coronavirus

As Case Counts Rise, COVID-19 Models Have Been, ‘Ominously Accurate,' Doctor Says

Dallas County Public Health Committee outlines recommendations, including closures of some businesses, to slow the spread

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Over the last week, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Dallas County has continued to climb, surpassing 1,800 Monday -- a new single-day high.

Hospitalizations are following the same trend and the concern is it will only continue to get worse.

“This surge is upon us and it is going to continue to grow unless we tap it down immediately," said W. Stephen Love, president and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council.

On Monday, hospitals in North Texas reported a record number of people hospitalized for COVID-19, with 14.4% of all beds holding someone with the virus -- a total of 2,219 patients.

"Things are not heading the right direction. Even if we batten down the hatches right now, which we are strongly encouraging everyone to do, we still have a very rough month ahead of us," said Dr. Mark Casanova, president of the Dallas County Medical Society and a physician with Baylor Scott & White.

He's also part of the Dallas County Public Health committee which is made up of nine other doctors and public health authorities in North Texas.

Last week the committee sent a letter to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins with "dramatic steps" and recommendations for ways to reduce the spread -- recommendations the committee said should be "immediate."

Casanova said there's been about a 200% increase in hospitalizations compared to the lowest point in September, and while the community flattened the curve over the summer, they're seeing the cases skyrocket.


*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.


“The recommendations we made are intended to match the situation on the ground, and the situation on the ground with COVID-19 is that we are in a very dire situation in North Texas as a whole.," Casanova said.

The 10 recommendations included some of the following: a stronger and more expansive public mask order, continued closure of bars and curbing loopholes to keep them from operating, closing indoor dining at restaurants and limiting all indoor gatherings, both public and private, to 10 people or fewer.

“Those family and/or friend gatherings, that is what really is taking us out in our knees right now are individuals gathering together where they're not wearing those masks, or in a restaurant or in a bar where, let's face it, wearing the mask that entire time is simply not feasible -- in other words not going to happen. We need to be really honest with ourselves, we need a gut check," Casanova said.

He said models from UT Southwestern show that around Nov. 26, the number of new COVID-19 cases is expected to be well over 2,000 cases a day.

"They have been ominously accurate. The models have not failed us, unfortunately, we would love for them to be proven wrong but they have been on target," Casanova said.

He said there is frustration and fatigue in the medical community as they continue to usher in the same advice of telling people to wear a mask, wash their hands and social distance.

But, despite how tired they are, doctors and nurses' spirits remain up to keep pushing forward and help others.

“So, definitely the numbers are rising," said Peral Sanchez, an intensive care unit nurse at Parkland Hospital who has worked in the COVID-19 unit. “Most of the patients that are coming in, seem to be a little bit. Actually, sicker than the ones that we previously received from the first wave."

She has spent the last eight months suiting up for shifts lasting more than 12 hours and at point point lived in her garage.

"So, initially I did move out of my house the first six months and into my garage. We turned it into living quarters for myself so that I could protect my family," she said.

She has since moved back in her home, since now more is known about the virus, but said she's noticed a difference in her patients.

"In the past, most of the patients that were coming in, had this natural progression of maybe being on requiring oxygen, but not being on a ventilator right from the get-go," Sanchez said. "Now we're seeing these patients coming in going straight into getting intubated, and then directly into requiring strong medications to keep their heart pumping and then additionally the use of dialysis machines."

The number of COVID-19 patients in North Texas hospital beds hit an all-time high Monday and top doctors are warning that the North Texas health care system could reach a breaking point if changes aren’t made now.

As she watches how the disease impacts her patient's bodies, it's a constant reminder that there is no guarantee that everyone will survive.

"It makes us really sad because despite the use of all resources within Parkland, and despite the nurses being front and center, working close to 16-hour shifts, trying to do everything possible everything humanly possible to try to save their lives, sometimes it's impossible," Sanchez said. "Sometimes this disease is stronger than anything that we can do."

This is why she and other health care professionals continue to remind people to wear masks, wash their hands and social distance.

“We can have those shutdowns or we can have other things implemented, but at the end of the day, it's all going to depend on each individual to make sure to continue to remember that this disease is still here," Sanchez said.

Parkland said currently it's housing 140 COVID-19 patients, a week ago it was 100, and at the peak during the summer it was 200.

NBC 5's Jack Highberger contributed to this report.

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