A public health warning has been issued in Tarrant County as COVID-19 cases continue to surge and reach “dire” levels, according to Tarrant County Public Director Vinny Taneja.
As of Tuesday, 37% of intensive care unit beds in Tarrant County were being occupied by COVID-19 patients which is a decrease from 42% over the weekend. Overall, the county’s ICU bed capacity has reached 92%.
“We have 36 beds as of our report this morning. That’s quite a small margin of error. I mean, it’s an accident or traffic accident or something waiting to happen and the beds will be full,” Taneja said.
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County health officials reported 732 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday as community spread continued to be considered "substantial." In response to the rise in cases, the county health department issued a public health warning labeled as the “Protect Tarrant County Plan."
The public health warning is neither an order or a mandate, Taneja explained. Instead, they are recommendations the community is urged to considered. For the general public, health officials urged people to avoid all non-essential travel. Should they have to travel, it is recommended to quarantine or take a COVID-19 test before the trip.
The public health warning also recommended businesses consider limiting capacities once again, with 50% capacity for essential businesses and 25% for non-essential. Another recommendation for restaurants was to consider a “voluntary transition” to outdoor dining along with takeout and delivery models. As for bars, the county health department is recommending “bars should consider voluntary closures” for now.
Regarding schools, it was recommended parents reconsider online schooling and to cancel parties and other social gatherings. Districts were encouraged to consider the “voluntary shut down of sporting events."
“This is just to get the attention of anybody who has not been paying attention or thought that COVID is over because there is a lot of rhetoric about that,” Taneja said. “It’s very unfortunate that Tarrant County is leading North Texas in the surge. Quite honestly outside of El Paso, we’re the only other major metro county that has this many cases and has such high level of activity happening.”
At John Peter Smith hospital in Fort Worth, president and CEO Robert Earley said it’s not about "rhetoric" for them. Instead, it is a reality that is often unpredictable.
The hospital is currently treating 69 COVID-19 patients, along with 15 patients under investigation. A spokesperson confirmed there were 10 patients in the ICU at JPS who tested positive for COVID-19.
“There are 7,200 folks at JPS and like all of us, they’re angry. They’re frustrated. They’re fatigued but this community needs to know, they come into work every day. They come into work to protect you,” Earley said. “I would think it’s like being in the ring with a heavyweight boxer and when you walk into the ring, you get punched in the nose. You’re not real excited for round number two. You’re happy you’re standing.”
Earley said for them, the concern is not about spacing. It is about their staff and fatigue. Their biggest ask of the community right now is “to be our partner," he said.
“Being a partner means taking precautions. Social distance and wear mask. I’ll preach that everyday all day long,” Earley said. “For those who say, ‘You can’t shut the economy down.' No one wants to shut the economy down. Help by social distancing. Help by putting a mask on.”
According to the county dashboard, there are currently 3,848 hospitals occupied in Tarrant County. Just over 1,000 remained available Tuesday.
*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.