Universities In Texas Are Trying to Keep Students From Partying, FEMA Halts Its $300-Per-Week Unemployment Aid, Parkland Closes A COVID-19 Unit & More.

Case numbers have reached a bit of a lull on a macro scale in Texas lately — but that’s not to say a spread isn’t still happening.

On the contrary, public schools and universities are struggling to contain the spread of coronavirus among their student bodies. Administrators are addressing this through various means, be it making students sign a “personal responsibility” pledge or just shutting down an entire school outright.

It has even compelled a teachers’ union to start an online database of COVID-19 cases by school district.

For more on this, here are some of the latest local pandemic developments:

  • Dallas County has reported 152 additional cases and seven deaths on Thursday. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in Dallas County to 74,628, and the death toll to 964. All of these newly reported cases are from the month of September.

  • 4,012 out of 5,811 hospital beds in Dallas are occupied, which brings the total occupancy to approximately 69%. 668 out of 958 ICU beds are also filled, while 331 out of 994 ventilators are in use.

  • FEMA has notified state officials on Wednesday that Texans receiving unemployment assistance will no longer receive the extra $300 in payments. This move, which affects 1.8 million Texans, effectively halts a move the Trump Administration made in August, where the federal government would provide unemployed or underemployed people $300 per week and give the states an option to throw in an additional $100. (Texas opted against the latter option.)
  • A steady reduction of hospitalizations has prompted Parkland Hospital to close a COVID-19 care unit. To clarify, the hospital is still treating COVID-19 patients, but they had previously converted a surgery recovery perimeter to a temporary COVID-19 care unit. The unit has been thinning out lately, so the hospital decided to reinstate its original purpose.
  • Texas officials are working to bring $5 COVID-19 tests that can deliver results in 15 minutes, Gov. Greg Abbott’s spokesman John Wittman confirmed. These rapid antigen tests, marketed under the name BinaxNOW, are manufactured by the medical device company Abbott (no relation to the governor). Due to the expeditious nature of this product, some are raising concerns over their accuracy as compared to that of more traditional coronavirus tests. Baylor College of Medicine professor Dr. Joseph Petrosino told Dallas Morning-News: “In order for them to be a practical option, they have to be inexpensive, involve an easy sampling method, be readable in under an hour ideally and be at least 70 to 80 percent accurate.”
  • Universities all across Texas are struggling to contain the spread of coronavirus as students continue to throw off-campus parties and gatherings, Texas Tribune reports. Most universities in the state have expressly forbidden such actions, but SMU officials “have not confirmed any sanctions so far.” The University Park academic institution faced even more scrutiny on this front amid reports last week that its Sigma Chi fraternity chapter was asked to quarantine. Meanwhile, TCU made students sign a “personal responsibility” pledge, which a spokesperson described as “our expectation that all of our community members will abide by our guidelines for a healthy campus.”
  • A coronavirus outbreak got so bad at a Collin County middle school that officials shut it down. Administrators at Edge Middle School in Nevada (pronounced “nuh-vay-duh”) called parents and guardians on Tuesday and instructed them to pick up their children from school, per NBC 5. Previously, the school district (Community ISD) quarantined a large group of students in an attempt to de-escalate the spread of COVID-19, but to a clear lack of avail.
  • The American Federation of Teachers’ Texas chapter has launched a new website that can help teachers more effectively track coronavirus cases by school district. Here’s a link for more information on that.

That concludes our biweekly COVID-19 news roundup. Be sure to wear a mask, practice social distancing and stay home as often as possible.

Oh, and don’t go to frat parties. Not only will not doing so help #StopTheSpread, but you won’t have to risk a life of infamy stemming from someone’s Snapchat story.

It’s a win-win!

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