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Stay-at-Home Orders Were Effective, Next Few Weeks Will Be ‘Critical,' Expert Says

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Stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures in Tarrant County have helped in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. The next few weeks will be "critical" in determining if relaxed restrictions will cause a surge in cases, according to the latest University of North Texas Health Science Center report.

"The data I really want to look at would be the number of new cases each day," said Dr. Radesh Nandy, an associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at UNTHSC. "I’m putting more faith on the daily ER data and the hospitalization data. If that number stays stable, that would indicate it's under control. But if it keeps going up, and the thing is -- if it goes up, it will go up at an exponential rate -- it generally goes up pretty fast."

Nandy is one of the researchers who contributed to the recent analysis. Data was compiled from numerous resources, including Tarrant County Public Health, the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council and the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

“Right now, the hospitals are working below their max capacity. So every patient is receiving proper treatment, nobody is denied a ventilator who needs it,” Nandy said.

Moving forward, what researchers want to see is R0, pronounced "R-naught," drop or stay at its manageable rate. Simply put, it measures new infections that result from a single case of a virus.

“If R-naught is at two, that means that person on average will infect two new people,” Nandy said. “So, when the lockdown was implemented at that time, the R-naught was way over two. Then, I tracked R-naught over the period of time and it did show a steady decline.”

Right now in Tarrant County, Nandy said that measurement is about one. It has hit a plateau for the most part and is manageable, he said. Had there not been any measures in place, Nandy said he believes the spread of the virus would have likely been faster.

“Based on the data that we have, we can confidently say that it would have been a lot worse. There is no doubt about that,” Nandy said. “By a lot, I mean -- the case count probably would have been four to five times higher than what we have seen.”

As the state continues to reopen, Nandy said health officials would be keeping a close eye on the number of daily cases, though he said the number of daily hospitalizations and ER data would be more reliable.

At Goldwaves Salon in Fort Worth, manager Leslie Rice Winterrowd and her team have been working for the past eight weeks to get the hair salon ready to reopen safely. They plan to open their doors to the public for the first time in about two months on Monday.

Salons in Texas have been allowed to reopen since May 8 under new state orders.

“You just want to make sure you have everything, your ducks in a row,” Rice Winterrowd said. “We’re coming back into this very, very cautious. We’re opening from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., then 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.”

For the first two weeks, at minimum, her 18 stylists will be working in those split shifts. This will reduce the number of stylists inside the salon at one time, she said.

Employees will be required to wear masks, and the salon has also purchased extra masks for guests.

“Just the amount of sanitization things we’ve had to order. I mean, it’s thousands and thousands of dollars that we’ve spent,” Rice Winterrowd said. “It’s anything from cleaning your sheers, your combs, disinfecting anything. We’ve had to remove every piece of upholstery in the salon, because that can’t be sanitized.”

Though the past eight weeks have required a lot of planning and adaption, Rice Winterrowd credited her team.

“We have an amazing team and that’s what’s kept us together,” she said. “It’s not all about money. It’s about team, it’s about team, it’s about culture, and that’s what keeps you going.”

As restrictions begin to ease and businesses get back to operating, Nandy said keeping a safe distance will continue to be important. Controlling the spread is a role everyone has to play, he said.

“We cannot keep things closed indefinitely but right now, it’s up to us to follow the guidelines that have been provided to us, because if we don’t follow then inevitably, there will be another lockdown,” Nandy told NBC 5.

For more on the analysis, click here.

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