Dallas County added another 1,129 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 Tuesday along with 16 more deaths attributed to the virus. Meanwhile, county officials warn hospitalizations for COVID-19 are at all-time highs in the county while ICU availability is low.
County health officials said there were 1,018 COVID-19 patients in acute care in Dallas County hospitals through Monday.
"Our hospital numbers are at all-time highs and our availability of ICU beds in the region is at an all-time low," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Tuesday. "Currently one in four persons hospitalized in Dallas County has COVID-19 and approximately 30% of those hospitalized in the region have COVID-19."
Jenkins added that the new record high, "does not come as a surprise based on modeling. While these high numbers are predictable, they're also preventable. Individual behavior change and precautionary actions can lessen the surge. Hospitals are our last line of defense and they are running out of staffed beds to care for our sickest patients."
In Dallas County, only 16 ICU beds remained. Across the region, the Dallas Fort Worth Hospital Council reported only 58 in all of its 19 counties.
President and CEO Stephen Love said many hospitals have already enacted surge plans by opening additional COVID units.
He said others have the ability to increase space once capacity is met by repurposing surgical and recovery spaces.
He said the bigger problem will be the number of doctors and nurses available to care for an increase in patients.
“The state has done everything they can to help us. But with that high of volume, staffing’s going to be a real issue.”
"The state has done everything they can to help us. But with that high of volume, staffing’s going to be a real issue," said Love. “Our staff, those healthcare clinical heroes, have been at this March. They’re tired. They’re fatigued. They’re worn out. So the more volume you have, the more you’re going to continue to strain that current workforce.”
Both he and Jenkins urged people to remain home this New Year's Eve, avoiding gatherings with anyone outside of their household.
“Don’t let your guard down. Please let’s all work together. And then next year, we can have tremendous celebrations for the holidays," said Love.
Of the cases reported Monday, the county said 882 were confirmed cases and 247 were probable (antigen test) cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the county from March to 168,782 and the number of probable (antigen test) cases to 20,470. The total of confirmed and probable cases in the county is now at 189,252. Over the last seven days, Dallas County officials have confirmed 12,346 confirmed and probable cases of the virus.
The 16 latest victims include an 18-year-old man and a woman in her 60s, both from Garland; a woman in her 50s from Mesquite; a man in his 70s from Richardson; a man in his 70s from Hutchins; a man in his 60s from Carrollton; 10 people from Dallas whose ages ranged from their 30s to their 80s. All of the victims other than the Garland woman and an 80-year-old woman from Dallas had underlying health risks, including the teenager.
County officials said Tuesday there have been 1,596 deaths in the county attributed to the virus. In the summer, Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang said COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death in the county behind diseases of the heart and cancers.
The county said that the provisional 7-day average for new confirmed and probable cases by date of a test collection for CDC week 50 was 1,722, which represents a rate of 65.3 daily new cases per 100,000 residents.
In the last 30 days, there have been 5,971 COVID-19 cases in school-aged children and staff reported from more than 756 separate K-12 schools in Dallas County, including 569 staff members. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 21 school nurses have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Jenkins, on Monday, issued a warning for those who planned traditional gatherings on New Year's Eve, urging them to reconsider their plans and to take precautions against spreading the virus.
"To help our healthcare heroes help you, please make smart decisions and follow doctors’ advice this New Year’s season. Wear your mask when around people you don’t live with and avoid crowds and get-togethers. We must all think of ways to celebrate the New Year that are safe, not just for us, but for those who will inevitably catch the virus from the people who contract it this New Year’s," Jenkins said. "It may not be you, but your grandmother or someone else’s grandmother who pays a heavy toll for your decision to have a traditional New Year’s celebration. Please help make the small sacrifice of patriotism to keep our community and our country strong until everyone who wants the vaccine can get it and it can have its opportunity to protect them from the virus."