A spike in COVID-19 cases had Dallas County commissioners expressing concerns Tuesday about pop-up testing sites and the possible need for a pop-up hospital.
Dallas County Health and Human Services on Monday reported 1,831 positive COVID-19 cases, the highest single-day number for the county in this pandemic. New cases exceeded 1,200 for six of the prior eight days. The number on Tuesday was smaller: 645.
Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang told county commissioners there’d been a 163% increase in hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Dallas County from late September to Nov. 15. Although the city of Dallas count was higher, Huang said the Dallas County health department showed just 49 intensive care beds available Tuesday.
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He said the high number of positive tests was like the top of a funnel, which could still result in demand that is greater than hospital capacity in the near future as the funnel narrows.
“And that’s where the modelers are very concerned. The hospitals are very concerned. We’re seeing it in El Paso, Lubbock,” Huang said.
The fear is that disease transmission may rise, despite public pleas for masks and social distancing. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has asked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for greater local authority to add COVID-19 restrictions.
A Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center overflow hospital that was planned in the spring, but not needed, was mentioned again Tuesday.
Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch, who was reluctant about harsh restrictions for residents in the past and critical of planned spending on the pop-up hospital, asked for better data on the growing problem now.
“There may be a limitation on what we can do regarding transmission. People may not listen. And we can throw a $5,000 fine down on them and still have greater transmission going through November. So, I need to know what this funnel looks like in case we do have to stand up the Kay Bailey Hutchison,” Koch said.
Part of the reason for more positive tests is more testing. County Commissioner John Wiley Price raised concerns about testing sites he saw at gas stations.
“I'm seeing them pop up everywhere. How do we have any control?” Price asked.
One of the places Price mentioned was at Hampton Road and Interstate 20, which is listed on the website gogettested.com. The website says locations are operated in partnership with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, the agency Huang said was responsible for testing regulation. The website says the firm has nearly two dozen locations in North Texas, with more on the way.
“It’s like the wild wild west here with what’s been going on with testing,” Huang said.
County officials Tuesday also said they are preparing for distribution of vaccines when they are available, hoping to end the pandemic before local hospitals are overwhelmed.
*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.