Dallas, TX

200 Dallas Police, Fire-Rescue Workers Quarantined in Latest COVID-19 Surge

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200 Dallas police and fire workers are quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19 as cases of the omicron variant surge, according to both departments Monday.

More than three-quarters of the infected first responders, 155, are Dallas Fire-Rescue workers. It’s the highest number of fire staff out at one time, said Jason Evans, a Fire-Rescue spokesman.

The department, for example, had 29 cases in July, 76 cases in August and 59 in September. The city began ordering mandatory testing of fire staff in August after cases increased in the summer.

Thirty-six police officers and eight civilian workers have tested positive for the virus so far this week, said police senior corporal Brian Martinez. He said 1,051 workers, including 881 officers, have caught the virus since March 2020.

Omicron variant surge to peak in late January in North Texas, UT Southwestern says

Researchers who forecast the impact of the pandemic in North Texas now estimate the peak of the omicron variant surge will happen around the end of January.

Right now, about one in three COVID tests in the state are coming back positive. That's up from about one in four last week.The number of virus patients in North Texas hospitals is at more than 2,200, which is the highest since the October delta surge. The federal government will soon be providing additional testing sites in Dallas and Tarrant counties.

Texas' COVID positivity rate is the highest it’s been all pandemic.

While omicron is less deadly, health officials say the vaccine is what’s keeping many out of the hospital and preventing more deaths. It’s a new year, but the storyline is similar. The coronavirus is not going away, and we are in the midst of an omicron variant surge.

Texas has a 33.9% positivity rate, which is a pandemic high. North Texas hospitals have the most COVID-19 patients since October.

UT Southwestern researchers who forecast COVID's impact are pushing the omicron peak in our area from mid-January to the end of the month.

Dr. Prathit Kulkarni is an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine.

"I think January is going to be tough for a variety of reasons," he said. "First, just the sheer number of people who are getting ill."

Dr. Kulkarni says while omicron is spreading like wildfire, it’s important to not only focus on cases.

"Case counts are a trickier metric to follow. Now, obviously the numbers are astronomically high across the United States," he said. "It's partially related to the volume of tests being done."

Last week, Gov, Greg Abbott called on FEMA to open federal testing sites in Texas. The request from the governor also called for more staffing and treatment resources.

Monday, FEMA approved six testing sites. Two of those will be in Dallas and Tarrant counties.

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