DALLAS - If the high COVID-19 hospitalization rate continues this week as expected, state-imposed rollbacks on business reopenings would take effect in North Texas.
Monday is the fourth day in a row that the North Texas hospital region is above Governor Greg Abbott's 15% threshold for COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Currently, more than 16% of the patients hospitalized in a 19-county region are virus patients.
After the seventh day in a row, elective surgeries go on hold and restaurants, retail stores and gyms drop to 50% capacity. Bars must also close.
Waco and the McLennan County area have already reached that threshold.
More than 2,400 patients in North Texas hospitals have the coronavirus. If the surge continues, businesses will be impacted and some will be ordered to close.
An illustration of what a coronavirus looks like. (CDC illustration) (Photo Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Multiple North Texas counties continue to see pandemic high's when it comes to COVID-19 patients.
“I am going to run out of people long before I run out of equipment or space,” said Parkland Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Chang.
On Monday, Tarrant County reported a daily pandemic high of 855 COVID patients. Denton County also reported a new high of 143 patients.
As the rapid surge continues, hospitals are asking the state for help.
JPS in Fort Worth says in the next two weeks the state will send about 45 nurses. About 15 of them are ICU nurses.
Parkland Hospital in Dallas currently has 189 temporary workers. Fifteen were sent from the state. That consists of nurses and other staff working in hospitals, jails and testing sites. Another 102 are traveling nurses from an agency.
The current surge is not accounting for the possible new hospitalizations from Thanksgiving infections.
“We are going to turn around and its Christmas. We are going to do this all over again. Then it’s New Years. Talk about the parties at New Years,” Dr. Chang said. “If we want to have a normal-ish January, that means we got to have some serious action now in December.”
The reason doctors keep talking about hospital capacity is because of Gov. Abbott’s order and how it will impact businesses.
Monday marked four days in a row of virus patients accounting for more than 15% of occupied beds in the 19-county North Texas region.
If this continues through Thursday and North Texas hits the state-imposed threshold of seven consecutive days above 15%, elective surgeries will be put on hold, restaurant and retail businesses will drop back to 50% capacity and bars will be forced to close.
John Alexis owns TJ's Seafood on Royal Lane in North Dallas. He says for his restaurants, reducing seats from 75 to 50% won't make a significant impact. But for others, the outcome could be severe.
“Because our restaurants already prioritize social distance among dinners, the difference between 75 and 50% will not affect our businesses directly,” he said. “That is not to say other restaurants that are different shapes, sizes or math equations that it won't have a significant impact that will put them out of business.”
At Parkland Hospital, some of the state nurses are also helping at testing sites.
The state-imposed restrictions that would take effect would last until the hospitalization rate falls below 15% for seven consecutive days.