Usually during spring break, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science is busy with families enjoying the exhibits, but Sunday it was empty. The museum closed its doors until March 20 out of an abundance of caution due to the community concern about COVID-19.
Even though the museum was closed to the public, organizers still held a panelist discussion called “Science Spotlight: COVID 19." The Q&A session was streamed online and people asked questions via YouTube instead.
Dr. Philip Huang, the Director for Dallas County Health and Human Services, was one of the four panelists. He said currently there were 14 presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in the county. They’re waiting on the final results from the Center for Disease Control.
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“Slowing that spread down really has two major goals, to protect the vulnerable populations. Those vulnerable populations are persons over 60 and those with chronic health care conditions, that’s where we’re really seeing the severe illness,” Huang said. “The other purpose of slowing down the spread, is really to protect the health care system.”
Dr. John Carlo is a past chairman of the board of the Dallas County Medical Association and served as medical director during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009.
“One thing we’re looking at is how busy the hospitals are becoming and that’s the real risk, how quickly a hospital becomes overwhelmed,” he said.
Local health leaders urged people to contact their primary care physician if they experience symptoms related to COVID-19 like a high fever, cough and respiratory issues.
“One of the good things about this virus many people don’t have to be hospitalized, even if they’re presumptive positive, they can be treated at home which is good,” said Stephen Love, president and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council.
The organization represents 90 hospitals in the metroplex. He said currently, they’re in pretty good shape and constantly taking inventory of respirators and tracking the amount of beds they have.
He said they have enough personal protective equipment for medical professionals. When asked if there’s just one designated hospital to treat patients, Love said, "No."
“The reason is you can see, we’ve had cases in Collin County, Tarrant County Dallas Count, every hospital is prepared, for lack of better term, they have a master control within their hospital or system to deal with this, if there’s a case that they have to treat,” Love said.
Starting Monday, most hospitals in the area will implement visitation restrictions, said Love.
“First and foremost, hospitals want to accommodate families patients and friends of people that are patients, however, with COVID-19, we are going to consolidate in many of our hospitals and hospitals systems different points of entries so we can control the flow of patients and visitors,” Love said.
He said visitors would be screened and asked questions about their current health condition and recent travel history.
“If you don’t have good answers to those questions or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, you will not be allowed to visit in the hospital."
He also mentioned an age restriction for who can visit. He said depending on the hospital, some facilities would not let people under the age of 16 or 18 into the building unless there’s an exception that’s been coordinated with the hospital.
“That is because they feel like the spread of this could potentially be from somebody who is healthy, but they could be a carrier,” explained Love about the age restriction.
When it comes to who is going to the emergency room, Love asked people who think they may have the coronavirus to consult their doctor first.
“I understand people are apprehensive and we understand, people get anxious, but don’t come to the emergency room and demand to be tested, it’s not going to work that way, we’ve got trained medical professionals and experts if you aren’t feeling well, please first consult your primary care physician.”
The testing is certainly not for people who have no symptoms, like ‘Oh I think I want to get tested for COVID-19,’ because again, there’s still limited samples, so it needs to be people who have symptoms,” Huang said.
He said they’ve had local testing for about a week and half and can test 42 people a day and by next week that should be 80. Huang said there should be more availability for testing because of companies like LabCorp, Quest and others.