New data shows social distancing is working in the efforts slow the spread of COVID-19, Tarrant County’s director of public health says. But, he says this does not mean it’s time to become complacent.
“We started off almost doubling our cases every day in Tarrant County. Now, the doubling rate is almost at four days, so we’ve made significant progress,” Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja said. “Is it at the end? I mean, are we done? No, we still have a long ways to go, but it is promising those executive orders have really weighed down this epidemic curve and bent the shape of the curve.”
Taneja presented this data before the Tarrant County Commissioner’s Court on Tuesday, where he announced an additional four deaths related COVID-19. This brings the total number of deaths to 29 in Tarrant County with nearly 900 confirmed cases and 103 recoveries through Tuesday.
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“If we stay the strict course that we’re at, versus if people start to relax and do other things and get out in the community and start to do other things, then there’s a bigger peak that may occur,” Taneja said. “First, the peaks were higher. Now, the projected peaks are smaller."
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said there are early discussions happening between himself, other county judges, and regional councils in terms of when and how businesses can reopen.
“I don’t think we’re going to be easing our restrictions before April 30,” Whitley said. “I really believe now we’re looking at the first week of May, maybe the second week of May, if we continue to see those numbers either flatten out or hopefully begin to count down.”
The May estimate is a best case scenario based on the “guarded optimism” from the numbers presented by Tarrant County Public Health before the commissioners Tuesday, Whitley said.
He added, reopening businesses would likely be done in phases – such as capacity limits in businesses starting out, or perhaps, temperature checks for customers.
However, there is nothing set in stone.
“It’s not time to let up. I think we’ve made progress,” he said. “I think last weekend was tough on everybody, but we’ve made some progress and the last thing in the world I want to do is people think, 'OK, we can relax now,' and end up infecting more people causing us going through another peak.”
Decisions on reopening businesses will not be made without first consulting health experts, according to Whitley.
Mike Eastland, executive director of the North Texas Council of Governments, told NBC 5 they are currently working on a draft proposal.