Medical expert: 'Deadliest day in Dallas' not best indicator of current state of COVID-19 pandemic

Dallas County is reporting 14 new fatalities from the coronavirus.

The county’s health director gave commissioners an update on the COVID-19 death toll Tuesday morning. It’s the largest number of COVID-19 deaths reported in Dallas County in a single day.

The county judge maintains the latest numbers show the need for residents to continue to stay home and wear masks and social distance. But a least one medical expert says the latest number of deaths is not the best indicator of the current impact of the virus. They say it may be an indication of the community spread from weeks ago.

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The health department also reported 225 additional positive cases, bringing the county’s total to 7,904 cases, including 191 deaths.

The patients who died were between 40 years old all the way up to their 90s. Five were residents of long-term care facilities in Mesquite, Dallas and Irving.

In the last two weeks, Dallas County has seen 200 or more COVID-19 cases daily. But last week, the county reported its fewest deaths in a single week since April 19.

As more businesses reopen, there is a difference of opinions as to how bad community spread is in the county.

“Texas, throughout this entire process, has had one of the lowest death rates in the United States. That said, we are always concerned about every single life,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a FOX 4 interview. “In Dallas in particular, even though you had these number of deaths today, you see the hospital capacity is not compromised in any respect. There are plenty of hospital beds, ICU units, plenty of ventilators. Dallas retains the capability of being able to respond to the challenges of COVID-19. ​

County health leaders say the best way to track community spread is in hospitals by looking at hospitalizations, ICU beds and deaths.

Right now, 65 percent of ICU beds are occupied in the county.

Dr. Phil Huang says just because ICU beds occupancy has been steady, it doesn’t mean you should leave your home frequently.

“The effort isn’t just... We have enough ICU beds to take care of people that we want to say we want to open up, and we are happy if people get sick because we have enough ICU beds. That’s not the goal,” Huang said. “It’s really to try and prevent death and minimize illness.”

Dr. Robert Haley from UT Southwestern had a slightly different opinion, saying deaths aren’t a good indicator of the COVID situation because recent deaths are from people who were sick weeks or even a month ago.

“The deaths can go up or down, and it’s not an indication of what’s happening in the last few weeks,” Haley said. “That’s why we are looking at the number of admissions and ICU admissions. Those things are not determined by testing. They are people who are just right now developing inability to breathe.”

Governor Abbott says he thinks people will be safe moving forward and continues to encourage face coverings, although they're not required.

Meanwhile, Dallas County is trying to encourage people to stay at home with its threat level system which only recommends what to do and what not to do.

Governor Abbott said he was advised to keep retail stores at 25 percent to reduce the amount of people inside buildings.

RELATED: Interactive map of Texas COVID-19 cases