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Deadly Holiday: Dallas’ Very Active Thanksgiving

Increased movement across the city made Dallas residents more vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19.
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Dallas residents were more vulnerable to the coronavirus during the month of November, as new cases and added mobility increased their chances of being exposed to the virus out in the community. According to the Parkland Center of Clinical Innovation’s measurements of COVID-19 vulnerability, Dallasites were as active over the Thanksgiving holiday as they were last year before the pandemic.

“PCCI analysis indicates a systemic increase in people leaving their home in the two-week period around Thanksgiving. Paired with the dramatic increase in the Vulnerability Index, our community will be challenged through the December holidays and into the first part on 2021,” said Thomas Roderick, senior director of data and applied sciences at PCCI in a release.

PCCI uses anonymized cell phone data through the GPS and mapping firm Safegraph to track mobility. SafeGraph provides researchers access to their datasets to help organizations respond to the community spread of COVID-19. PCCI is one of more than 1,000 organizations—which include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—that use SafeGraph data to measure mobility and adherence to social distancing measures. For 80 precent of the country, or around 310 million people, this Thanksgiving was actually more active than last year, according to Bloomberg News.

PCCI found that Cockrell Hill continues to be the most vulnerable ZIP code in Dallas County. However, the Old East Dallas and Uptown ZIP code of 75204 has rocketed from outside of the top 10 most vulnerable areas in July to the second most vulnerable location in all of Dallas.

The area also made the largest jump since October. Data show that areas of East Dallas and North Dallas increased the most in mobility around Thanksgiving, which you can see illustrated below. PCCI’s Vulnerability Index is based off comorbidity rates; chronic illnesses; population density; social determinants of health like access to food, medicine, and employment; mobility rates; and confirmed COVID-19 cases.

(Courtesy: PCCI)

High positive case rates forced Dallas County to reduce capacity at businesses this month, but the data reveal COVID fatigue still has a stronghold on the population.

Lasting Effects

While fewer people in Dallas County are dying of COVID-19 (outside of the outlier Wednesday, when there were 33 deaths) relative to increasing positive caseload, public health experts say the long-term impacts of the disease should be enough to encourage people to avoid superfluous and risky social interactions. “Recovery” still includes getting past severe fatigue, shortness of breath, joint pain, muscle aches, weakness and fever, anxiety, depression, brain fog, and blood clots. These symptoms have all been experienced by those who have “recovered” from COVID-19 months prior, according to the Parkland Hospital COVID-19 follow-up clinic.

“Our goal with the clinic is to help our COVID-19 patients bridge the transition from illness through recovery to a healthy life,” said Dr. Monal Shah, senior vice president and chief physician Advisor and medical director of the COVID Follow-up Clinic at Parkland. “We need to follow these patients very closely to prevent relapse because we know they can decompensate very quickly while still struggling with acute symptoms.”

The clinic, which is located in the COVID-19 unit at the hospital, has seen 200 people during their recovery. It is kept separate from other patient areas to prevent the spread of the disease. It allows patients to see a range of specialists for their symptoms while they still may be contagious with the virus. Pregnant women might see their OBGYN, cancer patients could meet with their oncologist, and patients can receive treatment for any lingering COVID-19 symptoms. Earlier this month, County Judge Clay Jenkins said about one in every eight patients who visited the hospital for an unrelated consult or procedure had tested positive for the virus.

As Dallas residents continue to be active and increase their vulnerability to the disease, clinics like the one at Parkland may continue to be busy. It is prepared to expand as the pandemic continues.

Symptoms experienced by patients at the clinic reflect evidence from patients around the world. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that only 13 percent of patients in Italy were totally free of symptoms 60 days after they first began. About 85 percent said they had at least one symptom, and 55 percent said they had three or more.

“We are finding that the long-term health impacts of COVID-19 are very real,” Shah said in a release. “We need to take this disease very seriously. There is a lot unknown and much to learn.”

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