Tarrant County Judge Eyes Loosening Restrictions in Early May

Some models show Texas has hit peak with plenty of excess hospital capacity

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Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said Monday the end of restrictions is finally in sight and he and other county leaders are working on a plan to re-open businesses.

"Hopefully by the end of that first week or second week of May, we can begin to lessen the restrictions and let this economy begin to grow again,” he said in an interview at his downtown office.

Whitley spoke about restrictions in the past tense.

"We did everything we felt like we needed to do to make sure our hospitals didn't get overrun and I think we were successful," he said.

That's welcome news for restaurants like Angelo's Barbecue and owner Jason George, struggling to survive with only take-out orders and wondering about the future.

"Not so much when we can get back to normal, just what will happen when we do get back to normal,” George said.

Whitley said getting back to normal may mean new rules like limits on crowd size and checking customers' temperatures at the doors. He cautioned against moving too fast if it risks lives.

Going forward, Whitley said more testing is important to track the spread of the virus but added he's focused more on the number of patients in the hospital.

"Remember when we first started this whole thing out, we started it out because we were afraid our hospitals were going to get overrun like they did in New York,” he said.

Only a little more than 100 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus in Tarrant County, he said.

Whitley said the medical system is nowhere near capacity and likely won't come close, with some models indicating the number of cases in Texas has already peaked.

A widely viewed model by the University of Washington showed the number of deaths from the virus in Texas peaked on Sunday and will fall to near zero by mid-May.

The same projection indicated the need for hospital resources peaked on April 15 and predicted only 300 critical care beds will be needed out of 2,259 in Texas.

In Parker County Judge Pat Deen wants Governor Abbott to allow some counties with few cases like his to move even faster.

Only 20 people have tested positive in Parker County and about half have recovered, Deen said.

"The containment strategy we have is working,” he said.

Small business owners like George say the decision to re-open can't come soon enough.

"We're holding on. We're hanging in there the best we can,” George said.

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