

Jenkins said the county’s public health committee decided unanimously to return the threat level to orange in a meeting Friday night.

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The change comes as the pace of vaccinations has slowed and the highly contagious delta variant of the disease has gained prominence among new cases.

Dr. Philip Huang, the county’s public health director, told The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday that increasing the threat level remained a possibility as the committee was reviewing county health data.

The last time Dallas County changed its threat level was in mid-June, when it was moved down to yellow — the lowest level the county had been in since the threat level system began last year.

On Monday, Dallas County reported 406 new COVID-19 cases — the highest single-day total in the county since February.

The county reported 434 new coronavirus cases and three deaths on Friday. The numbers bring the county’s total to 312,154 cases, including 267,436 confirmed and 44,718 probable. The death toll is 4,179.

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Also on Friday, the 19-county North Texas region nearly breached 1,000 hospitalizations, according to state data. The region hasn’t seen a hospitalization number that high since March 9.

The average number of new daily cases in the county for the last two weeks is 304 — the highest number since March 19. For the previous 14-day period, the average was 138.

UT Southwestern Medical Center on Wednesday released a new model indicating that if vaccinations rates remain slow and the public doesn’t step up use of masks and social distancing, North Texas by October will return to case and hospitalization levels not seen since January and last summer.

According to the state, 1,316,927 people in Dallas County have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 1,124,010 people — 51.5% of the county’s eligible population 12 and older — are fully vaccinated, as of Friday.

Dallas County’s switch back to orange comes one day after Harris County officials did the same. Austin officials moved their threat level up a level on Friday, as well.

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