Health officials in Dallas County reported 1,101 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday and four more deaths in people who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Saturday marked the ninth straight day on which Dallas County Health and Human Services reported at least 1,000 new cases of COVID-19. The county's 7-day average stands at 1,121 and has more than doubled in the last 11 days.
It took previously 25 days for the 7-day average to double: from 265 on June 7 to 535 on July 1.
The four COVID-19-related deaths reported Saturday were a Carrollton man in his 50s, a Dallas woman in her 70s, a Mesquite woman in her 70s and a Richardson woman in her 90s, according to DCHHS. All four people had underlying health conditions.
Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you
Dallas County now has 32,626 reported cases of the coronavirus, including 449 deaths.
Dallas County does not report recoveries from COVID-19 because it lacks the manpower to follow up with thousands of patients, however, the Texas Department of State Health Services posts an estimated number of recoveries on its site and lists 78,164 for Dallas County as of Saturday, Oct. 10. Using data supplied by the state, there are an estimated 6,120 active COVID-19 cases in the county.
"The numbers continue to rise, which means there are more and more sick people out there moving around," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a statement. "You protect yourself by staying home and away from others as much as possible. You protect others by wearing your mask at all times when around them."
In an interview with NBC 5 on Saturday, Jenkins said he believed "things will get worse before they get better."
"As soon as the Governor came up with his UT Southwestern did a model that said by July 1, we’d be at 800 cases in Dallas. What’s going on now is completely predictable to the doctors," he said, referring to a study released in May.
It was around the same time Texas prepared to move into the second phase of reopening.
This week, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) stressed the importance of face coverings to Texans.
A statewide mandate issued in early July states every person in Texas "shall wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household."
Exceptions include people under the age of 10, any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering, while eating or drinking, and exercising outdoors or engaging in physical activity outdoors.
Mask order violators can be fined up to $250.
"The public needs to understand that this was a very tough decision for me to make, to make this level of requirement," Abbott said this week. "I made this tough decision for one reason, it was our last best effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The last thing I want to do, the last thing anybody wants in Texas wants to see another lockdown. Hence, the best thing anybody can do is do this thing that is inconvenient of wearing a face-covering knowing it will keep your jobs open, your economy open and your businesses open."
In a statement to NBC 5 Saturday, a spokesperson for Abbott added, "As the governor said, we need all local officials and law enforcement to step up and enforce the mask order so we can keep our economy open."
In Fort Worth, police department spokesperson Ofc. Jimmy Pollozani said enforcement regarding businesses out of compliance fall under city code enforcement.
"Anything outdoors can be enforced by any law enforcement after a warning has been issued, but our primary goal with enforcement is educating about the order, why it’s important, and seeking voluntary compliance," Pollozani wrote in an email. "We also have our pandemic response team that is out there educating the public about the importance of having their PPE on while in a public place. Any citation(s) would be a last resort."
Catherine Cuellar with the city of Dallas said they rely "most on each and every resident’s personal responsibility for compliance with statewide face-covering orders."
"So far, Dallas code enforcement has responded to conduct more than 20,000 inspections of possible violations of COVID-19 orders," Cuellar wrote in an email.
Hospitalizations and emergency room visits due to the virus remained high Friday, with 783 people hospitalized in Dallas County. About one-third of all ER visits Thursday were for COVID-19-like symptoms, DCHHS reported.
County officials said last week more than half of the new cases reported have been young adults between the ages of 18 and 39.
To date, of cases requiring hospitalization who reported employment, more than 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.
The increase in cases comes as the state's positivity rate, the percentage of people testing positive for the virus, has been sustained well over 10% for more than two weeks and climbed above 15% on Thursday. On Friday, the rate dropped back down to 14.46%. An increase in the positivity rate indicates an increase in the spread of the virus, not an increase in testing for the virus.