Fort Worth ISD joins mask mandate trend as COVID cases increase

During its Aug. 10 Board of Education meeting, Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent P. Scribner announced a mask mandate for students, employees and visitors effective immediately for indoor instruction and activities.

Additionally, Fort Worth ISD will perform contact tracing and notification of COVID cases as appropriate.  This is beyond the Texas Education Agency requirements, according to a news release from the District.

The District will also continue to recommend that all eligible persons receive COVID vaccinations. Social distancing (as much as possible), hand hygiene, and cleaning of facilities are also being stressed throughout the Fort Worth ISD.

Cook Children’s Health Care System released a statement supporting the Fort Worth ISD’s actions: “We are grateful to Dr. Kent Scribner, Fort Worth ISD, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley and all leaders who have committed to keeping our children safe. In recent weeks, we have seen COVID-19 cases rise dramatically across our medical center and health care system. On July 27, we released Cook Children’s 10-Point Guide for Safely Reopening Schools in response to the increase in COVID-19 cases we were seeing. This guide calls for universal masking, among other safety measures, in schools. With the first day of class nearing, our pediatricians felt it was time to act and decided to write a letter to the FWISD school board expressing their support for the 10-point guide. In total, 125 physicians signed the letter which was delivered to the FWISD Board of Trustees ahead of Tuesday’s meeting. Since then, we have been contacted by representatives in more than two dozen area school districts requesting the letter to be shared with them. We’re also happy to report that 165 Cook Children’s physicians have signed the universal letter to area school districts.

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“Over the past several weeks, Cook Children’s Medical Center has been pushed to near capacity with COVID-19 and an unusually high number of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) patients. It is our hope that masking, social distancing and good hygiene techniques, such as hand washing, will prevent unnecessary illness in children. We also hope that anyone eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine will make the decision to do so, especially those around children under the age of 12 who are too young to receive the vaccine at this time.”

The Dallas Independent School District, the state’s second-largest, implemented a mask mandate Tuesday. The Houston Independent School District, the state’s largest, has asked its board to approve one Thursday.

The third wave of COVID-19 in Texas continues to tax the state’s health care systems as 10,000 COVID-19 sufferers have been hospitalized for the first time since early February, state health officials reported.

Meantime, local governments and courts continue to chip away at Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask and social distancing mandates as a state district judge in San Antonio granted a temporary restraining order to allow San Antonio and Bexar County to require public school students to mask up and quarantine unvaccinated students exposed to COVID-19.

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There were 10,041 Texas hospital patients with COVID-19 as of Monday, the most recent state tally available from the Texas Department of State Health Services, the most since 10,259 COVID-19 hospitalizations were reported on Feb. 4.

Fueled by the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19, the coronavirus cases have filled all the intensive-care beds in hospitals in the Big Thicket, Laredo and Coastal Bend regions. All but one or two of the intensive-care unit beds in hospitals in Austin and Victoria areas, and the West Texas Rolling Plains. Severe COVID-19 cases took all but three ICU beds in the Wichita Falls-Vernon and Waco areas.