coronavirus

As COVID-19 Numbers Rise, Local Leaders Worry About Holiday Gatherings

Doctors and local leaders are urging people to fight the pandemic fatigue and stay vigilant against the coronavirus through the holidays

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It's understandable, as the conversation about COVID-19 continues, many are tired of hearing about it, but it's not going away and doctors are urging people to stay the course.

“I go home and I'm tired of hearing about it, right? I come to work and I still talk about it. Right? So no one is more tired of it than me, so I totally get it," said Dr. Joseph Chang, chief medical officer at Parkland Health and Hospital System.

He said despite how people may feel, it's critical that everyone continues to follow the guidance: wear masks, social distance and maintain good hygiene.

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We have seen a slow steady climb here over the last four to five weeks," he said. "We are currently up to about 100 patients in house with COVID."

He said for perspective, the hospital peaked around 200 patients in July.

“We went from like 20 patients in house to almost 200 in four weeks, but that was a crazy climb that really challenged our system," Chang said. "This time, it's taken about five weeks to get from 30 to about 100 (patients), so it's a much slower climb, which of course that 'flattening' of the curve really, really helps all of our resourcing and planning, so it's been better."

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the numbers in Dallas County were going up along with hospitalizations. The Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council said as of Monday, more than 1,600 COVID-19 patients are in hospitals in the area.

"That is the highest level we have experienced since late July. We had increases in admissions over the weekend. Our concern is these might be the result of Halloween and we have upcoming holidays," said Stephen Love, president and CEO of Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council.

All eyes are on El Paso which has shut down all non-essential businesses as hospitals and morgues are overwhelmed due to COVID-19. On Friday Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced that the U.S. Department of Defense deployed three U.S. Air Force medical specialty teams to help with the surge of COVID-19 cases in that region.

"It is entirely within our power to turn this thing around before we get into a bad situation like you're seeing El Paso," Jenkins said. "And it's not a foregone conclusion that things will be terrible a month from now. It's a foregone conclusion that they will be if we continue to have COVID fatigue."

With the holidays around the corner, that is another concern, especially since trends show the spread of COVID-19 has been from people gathering with family and friends at home.

"Thanksgiving and Christmas is a time when big families come together, and unfortunately what we're seeing is a lot of spread from family gatherings and people having friends over for a barbecue," Jenkins said. "You know, the virus doesn't care whether you're in a bar setting, or whether you're in a home setting. If someone is asymptomatic, has COVID, and you're not wearing that mask or maintaining distance or for that matter even if you are, it's still possible."

Chang agreed with the notion that there's a false sense of security when a family or friend comes over to think that everyone is immune.

"Obviously, your loved ones are just as likely to carry COVID-19 as anyone walking on the street," Chang said.

That doesn't mean people have to isolate themselves, but rather be smarter, Chang said.

"Mental health is important. Human connection is important. People should still absolutely interact with their family and loved ones, 100%," he said. "However, we know how to do this safely, we know how to do this smart. Spend time outdoors with your family and loved ones if you can."

He said people should consider wearing their masks inside the house if they're at a gathering that's not outside.

“If we have to wear it in a restaurant or we have to wear it in church, how's your house any different? It really isn't, so we know we can get together safely with our loved ones, we just need to do it smartly," Chang said.

Abbott's office said it continues to rely on data-driven hospitalization metrics used by doctors and medical experts to guide the state's COVID-19 response.

Renae Eze, a spokesperson for Abbott's office issued the following statement.

"As some communities experience a rise in hospitalizations, the state of Texas is working closely with local officials to quickly provide the resources needed to address these spikes and keep Texans safe. The state’s coordination efforts go hand-in-hand with enforcing the existing protocols, a strategy that proved effective in slowing the spread over the summer and containing COVID-19 while allowing businesses to safely operate. The protocols work, but only if they are enforced. The reality is, COVID-19 still exists in Texas and across the globe, and Texans should continue to take this virus seriously and do their part by social distancing, washing their hands, and wearing a mask. These best practices, coupled with the governor’s metrics to monitor COVID-19 hospitalizations and local enforcement of protocols, are key to mitigating this virus and keeping our communities and our people safe.”


*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.


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