Health officials: Dallas County coronavirus peak could be late April if social distancing continues

Dallas County health officials said Wednesday they believe the peak of coronavirus COVID-19 could occur by late April or early May if people keep following social distancing orders.

The announcement came on Wednesday, the day that the county reported 63 new cases, along with its COVID-19 20th death -- a Rowlett man in his 60s who did have underlying high-risk health conditions.

The county now has 1,324 confirmed cases of the virus, but officials said they believe the strict measures are working to slow the spread of COIVD-19.

Health officials say their models now show the curve is flattening. But they say the peak is in the coming weeks.

“All the interventions are making a difference,” said Dr. Phillip Huang, Dallas County Health and Human Services Director. “It is flattening the curve, but we need to be vigilant.”

“That doesn't mean take your foot off the gas,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “Staying focused on this mission is the best way to save lives.”

During a Wednesday press conference, Dr. Huang showed two models. The first model showed if no restrictions were in place, it would result in an estimate of 17,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Because of the stay-at-home order mitigating the spread, the second model shows a dramatic decrease of expected peak hospitalizations.

“So it’s a flatter curve more drawn out, but it is definitely lower peak,” Huang explained. “And that's within the capacity that we have within our community.”

The federal department of health and human services also extended drive-thru testing at American Airlines Center and Ellis Davis Field House through May 30.

“We will be able to move to a less invasive nasal swab, and it will save us on PPE,” Jenkins said. “We are running short on PPE and will be less painful for you.”

County health officials say most of the deaths are from people with underlying conditions. About 37 percent of those deaths were people who had diabetes.

Dr. Huang and fellow leaders say the county is not even close to being out of the woods yet, but continuing to social distance at all levels will keep us headed in the right direction.

All the interventions, the Stay Home, Stay Safe, are making a difference. It is flattening the curve,” Huang said. “But we need to be vigilant. Based on our own data, it suggests the curve is flattening. “

When it comes to hospital capacity, the latest data shows 53 percent of beds in the county are occupied.

Jenkins says he is in constant communication with state and federal leaders to keep the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center as a pop up hospital if needed.

Huang also met with the Dallas City Council on Wednesday and answered their questions about what the next few weeks and months look like.

“What numbers are you looking for to cautiously recommend we open things up a little bit? Because if the standard is no new infections, we are never going to do it,” said councilman David Blewett.

Huang declined to give a firm date.

“We are all looking continuing to evaluate what data we get. We need to get through this wave, and the peak, and at this point we need to be vigilant and see how this all progresses,” Huang said.

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Dallas councilman Casey Thomas expressed concerns that it is taking too long to get test results back. It’s taking on average 5-10 days to get results.

“We agree,” Huang said. “Relates to capacity. Commercial labs are pushed to the limit.”

Council members also approved spending for COVID-19 related items: $1.2 million for personal protective equipment for two years and $1.5 million to buy RV's to serve as quarantine shelters for first responders.

The council approved extending contracts with hotels to house the homeless, as well as shelter first responders. The hotel contracts will now cost $1.8 million and will run until September 23. The city is now sheltering 90 people without homes in hotels due to the new social distancing requirements at shelters.

Tarrant County reported one new COVID-19 death on Wednesday after seeing a spike in deaths earlier in the week. The county now has 19 deaths because of the coronavirus. The most recent patient to die was a Euless man in his 30s who did have some underlying health conditions.

On Tuesday, Tarrant County health officials reported five deaths, the largest single-day spike since the pandemic began. It prompted the city of Fort Worth to close parks to traffic on Easter Sunday.

Mayor Betsy Price asked residents to avoid gatherings during the holiday weekend.

“It’s a difficult time, but we simply can’t have everybody congregating for Easter egg hunts,” she said. “Do your Easter egg hunts at home.”

In Denton County, there are 366 total cases with seven deaths. Collin County has 343 cases with four deaths.

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