DALLAS - Dallas County leads the state with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths. On Friday it reported 64 new cases for a total of 367 cases, including seven deaths so far.
State officials also said Friday that one of the three Texas National Guard units that have been activated will be based in the county.
The 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team is based in the DFW area.
Dallas County officials said hospitalizations are increasing from the virus, with 36 percent of those hospitalized having to be sent to the ICU. Two-thirds of the hospitalizations are partients either 60-plus or have at least one high-risk chronic condition.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday officially deployed three Texas National Guard brigades to help with the coronavirus response.
The head of the Dallas County Medical Society talked Friday about those guard members, many retired health professionals and what both groups might do.
The three brigades are very distinct: one versed in standing up facilities, another has its expertise in the medical field, a third has previously been key in the distribution of supplies.
The National Guard’s mission, across the state and here in Dallas at this time, is two-part: to help set up and staff drive-thru testing sites and support our healthcare system by delivering supplies and equipment.
As this pandemic continues, it is the National Guard that will find places that can become healthcare facilities and convert them into hospitals.
There are not specifics, at this time, about how many more drive-thru testing sites there could be, or where the supplies and equipment for our healthcare providers will be delivered.
And we don’t know how many makeshift hospitals will be built yet.
Judge Clay Jenkins said on Thursday the Texas National Guard mission would be medical, not military. He hoped the guard along with health care professionals would be in neighborhoods and do what Jenkins called disease detective work -- tracing community contacts of someone who tested positive.
But Gov. Abbott said no such request has been officially made, yet.
Judge Jenkins' chief of staff said Friday that they have been finalizing the requests and did not know the timeline for when they would make it to the governor.
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“Contact tracing is very important and these are the lessons we're learning from areas around the world that have been able to gain reasonable control,” said Dr. Mark Casonova. “This is a two-pronged approach. In an ideal world, if we were able to be ahead of the virus by a certain distance, contact tracing is the key. Where we're at right now is we're in a mode of trying to contain the virus that has already spread into the community, so that's where social distancing staying at home is so important.”
The governor said there has been an increase in testing in Texas by 1,000 percent in the past week.
Treating the sick is where the retired health professionals come in. Of the 160 who have come forward so far, 80 percent are former North Texas doctors and nurses. They will be used to fill gaps in medical care caused by the all-hands-on-deck response to COVID-19.
“If an outpatient internal medicine doctor is now serving as a hospitalist, as a physician working in the hospital and that hospitalist is now serving as an ICU doctor, that leaves a gap -- a necessary gap in that outpatient setting. So that would be the first way that we would look at utilizing our brethren and sisters,” Casonova said.
“Of course if a clinician has a particular skill set, maybe they're a retired critical care physician or a retired respiratory therapist, then some of those are looking probably at jumping in in a much more frontline aspect in this battle that we're waging.”
Denton County had its biggest one-day sprike yet on Friday, with 54 new cases announced for a total of 137. Of the 54 new cases, 31 of them were at the Denton State Supported Living Center.
Tarrant County added 14 cases on Friday, bringing its total to 114. There’s also one death in that county. Collin County has 88 cases, including 11 in Plano. One person in the county has died.
In other parts of North Texas there are far fewer reported cases of the coronavirus. There are at least 10 in Ellis County, three in Rockwall and Johnson counties, two in Kaufman County, and one in Cooke, Erath, Fannin, Grayson, Hood, Hopkins, Hunt, Navarro, Parker and Van Zandt counties.
Coronavirus health tips
While COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus, daily precautions recommended to prevent respiratory illnesses are the same:
• Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer when you can't wash your hands.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue away. If you don’t have a tissue, use the elbow of your sleeve. Don’t use your hands to cover coughs and sneezes.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home when you are sick and keep children home when they are sick.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
• Get a flu shot. (Although the flu shot does not protect against COVID-19, it is flu season.)