After reporting another death and 504 additional cases of coronavirus, the Dallas County Health Department is raising the perceived COVID-19 risk level to red Wednesday.
Of the 504 cases reported, 454 were confirmed and 50 were probable, according to Dallas County Health and Human Services. DCHHS said 258 of the cases came from the DSHS backlog with 11 coming from September and 247 from earlier this month.
The latest death reported by the county is of a woman in her 80s who was a resident of the City of Dallas. She had been critically ill in an area hospital and did not have underlying high-risk health condition.
"The increase in hospitalizations, and new COVID-19 positive cases, as well as other metrics like the R-naught factor being above 1 for several weeks, has led the Public Health Committee to recommend a return to ‘Red’ on our color-coded chart," said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. "With a new and quickly escalating wave of COVID-19 cases hitting North Texas, it is more important than ever that we make good decisions. Things that doctors recommend as safe and permissible in ‘Orange,’ they recommend against in ‘Red.’ These things include dining in restaurants and personal grooming services, among other activities." Playing team sports and going to movie theaters are also not recommended.
"What you're seeing is a spike that coincides with 75% reopening and talking points that COVID is under control," Jenkins said Wednesday.
Jenkins added Wednesday afternoon that there has been a 43% increase in hospitalizations since Sept. 27.
The chart, Jenkins said, does not indicate that which is legal or illegal, but rather that which health experts say is either safe or unsafe.
"One activity that is not affected by the move to ‘Red’ is voting. We’ve already had two elections, a primary and a runoff election during COVID-19, both of which took place under a ‘Red’ (Stay Home Stay Safe) recommendation from the Public Health Committee," Jenkins said. "There has been no known spread from voting or cases attributed back to polling places and this, we believe, is due to the extraordinary measures everyone is taking to keep you safe at the polls."
Jenkins said the county has spent millions of dollars on disinfectants, plexiglass screens and other precautions to ensure that voters are safe. Voters can also see a live, color-coded map showing the approximate wait times at polling locations in Dallas County so that they can see which polls are least crowded and where voting can be done quickly. See the map here.
COVID-19 TRACKING AND TESTING
The shift from orange to red comes on the same day as bars in Tarrant, Denton and Collin Counties reopened, raising questions about mixed messages.
"When we do dumb things or we open in a wrong way, it hurts businesses," Jenkins said.
Jenkins is urging everyone in Dallas County to double down on safety measures to avoid a deadly wave of new infections this fall. He says parents should consider virtual learning for their children, if possible.
The county has now accumulated 87,835 confirmed cases of the virus since testing began in March. There have been 1,058 confirmed deaths attributed in the county to the virus, which, according to Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang, is now the third leading cause of death in the county behind diseases of the heart and cancers.
County health officials said Tuesday the 7-day average for CDC Week 40 was 374, an increase from the previous daily average of 346 from Week 37. The county also said that 283 school-aged children were confirmed or probable during that same week, an increase over the previous week.
There were 367 COVID-19 patients in acute care in Dallas County for the period ending on Tuesday, Oct. 13. The number of emergency room visits for COVID-19 like symptoms in Dallas County was 431 for the 24 hour period ending on Tuesday, Oct.13, which represents around 15% of all emergency department visits in the county according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council.