At least three elected officials who oversee the Montgomery County Hospital District are contradicting their own experts by spreading misinformation about COVID-19 on Facebook and questioning the effectiveness of face masks and vaccines, according to a review of their social media posts by the Houston Chronicle.  As county health officials stress the importance of masks, social distancing and the new COVID-19 vaccines, their messages are competing on social media with rampant falsehoods about the pandemic.    (22) view article arw

Across Texas, hospital intensive care units are being battered as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in a post-holiday surge. Dozens of facilities have reported that their ICUs have been at or above 100% capacity for weeks, leaving staff overworked and stretched thin.  Hidalgo County Health Authority Ivan Melendez says coming into COVID-19 units nowadays feels like going through a non-linear version of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  “You cry,” he told the Tribune. “There’s a lady that I’m taking care of that I’ve known since I was a child… we grew up together, and I know she’s going to die… It’s the same thing: ‘We got together for Christmas.’ Now we’re seeing the ramification of it.”  Across Texas, hospital intensive care units are being battered as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in a post-holiday surge. Dozens of facilities have reported that their ICUs have been at or above 100% capacity for weeks, leaving staff overworked and stretched thin.    (22) view article arw

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After recommending a switch to virtual learning for close to two weeks to parents, the Austin Independent School District plans to welcome students back on campuses on Monday, Jan. 25.  In a letter to parents from Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde, the district said the decision was made “because of the improvements we are seeing on our campuses and in our community.” The district also consulted with Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott on the matter.  The district reports there has been a 35% decrease in daily positive cases in schools since the first week back from winter break. A 28% decrease in the cumulative number of weekly cases since the first week back from winter break was also a factor on which Austin ISD based its decision. view article arw

The lieutenant governor's request comes as distribution of the vaccine in Texas has been beset with miscommunication and technical issues that have created confusion for patients and providers, even as Texas outpaces other states in administering the vaccine.  His request comes as distribution of the vaccine in Texas has been beset with miscommunication and technical issues that have created confusion for patients and providers, even as Texas outpaces other states in administering the vaccine.    (22) view article arw

ALLEN (WBAP/KLIF)- The Allen Independent School District has partnered with the City of Allen and the Allen Fire Department (AFD) to assist with the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.   Allen ISD has designated the parking lot at Eagle Stadium as an official distribution location for the Allen Fire Department to administer vaccinations.  The vaccine is currently available to individuals who meet the criteria under Phase 1A or 1B definitions of the vaccination rollout as determined by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). view article arw

Round Rock ISD announced Jan. 20 it has temporarily closed on-campus instruction at Cedar Ridge High School for five instructional days due to the current number of COVID-19 cases and close contacts.  The closure follows recommendations provided by the Williamson County and Cities Health District. view article arw

DUNCANVILLE, Texas — It is just a few weeks into the second half of what’s being described as a challenging school year. "It has been very interesting trying to navigate some of the challenges,” said Dr. Marc Smith, superintendent of Duncanville Independent School District. School administrators are exploring ways to be creative in reconnecting with some students during this pandemic.  Educators in Duncanville ISD say the home visits this weekend are all about reconnecting, engaging, and finding out what it is school staff can do to help students and parents. view article arw

Eanes ISD has administered approximately 200 of its 1,960 BinaxNOW Rapid Antigen tests to district staff thus far.  Officials with Eanes ISD have confirmed to KVUE the district is expanding its BinaxNOW Rapid Antigen testing to students, instead of only administering it to staff.  District officials said the tests they have will expire at the end of March. With that deadline looming, the district will broaden its testing base to students and staff in the next week or two, district officials told KVUE.  view article arw

SAN ANTONIO - More than 630 students in the Harlandale school district switched from on-campus learning to virtual today. That's after Superintendent Gerardo Soto asked parents on Tuesday to keep their kids at home as Covid-19 numbers continue to rise. "If our parents feel the child can strive and thrive in remote learning, then keep them at home for a few weeks," he says. Full-time and substitute teacher shortages along with the high positivity rate in the district prompted the request. view article arw

Erick Ortiz slumped in a chair when he came back from Milby High School on Nov. 3. He told his wife that he had been on his feet for five hours, monitoring about 20 students taking the PSAT in his classroom. Her heart sank at the thought of him closed in a room with so many students. “I remember telling him, ‘Don’t tell me you walked around. Why didn’t you just stand there?’” Maria Ortiz said. “He said, ‘We have to stand and monitor them.’” About four days later, Erick Ortiz began feeling sick. He tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 8, and after a nearly month-long battle in which he was intubated, Ortiz died on Dec. 6. The science teacher was 52. view article arw

After the staff at Austin’s Tarrytown Pharmacy hustled to vaccinate 500 vulnerable Texans and front-line workers over the holidays, pharmacist Rannon Ching logged into an online state system used to track the vaccines. Then he panicked. According to the system, his Tarrytown pharmacy hadn’t vaccinated anyone. The numbers on his screen indicated all 500 doses were still sitting on his shelf. “I freaked out thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re not going to give me any [more] doses because they think I’m not giving anything,’” Ching said. view article arw

SAN ANTONIO – School officials at the Judson Independent School District are doing everything they can to keep their students and staff safe as they work to combat the coronavirus.  On Thursday, the school district began testing students and staff for the virus.  The school district is in partnership with Community Labs, who are conducting the weekly testing at 30 Judson ISD campuses.  Results for the tests can be expected in 24 hours for students and staff, according to district officials. Judson ISD said they’re focusing on asymptomatic transmission between students and staff to make sure there’s not a surge in cases. view article arw

Anthony, Texas (KVIA) -- As school campuses reopen to more students in the Borderland, some staff members have been thrust into roles that put themselves at greater risk. It's especially true for school nurses. At the Anthony Independent School District, students have been back in classrooms for months. District leaders credit school nurse Marlene White for being one of the reasons they are able to stay open. view article arw

Dallas ISD families will receive a call to participate, but if you want to make sure you are on the call list, register here.  Do you have questions about Dallas ISD's plans to mitigate learning loss? Join Dallas ISD leaders at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, in a TeleTown Hall meeting to learn more about the district's efforts to mitigate learning loss by adding learning time for students who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dallas ISD families will receive a call to participate, but if you want to make sure you are on the call list, register here. view article arw

SAN ANTONIO – Some employees with the Boerne Independent School District will receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to district officials.Boerne ISD, in partnership with the San Antonio University Health System, will vaccinate 70 employees that were selected, based on if they qualify under the phase 1B criteria.  District officials said they sent personal invitations to the qualifying staff members to participate. view article arw

Flying through the turbulence

January 2208:25 AM
 

A couple of years ago, I heard someone compare the school year to a plane ride.  Stage 1 - The Beginning  - He said that the beginning of the flight is filled with a lot of anticipation and excitement combined with a lot of nerves and anxiety. There is that powerful rush of energy to get the plane heading down the runway and off the ground as it climbs and ascends into the sky! Some takeoffs are fairly smooth, while sometimes if the wind is blowing or there are storms, it may be pretty rough, and you feel like you’re going sideways more than you are straight ahead. view article arw

MIDLAND, Texas — Midland ISD leaders are considering extending COVID-19 paid leave for teachers and staff who test positive for the virus.  Under the CARES Act, district employees were given up to two weeks of paid sick leave following a positive COVID-19 test  However, that act expired on December 30.  If leaders approve the extension of the policy, the district would allow eight days of paid sick leave for any employee who tests positive. view article arw

If the extension is approved, staff who test positive would receive eight days of paid sick leave.  MIDLAND, Texas — Midland ISD leaders are considering extending COVID-19 paid leave for teachers and staff who test positive for the virus.  Under the CARES Act, district employees were given up to two weeks of paid sick leave following a positive COVID-19 test.  However, that act expired on December 30. view article arw

Friendswood ISD board members and district leaders approved changes to COVID-19 protocols, including the shortening of the quarantine period from two weeks to 10 days, during a regular meeting Jan. 12. Prior to the holiday break, district leaders had shared plans with board members to bring forth the recommendation about shortening quarantine. Other districts including Clear Creek ISD have also adopted the 10-day quarantine based on current guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A reduction in quarantine length from the 14-day standard “based on local circumstances and resources,” including access to testing, is permitted, per the CDC. However, if a student or staff member is contacted by Galveston County Health District during their contact tracing process, those individuals may be required to adhere to a 14-day quarantine based on health district guidance, district leaders said. view article arw

State Rep. Ron Reynolds, one of Fort Bend County’s representatives in Austin, is among the state legislators calling for teachers and other school staff to be moved near the front of the line for COVID-19 vaccinations. In a Jan. 14 letter addressed to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt, Reynolds and 34 other state representatives asked health authorities to include all public school employees in the group of people who can next receive the vaccine. Since the state began distributing vaccine doses last month, only frontline healthcare workers, residents of long-term care facilities and people over age 65 or with chronic medical conditions have been eligible to receive them. view article arw

HAYS CISD — Demand for vaccinations continues to increase while the supply doesn’t seem to match. Hays CISD is preparing to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to interested employees when doses are available. When doses are made available, the district will use the first shipment for faculty and staff over 65 years old with medical accommodations. Hays CISD will use the Performing Arts Center (PAC) during after school hours for vaccinations. “We’ve already sent out a Google form from HR asking which employees would accept the vaccine and which would not,” said Superintendent Dr. Eric Wright. “A lot of the surrounding areas only had around 40% that wanted to take the vaccine and our initial count was around 75%. I was pleased to see that.” Wright said the district has recorded the highest number of positive cases this week on-campus for students and staff. view article arw

Hidalgo County Officials said the information on the clinic was released prematurely. "It's very normal. Those times are very normal. We've experienced that in our other two clinics. I mean if word of mouth gets out, fast, that's the best way it's out there," Public Relations and Communications Coordinator for La Joya ISD Blanca Cantu said view article arw

Harlandale Independent School District officials have recommended that families transition from in-person instruction to a virtual learning model as local COVID-19 case counts continue to surge in San Antonio. In a letter to district families on Tuesday, superintendent Gerardo Soto urged families who can facilitate learning from home to transition to online learning. view article arw

Gusty winds blew corn husks through the school’s parking lot on November 16 at South Hamilton Schools It was another day of the staff trying to keep up with the daily reports of sickened students and faculty, making sure kids pumped hand sanitizer and wore face masks nearly all the time, properly social distanced during band practice and lunch periods, and pivoted from teaching in-person and virtual learners while taking extra time to help those struggling. Even the lunchroom is different this year. Cafeteria tables limit seating. view article arw

In the Austin Independent School Dis­trict, school buildings sit largely empty as the city weathers its worst days to date of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the district's fields, courts, and gymnasiums are buzzing; after a one-week hold on non­-varsity athletics, all sports programs are back on, with some teams preparing for state competitions.  On Jan. 11, when Austin and Travis County recorded a new peak of 955 COVID-19 cases, the city's largest school district encouraged all parents to keep their kids at home, with more than 10,000 switching to virtual learning. Yet that same day, thousands of student athletes were invited back for practice on AISD's middle school and junior varsity teams in basketball, swimming, wrestling, and other sports. Varsity athletics had never stopped.  Two weeks earlier, Austin Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott advised AISD and other school districts to suspend all in-person activities, both classrooms and extracurriculars, due to the COVID surge. Escott and Austin Public Health have consistently warned of the danger of extracurriculars (not only sports, but also performing arts) as hot spots for spread of the novel coronavirus, especially when masking or distancing aren't universally practiced. view article arw

On Jan. 20: State officials are warning the COVID-19 pandemic is at its worst as Texas now reports an average of more than 300 new deaths a day. Hospitals in the Abilene, Bryan-College Station and Laredo areas have also run out of intensive care unit beds. "Texas must avoid an additional surge in cases. Hospitals can't take much more. Fatalities are still increasing," said the Texas Department of State Health Services in a tweet on Wednesday. view article arw

SAN ANTONIO - This week hundreds of teachers from nine area school districts are receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as part of a new partnership with University Health.  Educators from Edgewood, Alamo Heights, Harlandale and San Antonio Independent School Districts showed up to get the shot Tuesday night at Wonderland of the Americas Mall, which has already been serving as a vaccination site for about 1,500 people a day since Jan. 4. The other five districts partnering with University Health for this first phase of teacher vaccinations are East Central, Judson, Northeast ISD, Northside SISD, and Southwest ISD. view article arw

JASPER, Texas (KTRE) - With cleaning and disinfecting heightened since the pandemic started, it’s added more duties and tasks for housekeepers and janitors.  “First thing in the building every morning and working hard,” Kent Jackson said.  And many days, they are the last to leave. Custodians Kent Jackson and Donald Johnson have worked for Jasper ISD around 30 years each, but they say this school year is unlike any other.  “It’s been a really rough challenge,” Johnson said. “From the smaller campuses to the larger campuses, with the less people we have now, but we are able to manage it.” view article arw

HOUSTON - As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, some Houston area educators are doing their part to change that, as you’ll see in this Positively Houston. The role of teachers and school administrators has certainly changed in the pandemic. To combat COVID-19 they’ve become much more than educators, working far beyond the building. view article arw

SAN ANTONIO – Harlandale Independent School District announced on Tuesday that officials will be expanding COVID-19 testing to all district campuses beginning on Jan. 26. According to district officials, all elementary in-person students and staff will be able to get tested for COVID-19 as part of the expansion. The district is continuing to work with Community Labs, a local nonprofit organization, to administer the COVID-19 tests. view article arw

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in widespread learning loss and exacerbated social inequities among students, but despite these challenges, North Texas educators are doing their best to deliver lasting lessons.  Zoom-based curricula have become part of the norm, but virtual is still different than in-person instruction, said Christopher Long, an assistant professor of K-12 science education at the University of North Texas. In many classrooms, student cohesiveness has taken a hit, meaning kids feel less connected to their peers than they have in previous years. view article arw

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Hospitalizations from the novel coronavirus continue to surge across Texas. On Wednesday, state health officials reported 450 new COVID-19 deaths as fatalities rapidly mount.  Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has touted expanded vaccination efforts, but the rising death toll — 2,200 over the past seven days — and high numbers of seriously ill patients prompted a social media warning from state health officials that hospitals are struggling.    (21) view article arw

Friendswood ISD board members and district leaders approved changes to COVID-19 protocols, including the shortening of the quarantine period from two weeks to 10 days, during a regular meeting Jan. 12.  Prior to the holiday break, district leaders had shared plans with board members to bring forth the recommendation about shortening quarantine. Other districts including Clear Creek ISD have also adopted the 10-day quarantine based on current guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  A reduction in quarantine length from the 14-day standard “based on local circumstances and resources,” including access to testing, is permitted, per the CDC. However, if a student or staff member is contacted by Galveston County Health District during their contact tracing process, those individuals may be required to adhere to a 14-day quarantine based on health district guidance, district leaders said.   view article arw

The state's health commission gave Planned Parenthood's Medicaid patients until Feb. 3 to find new doctors. Experts say there are limited places low-income patients can go, in part because Texas already has a shortage of doctors who accept Medicaid due to the state’s low payment rates. view article arw

"It was our understanding that word got released earlier in the day about the clinic and that officials on the local level went ahead and allowed people who showed up to receive vaccines, to go ahead and register," Hidalgo County Spokesperson Carlos Sanchez said.   Channel 5 News asked La Joya ISD why this all filled up so quickly.   La Joya ISD said they couldn't tell us when registration started, but once traffic started to build up they had to let people in.  view article arw