Dallas County is adding another 808 COVID-19 cases Thursday along with another two deaths as the daily average of new cases continues to once again climb and as county officials warn against traditional holiday celebrations and enjoying nights out in bars and restaurants.
During a news conference Thursday afternoon, Jenkins said compliance in the county has slipped to 56% among those taking steps to curb the spread of the virus by wearing masks, staying at home, remaining socially distant, etc. Jenkins said the last time they reviewed models showing the potential spread of the virus compliance was at 63% and that since that time the R0 (R-naught) factor has increased to 1.25.
When the RO factor is at 1 it indicates each case of the virus is replaced by another case and while the virus outbreak isn't going away, it's holding steady. Measures below 1 indicate the spread is slowing while measures above 1 indicate it's growing.
With an R0 rate of 1.25, Jenkins said 1,000 cases today will be replaced by 1,250 cases next week and, if the R0 rate stayed the same, then those 1,250 would be replaced by 1,562 in the following week.
Jenkins urged people, not only in Dallas County but across North Texas, to reconsider going to bars or restaurants and doing things socially just because you might be able to do so legally. Further, he added that anyone planning to see family on Thanksgiving should begin their 14-day quarantine now to make sure everyone is virus-free on the holiday.
Dallas County recently surpassed 100,000 positive cases. At the press conference, Jenkins painted an alarming picture. The number of average cases per day has doubled since the beginning of October.
“Our hospitals and our medical modelers predict that we will be at record levels in the next seven to 10 days,” said Jenkins. “We’re on a trajectory that puts us in a very poor position heading into the holidays and the winter season.”
Jenkins also said now is the time for employers to start considering telecommuting for employees.
Of the cases reported Thursday, the county said 411 were confirmed cases and 397 were probable cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the county from March to 105,788 and the number of probable (antigen test) cases to 9,328. None of the new cases were reported to be part of a backlog and, rather, indicate all currently active cases in the county.
"Over the last seven days, we have seen a daily average of 1,108 new COVID cases, a sharp increase from the last reported CDC week where we saw the average daily new COVID cases of 779," said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. "As our numbers grow, our hospitals are filling and our healthcare heroes are becoming stretched and exhausted. It’s important for people to remember that the healthcare safety net is more than beds but includes people, and over the last nine months our people have been worked to new extremes."
The latest victims of the virus include a woman in her 50s from Mesquite who had been hospitalized in the ICU for the disease and did have underlying high-risk health conditions and a man in his 70s from Dallas who had been hospitalized in the ICU for the disease and did not have underlying high-risk health conditions.
County officials said Thursday there have been 1,140 confirmed deaths in the county attributed to the virus and another 19 probable deaths. In the summer, Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang said COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death in the county behind diseases of the heart and cancers.
All of this ultimately means families are now forced to make tough decisions heading into the holidays. Dr. Huang echoed CDC recommendations – to gather virtually or only with the those you live with.
“People gathering with friends and families in their homes may think they’re being safe because they aren’t going out.” said Huang. “In reality, these small gatherings are some of the most unsafe activities because of the close contact you’re having with other people.”
The county added that the provisional 7-day average for new confirmed and probable cases by date of test collection for CDC week 44 has increased from a high of 740 to 779, or 30 cases per 100,000 residents. During the same week, a provisional total of 577 confirmed and probable cases diagnosed in school children between the ages of 5 and 17 increased to 608 cases -- almost a two-fold increase over a month before.
In Tarrant County, there is also reason for concern. Governor Greg Abbott’s order says in any region where COVID makes up 15% of hospital capacity, businesses would then have to reduce capacity to 50%. According to UT Southwestern Medical Center, COVID hospitalizations in North Texas have increased 9% compared to a week ago. However, with all counties combined, North Texas has not hit Governor Abbott’s 15% threshold.
But the recent upswing convinced Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley joins Jenkins in asking for more local authority.
“The order doesn’t give the cities or the police the ability to detain someone and write a citation,” said Whitely. “We need the Governor to let us do what he wants us to do.”
With no indication from Governor Greg Abbott that there will be a full shutdown anytime soon, our fate, said Jenkins, will be determined by our collective behaviors and individual choices.