Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told NBC 5 Investigates he may issue even more aggressive orders “in the coming days” as the second-largest county in Texas fights to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Jenkins' comments came less than 24 hours after he ordered a county-wide state of emergency and banned large gatherings of more than 500 people.
NBC 5 Investigates is learning more about the decision to shut down big group events, why officials believe that move is so essential right now and how plans to contain the virus could change over time.
Sources familiar with the situation tell NBC 5 Investigates officials fear the virus could spread rapidly unless people heed the warnings from health officials in the next two weeks: Avoid large crowds, practice social distancing and quarantine at home if sick.
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On Thursday night Dallas County confirmed its first suspected cases of community-acquired coronavirus, but officials suspect others are already incubating and more will emerge.
That's why sources tell us Dallas County officials acted aggressively -- declaring an emergency with only one locally acquired case -- hoping to avoid clusters of cases seen in places like New York state.
“We haven't peaked yet, and that's not even close. And what the peak looks like will all depend on if we can step up our game over the next two weeks, the next two weeks are going to be absolutely critical," said Dr. Peter Hotez, one of the nation’s top epidemiologists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Hotez said Dallas is one of many cities likely entering what could be the most critical time. without successful containment, in the next two weeks, more highly vulnerable elderly patients could be exposed.
"I worry if we can't get this under control in the next couple of weeks, we could be looking at some serious situations in some cities in the country where we're going to exceed ICU capacity, hospital bed capacities,” Hotez told NBC 5 Investigates.
On Friday Judge Jenkins said individual actions will determine whether the fight is won or lost.
“And if everyone does their part, if everyone thinks about what is best for the community when they make their decisions, we'll beat this thing. If only some of us do that, then we probably won't beat this thing. so it takes all of us," Jenkins said in an interview.
Right now when local health officials confirm a new case they work to track down anyone who had close contact with that person. That's part of the current containment strategy.
But at some point with more cases that could become much more difficult.
That's when the approach would shift from containment to mitigation -- where this will be monitored more like a typical flu outbreak. But by tracking cases now and keeping people separated or quarantined at home - there’s still hope, officials say, that this could keep the virus from badly impacting those most at risk.