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Texas Adds 13,500 Cases Thursday as Positivity Rate Hits 18%, Hospitalizations Climb

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported more than 13,500 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, along with continued rises in the positivity index and the number of people hospitalized with the virus. According to data released by the DSHS Thursday, 10,912 new confirmed cases and 2,737 new probable cases combined for a total of 13,649 cases of the COVID-19 virus. The 8,130 reported hospitalizations was an increase of 445 patients since Wednesday and the highest number of hospitalizations since Feb. 12. Preliminary data suggested over 75% of the new cases were due to the delta variant, according to Dr. Jennifer Shuford, the state epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. W. Stephen Love, president, and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council, said there were 1,979 COVID-19 patients in North Texas hospitals Thursday. “This represents 13.40% of bed capacity and 32.81% of adult ICU patients which means over a quarter and almost a third of our adult ICU patients have COVID-19,” Love said in a statement Thursday. “As a point of reference, we had 415 COVID-19 patients in the hospitals on July 5 so as you can tell, our hospitalizations have increased significantly in 30 days.” Love, along with other medical experts, said both hospitalizations and deaths are a lagging indicator of the severity of the pandemic and are likely to rise for some time after cases. “Hospitalizations are a lagging indicator so as case numbers increase, we anticipate hospitalizations will increase,” Love said. The state also reported 76 more coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday. The rolling 7-day average of deaths has increased from 22 per day on July 5 to 49 per day on Aug. 5. The molecular positivity index climbed to 18.07% on Thursday. The last time the positivity index was that high was Jan. 11 as the second wave began to decline. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had previously said a positivity index of 10% and stark increases in hospitalizations would be a red flag. Amid the latest surge, Abbott restated personal responsibility and said the state government would not issue lockdowns or mask mandates at a Dallas conference Wednesday. The all-time high for the molecular positivity index is 20.98% which was reached during the winter peak of the third wave on Jan. 4. On Thursday, the Texas Education Agency said contact tracing is not required if and when…

Fake Texas Temporary Car Tags Linked to Crimes as Far Away as New York

Fake Texas temporary vehicle tags are showing up in crime scenes as far away as New York and a recent FBI investigation found more than a half-million fraudulent paper tags were sold by just three people to buyers across the country. “One reason it helps them is it’s a ghost car,” New York Police Department detective Maureen Stefenelli said. “That’s what I call it, a ghost car. It’s pretty much — it could be undetectable.” The paper tags are supposed to be used after someone buys a car and before permanent metal plates are issued. Police in New York said Texas made it a little too easy to obtain temporary tags online with few questions and little verification. “You really didn’t have to go to a middleman,” Detective Thomas Burke said. “You could just go to Texas DMV and say, ‘Hey listen, this is my VIN number, can I get a temporary tag?’” And that’s not the only way to get fake tags. In May, an FBI investigation found three people in Houston set up “fraudulent and fictitious” used car dealerships — and got more than 500,000 tags from the DMV that appeared legitimate to any police officer. “On the street, these are up to $200, $300,” Burke said. “You can just look at the profit margins on this.” They’re sold to people who can’t get registration or don’t want to pay taxes or insurance or tolls. Fake tags have been a problem in Texas for years. In 2017, NBC station KPRC-TV in Houston went undercover showing just how easy it is to buy them. The tag the station received was issued by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles – but was registered to a car dealer that wasn’t even in business. Back then, state DMV officials acknowledged the problem, especially with its all-too-easy website. “If someone has an invalid driver’s license that is not something that is verified or checked during the title and registration process,” said Jeremiah Kuntz, a top DMV official. The state made some changes, like adding bar codes to the tags. But it wasn’t until this year, Texas lawmakers took more action, tightening the process and putting limits on how many paper tags used car dealers can get. Texas DMV spokeswoman Wendy Cook said the department is still working to implement those changes. “The department recognizes the impacts of fraudulent use of temporary tags and is…

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ABC 13 News from Texas