Dallas County reports record number of new COVID-19 cases on Thursday

Dallas County reported a record number of new positive COVID-19 cases on Thursday, one day before many businesses will be allowed to re-open at reduced capacity.

Health officials said there were 179 new cases and five deaths.

It's the highest one-day total anywhere in Texas, but it's now including tests for some asymptomatic essential workers.

The increase in cases comes from the increased testing of “frontline workers,” like grocery store or big box retail employees, who no longer have to have any symptoms to be checked out.

The deaths are: a Balch Springs man in his 20’s, a Dallas man in his 60’s, a man in his 70’s at a Dallas nursing home, a woman in her 80’s at a Dallas nursing home, a woman in her 90’s at a Dallas nursing home.

“All of the above information points to the importance of limiting unnecessary shopping trips and avoiding crowds in this worsening situation,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “With the Governor’s order set to open still more businesses tomorrow, your smart decisions to protect you, your family and the community are more important than ever.”

As many more businesses reopen, some medical experts have said we should be looking deeper than just the number of cases.

Every day, counties report the number of cases and deaths related to COVID-19, and public health experts say that's important.

But as testing ramps up, including of asymptomatic patients, the number might rise faster, giving us a more accurate idea of the virus' footprint, but a false sense of the direction we're headed.

On the eve of more businesses re-opening, there was a reminder that COVId-19 is still very much present in North Texas.

“The 179 we had today are the single largest number we've had in a day since this started ,” Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang said. “As things open up, just because they're open, doesn't mean you have to go out, so that there are choices that people can make.”

Dallas County officials said some of the increase is due to expanded testing at county drive-thru sites, but could not provide specific numbers.

Ten days ago, the county announced frontline workers at places like grocery stores, and big box stores, can be tested even if they don't show symptoms.

Dr. Huang said epidemiologists are also looking at other data to track the spread of the virus...

“We're also really looking at some of the hospitalization numbers and numbers that are going to the ICU, we'll also be looking at deaths,” he said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in an interview with FOX4 Wednesday that cases will tick up in part due to testing increases.

“The math you want to look at is not the number of positive tests, it's the ratio of number of positive tests to the number of people tested,” he explained.

The governor said the statewide ratio has dropped from 10 percent, to about five and half percent.

“I always like to look at the percent positivity of those tests because it is true that you can have an increase number of tests that are coming out because there's more testing available,” Dr. Diana Cervantes said.

Dr. Cervantes teaches at the UNT Health Science Center, and was a top public health official at the state during the Ebola crisis.

She agreed that looking at the percent of positive cases is helpful, along with other data.

But while overall, statewide numbers have dropped, she hasn't seen enough positive evidence in places like Dallas County.

“It's still a lot of COVID-19 going on out there that’s, it's still happening. So I think it is a little bit early because we haven't seen that decrease,” she said.

Cervantes also mentioned syndromic-like illness as another statistic to watch that counties are reporting.   

If a person comes in to a clinic with COVID-19 symptoms, but for some reason isn't tested, they are still included in that group of data reported out every day.

People don't have to wait for results to come back, so it can give officials early heads up if there is a resurgence of cases.

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Health officials said of those who have been hospitalized and reported where they work, neearly 80 percent are so-called "essential workers" like health care, transportation, food/agriculture and first responders.

Dallas County now has a total of 3,531 COVID-19 cases and 104 deaths. The county does not issue numbers of recoveries.

Tarrant County had 61 new cases and 3 new deaths reported Wednesday, for a total of 2,149 cases and 61 deaths.

Collin County reported 18 new cases and 1 new death on Wednesday, for a total of 710 cases and 20 deaths.

Denton County had 10 new cases and no new deaths reported Wednesday, for a total of 748 cases and 20 deaths.

RELATED: Interactive map of Texas COVID-19 cases