The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has lowered Dallas County’s COVID-19 alert level to green after weeks of declining case numbers and hospitalizations.
Under the green level, which designated low community spread, the CDC recommends only that people stay up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines and follow isolation protocols if they have a suspected or confirmed case of the virus. Unlike under the yellow and red levels, there are no public masking recommendations for counties labeled green.
Collin and Denton counties are both also in the green designation, while Tarrant County is considered yellow, meaning that people who are at high risk of severe infection should wear a mask when indoors in public.
As of the week leading up to Sept. 9, Dallas County had an average daily case count of 483, down from an average daily case count of 609 the week prior.
Dallas County’s internal COVID-19 level remains at orange, or “extreme caution.” The county, which uses a four-color system – green, yellow, orange and red – bases its own designation on a number of indicators, but there is no one metric that determines when the level will change.
The CDC measures community spread level using a combination of three metrics: total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, total new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people and percentage of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.
The federal public health agency shifted Dallas County’s risk level to red two months ago as the highly-contagious BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants caused a summertime case surge. Cases and hospitalizations in older patients have since subsided, according to analysis from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researchers.
But while most age groups are seeing fewer cases, pediatric infections and hospitalizations have stayed elevated following the start of the school year.
Pediatric COVID-19 cases accounted for about a third of all infections in Dallas County in early September, marking a pandemic high for the age group, according to data from the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation.
Part of the spike in infections among school-aged children is likely attributable to the group’s relatively low vaccination rates, said PCCI president and CEO Steve Miff. Dallas County had a similar increase in pediatric cases around the same time last year, although those cases didn’t account for as large of a share of the area’s total infections.
Vaccination rates have been much lower for children compared to adults, especially for children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years. Just over 2% of Dallas County’s children under 5 have been immunized in the months since the vaccine was approved for the area’s youngest residents.
Booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are now available to anyone 5 and older, with a new, updated booster available for people at least 12 years old. The new “bivalent” boosters protect against both the original COVID-19 strain and the new omicron subvariants.
The federal government allotted Texas 900,000 booster doses to be divided among doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies.
In an interview last week, Parkland Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Chang said it’s too soon to tell whether North Texas will see another winter spike in coronavirus cases like it did in the last two years. It does seem likely, he said, that the flu will be stronger this year as public health measures like masking and social distancing ease.
Flu shots are now available, and it’s safe to get a flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.