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Texas Sees Most Student COVID Infections Ever in Schools

The cumulative total already this school year is 20,256 students. School has been in session for less than three weeks in most area districts. Read more statistics about the number of staff testing positive here.

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(TNS) - The Houston Chronicle’s Live Updates blog documents the latest events in the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the Houston area, the state of Texas and across the U.S.

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Today’s latest updates

1:25 p.m. The Clear Creek Independent School District continues to monitor the number of COVID-19 cases, as well as absences due to illness and self-reported quarantine. The district moved to Stage 3 due to a community outbreak. The number of active cases district-wide is above 1 percent of the student/staff population, according to a release.

Additional COVID measures by the district include increased pandemic cleaning in schools with positive cases, upgraded air filters, extended air-condition run times and available face coverings for students who want to wear them. Parents can sign their children up to wear face masks on a voluntary basis.

If a cluster of cases is identified, elementary classrooms will move to temporary remote learning. The release doesn’t specify how many constitute a cluster.

Social distancing is still encouraged, including in the cafeteria and classrooms. Meetings and some school events may be held virtually, outdoors or postponed if the district deems it necessary.

12:34 p.m. During the entire 2020-2021 school year — about nine months — 148,197 students tested positive for COVID-19.

The cumulative total already this school year is 20,256 students. School has been in session for less than three weeks in most area districts. Read more statistics about the number of staff testing positive here.

— Hannah Dellinger

12:20 p.m. One year after becoming ill with the coronavirus, nearly half of patients in a large new study were still experiencing at least one lingering health symptom, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Lancet.

The study is believed to be the largest to date in which patients were evaluated a year after being hospitalized for COVID-19, and it adds to evidence that “long COVID” can last for months after the initial infection leaves a person’s system. The study involved 1,276 patients admitted to a Wuhan, China hospital, who were discharged between Jan. 7 and May 29, 2020.

The New York Times

11:10 a.m. With 29% of students back in school, the Department of State Health Services and Texas Education Agency reported 14,033 COVID-19 cases among students, and 3,425 among staff this week.

This is the highest number of student COVID infections ever reported in Texas public schools, according to Chronicle data reporter Stephanie Lamm. Read more on what information Texas public schools are required to submit to DSHS and local health authorities here.

11 a.m. A 30-year-old San Angelo man refused to be tested for COVID-19, telling his wife he didn’t want to be a part of the COVID statistics. Caleb Wallace has been hospitalized at a San Angelo hospital since July 30, and living on a ventilator since early August. His wife, Jessica, will soon give birth to their fourth child.

Before he contracted the virus, Wallace criticized the government’s handling of the pandemic and guidelines advocated by health experts. “Show me the science that masks work,” Caleb wrote on the City of San Angelo’s official Facebook in December 2020. “Show me the evidence that school closures work. Show me the evidence that lock-downs work.”

One of Wallace’s last hopes is being placed on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, an ECMO machine, but they’re scarce as hospitalizations have skyrocketed in the last month. He is on a long waiting list.

For more on Wallace, read the San Angelo Standard-Times.

9:25 a.m. On Thursday, 4,343 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the Greater Houston area, according to figures provided by the Texas Medical Center. Last week, there were 4,892 new cases per day, which is the highest weekly average recorded in the Houston area since the pandemic’s start.

Also on Thursday, 380 new COVID patients were admitted to hospitals in the medical center. Last week, the weekly average of new hospitalizations was 390 patients per day, the highest weekly average since March 2020.

Currently, there are 2,753 COVID-19 positive hospitalized patients. TMC reports the last 11 days have seen the highest numbers ever of COVID-positive patients at its hospitals.

On another note, an average of 2,737 vaccine doses per day have been administered to people over the last week.

8:45 a.m. Fort Bend Independent School District self-reported 923 cases of COVID-19 this week.

That number includes 823 students and 100 staff members at 81 campuses, which include 11 high schools, 15 middle schools and 51 elementary campuses. Highland Elementary is the only school in the district which currently has no self-reported cases.

The district’s board of trustees approved a mask mandate, which took effect Thursday. Children who participate in band, choir, athletics and those who require special needs are exempt from wearing masks if they choose, according to the guidelines.

Learn more about what Texas schools must do when they have positive cases on campus here.

— Roy Kent

8:02 a.m. The city’s vaccine incentive program paid off on its first day, showing a fivefold increase in the number of people who got their first shot.

Some 658 people got their first dose of the vaccine at city sites Thursday, up from 121 on Wednesday. The city also gave 82 second shots, according to the Health Department.

The city is offering $100 gift cards for first shots and $50 for the second at eight of its vaccination sites.

For more information about the gift cards and where to get them, go to HoustonEmergency.org or call 832-393-4220.The county saw similar gains after beginning an incentive program last week.

— Dylan McGuinness

7:03 a.m. More than half of India’s eligible population has received at least one COVID vaccine, reports The New York Times.

Earlier in the year, the Chronicle’s Anna Bauman spoke to members of Houston’s Indian community, who were fearful as the country struggled to out out enough doses to its 1.4 billion people.

Texas has the second largest population of Indian Americans behind California, according to Asian American Pacific Islander Data.

6:56 a.m. The Supreme Court is allowing evictions to resume across the country, blocking the Biden administration from enforcing a temporary ban that was put in place because of the pandemic.

The court’s action late Thursday ended protections for roughly 3.5 million people facing eviction in the next two months, according to Census Bureau data from early August.

Yesterday’s updates

5:35 p.m. Texas Children’s Hospital is pleading with parents to stop bringing their asymptomatic children to its emergency rooms for COVID tests, reports the Chronicle’s Julie Garcia.

Dr. Brent Kaziny, medical director of Emergency Management at Texas Children’s Hospital, said the emergency rooms simply don’t have enough capacity to test children who are asymptomatic or having mild symptoms.

If the child is experiencing mild symptoms, Kaziny recommends finding a pharmacy or public testing site and making an appointment.

5:26 p.m. As Tropical Storm Ida bears down on the gulf coast with a projected landfall in Louisiana on Sunday, the University of Texas Medical Branch will closely monitor the storm but keep its schools, laboratories, hospitals, clinics and institutional support offices open, according to a university release.

The school will communicate any closures or other changes, the university said.

4:55 p.m. Houston Health Department on Thursday afternoon confirmed the city’s first known case of a child dying of COVID-19 without underlying health conditions, according to a department release.

A boy aged between 10 and 19, who was unvaccinated, died in late July in a Houston hospital, the release said. It’s unknown whether the boy was infected with a variant of the coronavirus.

The death adds to Houston’s six existing pediatric deaths, which all involved underlying health conditions, said the department.

As the pandemic surges and children and teens return to school, hospitals have seen larger numbers of younger patients. As of Aug. 19, about 18 percent of COVID cases during August were children, reports the Chronicle’s Lisa Gray.

4:20 p.m. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Thursday that residents who receive a vaccine at any location — such as pharmacies and hospitals — are eligible for a $100 gift card.

Previously, the cards were available only at health department sites. Hidalgo said residents who get a shot at a private site can visit readyharris.org or call 832-927-8787 and make a claim for the $100 incentive.

The promotion runs through Aug. 31.

12:23 p.m. Dr. Joseph Varon, chief of critical care at Houston hospital chain United Memorial Medical Center, told the Houston Chronicle that he has used ivermectin, an anti-parasitic medication, since the start of the pandemic as part of a drug combo given to all COVID patients, reports the Chronicle’s Julian Gill.

“We did it intermittently in April, May and June of last year,” Varon said. “But as of July, every patient that comes in goes on ivermectin.”

Ivermectin, sold in farm supply stores as a horse de-wormer, is only recommended by the FDA for human use to treat parasitic worms, head lice and skin conditions such as rosacea.

The coronavirus is not a multicellular parasite, but rather a virus. To date, there is no well-designed scientific study that shows ivermectin effectively prevents or treats COVID-19 at any stage of the illness, said Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, an assistant professor of medicine in infectious diseases a Baylor College of Medicine.

12:11 p.m. The Texas Supreme Court has temporarily blocked Bexar County’s mask mandate, the latest update in a flurry of court battles between the state’s Republican leadership that has banned such mandates and local municipalities defying the state, reports the Chronicle’s Cayla Harris.

An appellate court earlier this month allowed the county, which includes San Antonio, to continue enforcing its mask requirement. The new ruling come after Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the state supreme court to step in last week.

9:30 a.m. A compound created by a team of researchers led by Texas A&M biological chemist Wenshe Liu has successfully inhibited the coronavirus, including the delta variant, by stopping viral replication in lab conditions, according to a university release on Wednesday.

The compound, called MPI8, has shown enough promise that California pharmaceutical company Sorrento Therapeutics on Tuesday finalized a contract with the university for exclusive intellectual property rights to the drug ingredient, the release stated.

Liu said Sorrento Therapeutics hoped to complete pre-clinical trials of an MPI8 drug by the end of the year so it could gain FDA approval for human clinical trials in early 2022.

Currently, the only FDA-approved treatment for COVID-19 is remdesivir, with others in emergency authorization. Liu co-wrote a January 2020 paper that was the first to identify remdesivir as a potential treatment, the university said.

6:58 a.m. A Newcastle coroner says BBC presenter Lisa Shaw died due to rare “complications of an AstraZeneca COVID vaccination,” BBC News reports.

Shaw, 44, died in May after complaining of severe headaches a week after getting her first dose of the vaccine, according to BBC News.

Coroner Karen Dilks told BBC News that Shaw’s death was due to a “very rare” vaccine-induced condition that leads to swelling and bleeding of the brain.

There have been 58 reported deaths after nearly 35 million UK doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to the UK medical regulator.

“This is another difficult day in what has been a devastating time for us,” Shaw’s family told BBC News in a statement. “The death of our beloved Lisa has left a terrible void in our family and in our lives.”

6:50 a.m. In our latest COVID Help Desk, Julian Gill answers a number of questions that have come up recently, including:

— What does the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine mean?

— What is Ivermectin, and why are officials saying not to use it to treat COVID-19?

— Is the vaccine booster shot the same as the first doses?

You can read Gill’s in-depth answers to these COVID questions and more here.

6:40 a.m. A Texas horse rescue is facing eviction after losing sponsors and donations due to COVID, the Chronicle’s Rebecca Hennes reports.

Lisa Rogers of Amazing Grace Acres Equine Rescue has until the end of next month to move herself and 14 horses, three dogs, three cats and two donkeys onto a new property before they’re evicted.

She plans to fight the eviction in court and has launched a GoFundMe to help pay for a new property and moving expenses, Hennes reports.

“COVID has done a lot, and I wasn’t able to pay everything on time,” Rogers said. “But when I had the money, I sent (it.)”


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