Tarrant County officials prepare COVID-19 response for schools, monitor West Nile Virus spread

Tarrant County is preparing a COVID-19 response plan for back to school and closely watching another health threat, West Nile Virus.

Officials said Tuesday that COVID-19 data is moving in the right direction in Tarrant County, but challenges remain with schools reopening in the coming days and weeks along with the annual problem of West Nile.

Judge Glen Whitley and the county commissioners said the reopening of schools will inevitably bring coronavirus cases.

“Yes, I believe it will be a matter of days before someone shows up positive. It could be, I hope it’s weeks I hope it’s never,” Whitley said.

Dr. Vinny Taneja, Tarrant Public Health Director, noted his staff is working to provide guidance to districts.

Many districts moved up their start dates after being granted local control to do so last week. Officials initially said there could be no in-person instruction until the end of September. 

“Internally we are building a school outbreak contact tracing team, sort of re-organizing within our outbreak teams,” Taneja said.

The only sure thing is that the questions far outnumber the answers.  

“When the first positive case shows up, what have we done to prepare for that? Are we going to have to close the classroom and clean that? Are we going to have to clean a wing of the school? Or are we going to have to close down the whole school?” Whitley asked.

Tarrant County is also seeing some the worst indicators of West Nile disease in the state. Thirty percent of mosquito pools are testing positive countywide and in northeast Tarrant the number is 50 percent. 

“It’s an early warning sign if we don’t take all the precautions now, we could see a lot of cases and it could potentially turn into an outbreak. We want to avoid having another outbreak. We are already sick of dealing with COVID, we don’t want to deal with West Nile,” Taneja said.

County officials are asking the public to get rid of any standing water, which can be a prime breeding ground for mosquitos.