Dallas County breaks daily record with 253 new COVID-19 cases

Dallas County set a record for new daily cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, a feat that has occurred on a day-to-day basis for nearly a week.

On top of the record number of cases in Dallas County, the health director says there has not been two consecutive weeks of reduced hospitalizations or deaths. There is concern the county itself isn't ready to move as fast as other parts of the state.

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Dallas County Health and Human Services reported 253 new positive cases and seven more deaths.

Of the cases requiring hospitalization, health officials say 79 percent of them have been critical infrastructure workers. About 65 percent of the cases have been people under the age of 65, and about half of them did not have high-risk chronic health conditions.

The new deaths include: a Dallas man in his 40s, a woman in her 50s who was at a long-term care facility in Richardson, a Dallas man in his 50s, a Dallas man in his 60s, a man in his 60s who was at a long-term care facility in Mesquite, an Irving woman in her 60s and an Irving man in his 70s.

The new numbers bring the grand total in Dallas County to 4,623 cases and 121 deaths since the pandemic began. Dallas County does not report the number of recovered cases.

In hospitals around Dallas County, Dr. Phil Huang says they have seen an increase in ER visits and ICU beds in use. He says the CDC and President Trump have advised a slow reopening of states, saying there needs to be two weeks of reduced cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

While that may be the case in a majority of Texas, Huang says that’s not the case in Dallas County.

“Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean that you should,” Huang said. “In terms of decision making, that is what we are looking at.”

Governor Abbott surprised some by saying salons and barbershops can reopen Friday in a limited capacity. It came just a week after retail stores and restaurants were allowed to open at 25 percent capacity.

Health officials in Dallas County say before the statewide order, cell data showed more foot traffic from people not showing physical distancing.

With more businesses now opening, Huang and Jenkins say it’s up to you to control the trajectory of COVID-19 in Dallas County.

“How well we do it without having a second wave is depended on you,” Jenkins said. “It’s based on three things: stay away from large crowds, six feet away and wear this face covering.”

Heated Debate at Commissioners Court

Dallas County commissioners also had another heated debate Tuesday about Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins' shelter at home order, which is still in effect.

Many parts of Jenkins’ order now match the rules set by Governor Greg Abbott, but there are differences in some details.

The Dallas County order expires May 15. That raised a lot of questions from two of the commissioners.

Commissioners John Wiley Price and J.J. Koch had tough questions for Jenkins and Dr. Philip Huang about why the order is still in place when the governor has eased restrictions.

Frustration mounted for some Dallas County commissioners over what it means to flatten the curve and the data that’s driving decision making.

Price filed a motion to rescind Judge Jenkin’s safer at home order set to expire May 15. Koch is in his corner, grilling Dr. Philip Huang about what’s still necessary to address the pandemic since cases haven’t overrun hospitals as originally feared.

“When we look back to your April 3 presentation, you stated to us it is a crisis or a problem when we receive 900 individuals with COVID-19 in the hospitals. We have room at this current trend for an additional 600 bed spaces to be filled up and still be able to take care of it,” Koch said. “So you are recommending the same thing that you recommended on April 3rd, given a much more dire outlook. There seems to be no recalculating.”

“We can bump up to the maximum that we can handle with our hospital capacity, but there will be additional lives lost as a result of that,” Huang warned.

Jenkins, Huang and other doctors say you have to study the trends and look at hospitalizations and deaths. They say those numbers going up are better indicators of how the disease is spreading as opposed to total cases, driven up by more testing. They point to New York City, with numbers that exploded in a week’s time.

Koch and Price argue the court needs to establish an acceptable rate of case increase and not ask people to stay home if the numbers are still relatively low.

But Jenkins and Huang say it’s the restrictions that have helped keep the numbers down to begin with.

Ultimately, there was a lot of heated debate but no vote. The motion was pulled for two weeks, which will be after the safer at home order expires.

RELATED: Interactive map of Texas COVID-19 cases