Health officials in Tarrant County reported 1,412 new cases of COVID-19 Friday and four more coronavirus-related deaths as nearly one-in-five occupied hospital beds in the county are being used to care for COVID-19 patients.
Friday marked the ninth consecutive day on which Tarrant County Public Health reported 900 or more new cases of the coronavirus and the 11th out of the last 12.
Of the cases added Friday, 1,171 were confirmed cases and the remaining 241 were probable, according to Tarrant County Public Health.
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The four deaths reported Friday include two Fort Worth men in their 80s, one Fort Worth man in his 70s and a Bedford man in his 80s. All four men had underlying health conditions, according to TCPH.
The positivity rate in Tarrant County has hovered above 10% for more than a week.
Tarrant County began to report both probable and confirmed cases of the virus in August at the request of the state health department. Probable cases, the county said, account for a variety of real-world situations and could highlight cases in the community that may otherwise go unreported. To date, the county has reported 78,909 confirmed cases of the virus and 10,039 probable cases for a total of 88,948 cases.
Of the county's cases, 71% of those who have died were over the age of 65 even though they only make up 10% of the cases. Those aged 25 to 44 make up the largest percentage of people with COVID-19 at 36%.
The health department reports 764 COVID-19 patients were occupying hospital beds in the county on Friday -- 18% of all hospitalized patients. TCPH data showed 828 ventilators on hand with 567 being available; of the 272 in use (11 morethan on Thursday) it's not clear how many are in use by COVID-19 patients.
This week, Tarrant County Public Health issued a public health warning that recommended things like avoiding non-essential travel and large gatherings. It is not a mandate or order, Tarranty County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja said.
Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, the nation's top public health agency issued its firmest guidance yet pleading with Americans on Thursday not to travel for Thanksgiving and not to spend the holiday with people from outside their household.
In Fort Worth, city leaders are echoing a similar message. Fire chief Jim Davis has been working with the city's emergency operations center since the beginning of the pandemic.
"I think the city’s message is consistent with that. They’re asking people to remain diligent and to limit their exposure to others," Chief Davis said Friday. "We’re getting to the point where everybody’s being stretched to their limits at this point. Our run volume is going up. Our teams are out in the community doing testing in different areas."
The city's positivity rate is just over 14%, Davis told NBC 5 Friday. While he acknowledged people will ultimately decide their for themselves how they will spend Thanksgiving, he reiterated the importance of masks.
"We’ve had people out in the community in the some of the places where high risks folks are at and helping do community testing so we put our people in face coverings and glasses and stuff like that. None of them have gotten sick from doing testing and being around sick people that we know have COVID, so we know masks work," he said. "Try to keep from making face coverings a political statement, because that’s not what it’s about. It’s about your health and mine."
With 822 deaths now attributed to the virus, COVID-19 is projected to be the third-leading killer of Tarrant County residents behind cancer and heart disease and is expected to surpass the annual total for stroke later this year.
COVID-19 causes a respiratory illness with cough, fever and shortness of breath and may lead to bronchitis, severe pneumonia or even death. For more information go to coronavirus.tarrantcounty.com or call the Tarrant County Public Health information line, 817-248-6299, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.