Tarrant County

‘We're Struggling' Tarrant County Health Director Says

At the current pace, Tarrant County could double the amount of COVID-19 cases in three weeks, according to health director

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Tuesday morning Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja told commissioners court that his department is face challenges due to the number of COVID-19 cases that continue to roll in.

The county reported 757 new cases on Tuesday with 10 new deaths.

"Quite honestly, we're struggling as a health department of just trying to keep up with just the volume of information coming in and what needs to be processed and all the work that needs to be done,” Taneja said.

He said the acceleration time of the outbreak has been so great, that cases are now doubling in 23 days versus 38 days about three weeks ago.

“It’s not a forward-looking forecast, it’s what we’re seeing and experiencing,” Taneja said to the court. “23 days ago, we were about half of where we are now, so what’s does that mean for the future is kind of hard to say, but if we maintain this pace, then in 23 days we’ll be double this number.”

According to Taneja, there’s been a lot of discussion on where the outbreaks are occurring.

“The numbers have been coming in so fast, that we are not fully done with the investigation of all of it, but what we are seeing a trend has shifted out to community outbreak,” Taneja explained.

But there’s still facility outbreaks happening.  For example, Taneja said there’s currently one happening at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, which is the women's medical prison.

Last week 51 inmates and two staff members tested positive.

Taneja said the county has provided 1,400 testing kits to the prison and using a commercial lab to process them, but have sent about 100 or so to the county lab.

"On the weekend we made arrangements and gave them the supplies and they're planning to do the testing this week and again, that's why we're helping them so they can arrange for their space because they're going to have to move people around, so they’re on top it,” Taneja said.

There are about 500 employees at the prison.

The county said it planned on testing 100 staffers who had signed up to get tested through a county program, but it was rescheduled.

In the community, Tarrant County is working on making testing more available to people who may work during the week. 

Taneja said since they launched the COVID-19 website two months ago, around 33,000 people have used their online screening process. 12,4000 have signed up for appointments to get tested. Just last week, they had more than 500 appointments. This doesn’t include private testing or other government testing.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Tarrant County has conducted 120,120 tests.

Tenaja said the county is significantly lower compared to Dallas County, which has 208,058 and Harris County, 351,760 because of the federal testing sites.

When it comes to hospitalizations, currently there are 585 COVID-19 cases in Tarrant County hospitals, which Tenaja said makes up for 10% of all available capacity.

He said they have capacity and around 1,800 or so beds, pre-surge, meaning they could add close to an additional 4,000 beds in the event, there’s an overflow, but Taneja said, "The question is, do we want to be tested?”

County leaders continue to urge people to wash their hands, practice social distancing and wear masks. 

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley mandated people to wear masks a week before Gov. Greg Abbott mandated it for counties with more than 20 cases.  At Tuesday’s meeting, some members from the public spoke against it, including one woman who stated that it, "violated their basic fundamental human rights to live life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

On June 25, Judge Whitley held a press conference and was joined by several doctors including the president of the American Medical Association, Dr. Susan Bailey.

"This needs to be about science and research and not about emotion and politics," Dr. Bailey said.

"Early on, we did not realize there were a lot of people walking around that had COVID-19 that were spreading it to others and had no idea they were sick. When we realized that, we changed our recommendations and said you know, it’s best if everyone starts wearing a mask."

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