Alliance Update – Immunize 2020

By Terri Andrews and Linda Kennedy

BeeWise-Immunize Test Site – Ridgmar Mall

It has long been our fear to have community spread of an illness that potentially overwhelms our healthcare system capacity and results in the illness and/or death of tens or even hundreds of thousands of people.  Many years ago, the TCMS Alliance and Foundation joined other concerned organizations, both public and private, to form the Immunization Collaboration of Tarrant County (ICTC) to help promote and provide immunizations in our community.  In this year of COVID-19, we know that our fears were well founded and what the world looks like with a virus and no vaccine.  Our community is opening from the quarantine that was needed to control the initial spread of COVID-19.  Schools are opening and thousands of children need required vaccines to move from virtual to in person classes. Many of our local children missed scheduled vaccines when the pandemic hit North Texas.

Every August, the ICTC has hosted immunization clinics which Tarrant County Public Health provides the vaccines for at five different community health fairs and back to school events over four weeks. This model in five locations over a shorter time is not possible in this time of COVID-19. Fortunately, ICTC was able to react to the new circumstances hosting the Be Wise—ImmunizeTM Low Cost Back to School Vaccine Event July 20 through September 11, 2020 at Ridgmar Mall in Fort Worth. The site provides plenty of social distancing space for families and students receiving the needed vaccines.  Immunizations are low cost for families who are uninsured or are covered by CHIP or Medicaid.  

In 2005, TCMS Alliance brought Be Wise—ImmunizeTM to Immunization Collaboration of Tarrant County. ICTC is a volunteer driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to the systematic eradication of vaccine preventable diseases in Tarrant County. ICTC projects directly improve the health and well-being of children, teens and adults through low cost vaccine events, community education on the importance of childhood and adult immunizations, and advocacy for better vaccine systems and policy since 1991. Over 40 agencies are members of ICTC.

TMA Foundation and TCMS Alliance support for ICTC programs is ongoing.  The Be Wise—Immunize logo, leadership, funding, and volunteers from across Tarrant County keep ICTC going strong. ICTC Vaccine events 2019 provided 9412 clients with 24,057 doses of vaccine. To learn more or to be an ICTC volunteer visit http://www.icthome.org or http://www.tcmsalliance.org.

Growing Together

by Veer Vithalani, MD, MAEMSA System Medical Director

Note from the editor:
Dr. Vithalani is an active member of the TCMS Board of Advisors. As he officially moves into the role of our local EMS Medical Director, TCMS wanted to provide him the opportunity to speak directly with members about his background and goals for our EMS System.


“After successfully completing an EM residency, I plan to undertake an EMS fellowship and hope to one day serve as a Medical Director for an ambulance company while working in an academic emergency department.”

These words concluded my personal statement as I applied to residency programs in 2010. One of the reasons I was so excited when I matched into the inaugural class at the JPS Health Network in Fort Worth was the opportunity to develop the program’s experience with a world-renowned EMS system, MedStar.

From early in my residency, I began learning the basics of EMS medical direction under the mentorship of Dr. Jeff Beeson. He would stress the importance of working collaboratively with the local medical community and would take me with him to the monthly board meetings of the Tarrant County Medical Society (TCMS). The TCMS played a fundamental role in the creation of the EMS system in Fort Worth, and through its designated positions on the Emergency Physicians Advisory Board, has been influential in shaping the structure of the EMS system through numerous challenges. Drs. Gary Floyd and Steve Martin have served since the early days of the Emergency Physicians Advisory Board (EPAB) and have been a tremendous source of counsel and guidance for my predecessors and me.

I was able to join the Office of the Medical Director (OMD), first as an EMS Fellow, then Associate Medical Director, and finally Interim Medical Director. Throughout this time, I’ve witnessed incredible growth in this system. This progress is evident in every aspect: tighter integration between EMS and first responders; increased standardization of credentialing and quality assurance; closer working relationships between the OMD and agency leaders; and increased resource sharing, such as unified dispatch centers, dispatch integration, and shared capital. All of these actions keep us centered on patient-focused goals. Patients call 911 in their time of need, and the system is there for them, regardless of race, gender, or creed.

I am honored to accept the position of Medical Director for the Metropolitan Area EMS Authority (MAEMSA) system. My goal moving forward is simple; we will continue to guide our commitment to clinical excellence throughout this system. Accomplishing this mission takes continued passion and dedication from all involved—from front-line field providers, dispatchers, support services, educators, administrators, Chiefs, City leaders, OMD, and beyond. My philosophy is that this is our practice of medicine, and we are all in it together. We will help our patients together, make mistakes together, learn together, and grow together. 

Moreover, in the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic, my goal remains the same. The OMD is responsible for the daily management of the Tarrant Medical Operations Center, functioning as the coordinating body for mitigation of medical and healthcare effects of disasters. With active participation from all key stakeholders, from hospital leaders to local physicians, public health officials to emergency managers, and elected officials to public safety, everyone is doing their part to mount a coordinated and consistent response for the safety and well-being of our community.

I would not have reached this position without my mentors and predecessors, Drs. Jeff Beeson, Steven Q. Davis, and Neal Richmond; leaders from JPS and IES, Drs. Robinson, Zenarosa, and Kirk, who brought me to Fort Worth and trained me in Emergency Medicine, and my wife and kids, to whom I owe all of my life’s successes; to all, a heartfelt thanks.

I do not take lightly the trust and responsibility placed in me by the MAEMSA Board, First Responder Advisory Board, and EPAB. I hope to live up to the high expectations we have all set. This system has long been a shining star in the world of EMS; I look forward to playing my part to continue that into the years to come.

Kroger, City of Fort Worth and Tarrant County Partner for Oct. 9-10 Drive-thru Flu Vaccinations

Kroger Health, the healthcare division of The Kroger Co., announced a partnership with the City of Fort Worth and Tarrant County as part of a comprehensive flu shot program designed to provide recommended vaccines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kroger Health will offer drive-thru vaccinations noon to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9 and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10 in the Chevrolet Parking lot at Dickies Arena, 3464 Trail Drive.

“In light of the challenges we may face from both the flu virus and COVID-19 this fall, Kroger Health is proud to partner with the City of Fort Worth and Tarrant County to host a two-day event, offering flu shots by our certified immunizers, in the safety of the individual’s vehicle,” said Jeff Loesch, Dallas division health and wellness director for Kroger Health. “In particular, we wanted to provide an efficient way for our seniors to receive the recommended high-dose formulation of the flu shot while minimizing the risk of potential exposure in the general public.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that during an average flu season, 8% of the U.S. population gets sick from the flu, with an average of 500,000 flu-related hospitalizations. Since March, more than 370,000 Americans have already been hospitalized as a result of COVID-19, marking the potential for a significant burden on the already taxed healthcare system.

“This year it is more important than ever to get a flu shot,” said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. “As we continue to combat COVID-19, we must do everything we can to avoid a flu outbreak, and getting a flu shot is a simple way to help protect your health and the health of our communities.”

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley agreed: “With all of the attention on COVID-19, we cannot let our guard down on the upcoming flu season. It is very important that everyone get a flu shot as soon as possible. We do not want our hospitals overwhelmed by COVID or the flu this winter.”

Kroger Health’s recent COVID-19 drive-thru test sites were able to assist thousands of people in getting tested in a short amount of time. By using that model to provide flu shots, Kroger Health will have the capacity to administer up to 1,200 vaccinations during the two-day event.

Event details:

  1. To receive a flu shot, individuals must make an appointment online. https://www.kroger.com/rx/guest/get-vaccinated Online pre-visit paperwork helps reduce contact.
  2. If you need assistance making an appointment, call Tarrant County Public Health at 817-248-6299.
  3. Flu shots will be provided to insured and uninsured patients. Children must be six months or older.
  4. Flu shots are available at no out-of-pocket cost to those with Medicare B and are also fully covered by many insurance plans. Bring identification and an insurance card.
  5. For the safety of patients and the healthcare team, vaccinations are limited to one arm per vehicle door. Wear short sleeves.

Learn more online. https://www.krogerhealth.com/

Tarrant County Surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 Cases

In the seven months since the first cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed, Tarrant County has surpassed 50,000 cases. It took 203 (3/10-9/29) days to reach 50,057 positive cases and 657 deaths due to COVID-19. Tarrant County Public Health (TCPH) is asking COVID-19 patients and their contacts to answer the call. To date, about 51 percent of those called have responded to contact tracing, leaving significant room for improvement. This is a nationwide problem and Tarrant County is no exception.

“We must continue to protect our family and friends from COVID-19 until a vaccine is released and widely available,” said Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley. “If you or a family member is sick with COVID-19, please respond to Public Health calls and text messages. They are working to reduce the number of potentially sick people walking the virus around our county.”

It took 67 days to double the COVID-19 case count in Tarrant County. On July 23, the case count was 24,562 with 403 deaths.

“Our residents bent the curve in the early days of COVID-19. That permanently changed the course of the pandemic in our community and we need to continue that effort forward in order to help our struggling business fully open sooner. Please wear a mask, wash your hands and maintain a safe social distance so that we can all enjoy normal when it returns,” Whitley said.

The age 65 plus community remains the most at risk with 71 percent of the deaths and just 10 percent of the cases. Of those who have been killed by COVID-19, 56 percent were men, 94 percent had underlying conditions.

“Our role is to use our expertise to advance community health and its knowledge of pervasive diseases,” said Vinny Taneja, director of TCPH. “Our experts in public health along with our medical doctors and nurses on staff who share their knowledge daily with patients, on our web site, on Zoom calls and in the media.

“We have created two great dashboards, the School Dashboard for parents and educators to make responsible decisions for their children and schools, as well as a broader COVID-19 Dashboard that provides insights in to many different types of data currently being collected.”

To combat delays in reporting, TCPH has now launched an online self-reporting tool available for residents who have been tested and want to report it themselves. This cuts down on delays in reporting to Public Health and allows TCPH to speed up contact tracing efforts. TCPH has also launched a pilot program for “at home” testing. Participants will get a mail in self-conducted test kit. The completed kit will need to be mailed to a lab for results using the prepaid shipping label. This is to provide wider spread and easier access to testing.

“The growth of COVID-19 has changed the mortality of Tarrant County. In seven months, 657 residents have died compared to 167 deaths on Tarrant County highways in 2019. COVID-19 is now projected to be the third leading killer of our residents behind cancer and heart disease and is expected to surpass the annual total for stroke later this year.”


COVID-19 causes respiratory illness with cough, fever and shortness of breath and may lead to bronchitis and severe pneumonia. For more information go to coronavirus.tarrantcounty.com or call the Tarrant County Public Health information line, 817-248-6299, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Tarrant County COVID-19 Activity – 9/29/20

COVID-19 Positive cases: 50,057*

COVID-19 related deaths: 657

Recovered COVID-19 cases: 43,636

Data from Tarrant County Public Heath’s (TCPH) report of COVID-19 activity in Tarrant County, updated Tuesday, September 29, 2020. Find more COVID-19 information from TCPH here.

* These data are provisional and are subject to change at any time.

Deaths and recovered cases are included in total COVID-19 positive cases.

Tarrant County COVID-19 Activity – 9/28/20


COVID-19 Positive cases: 49,569*

COVID-19 related deaths: 653

Recovered COVID-19 cases: 43,473

Data from Tarrant County Public Heath’s (TCPH) report of COVID-19 activity in Tarrant County, updated Monday, September 28, 2020. Find more COVID-19 information from TCPH here.

* These data are provisional and are subject to change at any time.

Deaths and recovered cases are included in total COVID-19 positive cases.

Tarrant County COVID-19 Activity – 9/24/20

COVID-19 Positive cases: 48,504*

COVID-19 related deaths: 643

Recovered COVID-19 cases: 42,141

Data from Tarrant County Public Heath’s (TCPH) report of COVID-19 activity in Tarrant County, updated Thursday, September 24, 2020. Find more COVID-19 information from TCPH here.

* These data are provisional and are subject to change at any time.

Deaths and recovered cases are included in total COVID-19 positive cases.

Tarrant County COVID-19 Activity – 9/17/20


COVID-19 Positive cases: 45,868*

COVID-19 related deaths: 616

Recovered COVID-19 cases: 40,330

Data from Tarrant County Public Heath’s (TCPH) report of COVID-19 activity in Tarrant County, updated Thursday, September 17, 2020. Find more COVID-19 information from TCPH here.

* These data are provisional and are subject to change at any time.

Deaths and recovered cases are included in total COVID-19 positive cases.

Tarrant County COVID-19 Activity – 9/15/20


COVID-19 Positive cases: 45,163*

COVID-19 related deaths: 608

Recovered COVID-19 cases: 39,606

Data from Tarrant County Public Heath’s (TCPH) report of COVID-19 activity in Tarrant County, updated Tuesday, September 15, 2020. Find more COVID-19 information from TCPH here.

* These data are provisional and are subject to change at any time.

Deaths and recovered cases are included in total COVID-19 positive cases.

Tarrant County COVID-19 Activity – 9/14/20

COVID-19 Positive cases: 44,727*

COVID-19 related deaths: 605

Recovered COVID-19 cases: 39,395

Data from Tarrant County Public Heath’s (TCPH) report of COVID-19 activity in Tarrant County, updated Monday, September 14, 2020. Find more COVID-19 information from TCPH here.

* These data are provisional and are subject to change at any time.

Deaths and recovered cases are included in total COVID-19 positive cases.