Dallas County is reporting a record 601 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday along with 20 deaths and more hospitalizations, according to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.
The number of new cases marks the first time the county has topped 600 cases in a day and is the fifth straight day the county has set a new record for new cases, topping the previous high of 572 cases set on Monday. The 7-day average for new cases is now 513 cases per day, up from an average of 209 per day on June 1.
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"Today we’ve surpassed 600 new cases of COVID-19 for the first time, having surpassed 300 cases only 20 days ago. Additionally, this is our deadliest day thus far in the outbreak," Jenkins said. "Twenty residents are being reported as COVID-19 casualties today, exceeding our previous high of 16 deaths. "
The increase in cases comes as the state's positivity rate, the percentage of people testing positive for the virus, reached nearly 15% Sunday, a high not seen since mid-April. The rate has been sustained over 10% for seven straight days. An increase in the positivity rate indicates an increase in the spread of the virus, not an increase in testing for the virus.
Instead of focusing on the raw case numbers, however, Jenkins has suggested the focus should be on the increasing number of hospitalizations in North Texas and across the state. On Tuesday, the county reported another increase in hospitalizations with 619 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the county. Jenkins said the number reported Tuesday was more than twice the number reported 30 days ago.
The county has now accumulated 21,300 cases of the virus since testing began in March. There have been 373 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.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, an estimated 12,713 people (through Tuesday) in the county have recovered from the virus leaving an estimated 8,252 known patients fighting the infection.
County officials have said more than half of the new cases reported have been young adults between the ages of 18 and 39.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Texans must buckle down as Fourth of July weekend approaches. He had a message specifically for people who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“If we have a replication of Memorial Day it’s going to be a problem,” Abbott said. “We’re not dealing with pockets of growth of COVID. Instead, we’re dealing with community spread. Anybody you come into contact with could have COVID019.”
Jenkins once again urged Abbott to establish a statewide mandate.
“It is a very simple ask for the governor to require Texans when they leave their homes and go to businesses to wear a mask,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins also requested more businesses close amid soaring numbers -- businesses he said would not be able to maintain a mask policy 100% of the time.
“Now, that’s not very many businesses. That’s things like cigar bars and high-exertion indoor exercise,” Jenkins said.
Abbott made no mention of closing additional businesses other than bars. But he did say more action would be taken if people do not follow best practices. And still, there are no statewide mandate on masks.
“If we all wear a mask like this every single day, we can together continue help people earn paychecks while keeping people safe and slowing the spread of the coronavirus,” Abbott said.
Effective June 19, the Dallas County Commissioners Court mandated that all customers and employees wear face coverings while inside businesses inside Dallas County. If people refuse, the business could face a fine.
"Everyone should wear a mask 100% of the time when you’re around people outside your home. Avoid unnecessary trips. Ask yourself if the trip is a desire or a necessity. Make lists when going to the grocery store so that you go shopping as little as possible and avoid in-person activities such as dining and indoor exercise where you or others are not wearing a mask 100% of the time," Jenkins said Monday. "We’re seeing significant growth throughout Texas and here in North Texas in the number of COVID-19 cases and if this trend doesn’t reverse, it’ll have a very serious and negative impact on public health and our economy."
On Sunday, Jenkins sent a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) asking him to allow local leaders to implement more stringent measures to control the spread of COVID-19.
"We are at that place now where we are losing the battle," Jenkins said Sunday. "We’ve gone, since May 1, from being the state in the best position because the early actions of local leaders to being the state in the most likely position to have the worst outcome for the future with COVID-19."
To date, of cases requiring hospitalization who reported employment, over 80% have been critical infrastructure workers, with a broad range of affected occupational sectors, including healthcare, transportation, food and agriculture, public works, finance, communications, clergy, first responders and other essential functions.
Of cases requiring hospitalization, two-thirds have been under 65 years of age, and about half do not have high-risk chronic health conditions. Diabetes has been an underlying high-risk health condition reported in about a third of all hospitalized patients with COVID-19.
The county has been reporting for several weeks now that more than a third of the deaths related to COVID-19 have been among residents of long-term care facilities.