Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says the county is a critical point in the fight against COVID-19 and warns against social gatherings such as trick-or-treating this Halloween.
Jenkins made the announcement Friday morning after county health officials warned of a new surge in COVID-19 cases and earlier this week upgraded the perceived risk level of catching the virus to the top level, red.
"The governor will decide what is open and closed, but doctors are advising me on what is safe," Jenkins said. The county judge then went on to recommend families skip trick-or-treating events in neighborhoods or organized trunk-or-treating events warning they could be a recipe for potential superspreader events.
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"We sure don't want our kids to go back into schools and getting folks sick," Jenkins said, adding that now is not the time to return to a pre-COVID normal, it's a time to do the things to prevent the spread of disease such as wearing masks, washing hands and being socially distanced from others.
Jenkins said since Gov. Greg Abbott allowed businesses to return to 75% occupancy there has been a 94% increase in the number of daily cases of COVID-19 since the low point reached in August. Jenkins added that since Sept. 25 the county has reported a 27% increase in ER visits by people with COVID-19 symptoms, a 37% increase in COVID-19 illness and a 30% increase in ICU bed usage.
The county's heightened warning level discourages against dining in restaurants, personal grooming services, playing team sports and going to movie theater, among other activities where social distancing is difficult.
County health officials said they were announcing another 20 deaths associated to the virus on Friday. More details about the latest number of cases will be released Friday afternoon.
Hospitalizations in North Texas have also been on the rise over the last three weeks. After holding steady around 700-800 from late August to early October, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has since increased by nearly one-third -- to 1,177 on Wednesday.
Statewide hospitalizations peaked in July and August. While other major metropolitan areas in Texas saw large decreases through much of September, hospitals in Dallas-Fort Worth did not.
Statewide hospitalization data is charted by region, as opposed to by county, below.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said last week that bars in the state could open Oct. 14 with 50% capacity at the discretion of county judges. Jenkins chose to keep bars shut.