A Fort Worth doctor on the frontline of the COVID-19 battle says the city is prepared for the current spike but worries cases could soar after Thanksgiving, stressing the system and challenging already-exhausted healthcare workers.
Dr. Steven Davis, chair of internal medicine at JPS Hospital, said the county-owned facility has enough ventilators and supplies and beds to deal with the recent surge.
But he added, "What we're really worried about is will we see another spike related to Thanksgiving and another related to the Christmas holidays and another one related to New Year's," he said.
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JPS was treating 66 people with COVID-19 on Wednesday, a number that has held fairly steady in recent weeks.
Since March, JPS reported 140 coronavirus patients have died.
Davis and his team work 12-hour shifts in the COVID-19 unit for seven-day stints and have been treating critically-ill patients since March.
"All the members of our team are tired,” he said. “We have folks who are just exhausted. We will always rise up to be able to take care of folks as a team and we will always figure out a way to get it done. But it would be a lot easier if we could take a break. We will never take a break in the middle of a pandemic.”
Davis said because positive tests in Tarrant County are going up – surpassing 2,000 on Wednesday – the number of new hospital patients will almost certainly increase.
Hospital and critical bed admissions typically follow positive tests by a week or two, he said.
Davis said it is satisfying to see patients recover but heartbreaking when they don’t – especially since they can’t be comforted in person by loved ones.
"Everybody who works in the ICU is also really truly the human connection for these patients,” he said. “I can't imagine if this pandemic happened in the time before Zoom or Facetime so these patients couldn't have a little contact with their families."
For the doctors and nurses, the challenging work comes with the constant threat that they get sick themselves.
During the pandemic, 378 people tested positive at JPS’s employee screening site, the hospital said.
Protecting themselves is an extra burden.
"In our COVID ICU we wear the full hoods,” he said.
The sound of air flowing into the hood through a tube is constant.
“I like to travel and obviously haven't in a while. But it's like sitting on a 737 for several hours with the air noise in your ears,” Davis said.
He cautioned families to avoid large Thanksgiving gatherings and urged them to consider whether the benefit is worth the risk.
"We know the benefits. You want to see your loved ones, you want to be able to celebrate together," Davis said. "The ultimate risk is that a member of your family may not survive if they get COVID."
*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.