DALLAS - Health experts say there are some small signs that the statewide mask mandate put in place before the Fourth of July weekend is slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus in North Texas.
A report released on Monday says there is no need for another statewide shelter-in-place order — at least right now.
Although North Texas hasn’t seen a decline yet and more deaths are expected, experts say there are indications the mask mandate is having an impact.
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For the 18th day in a row, Dallas County reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases.
The county added 1,026 new cases on Monday and one death, a man in his 80's who lived in a long-term care facility with no serious, underlying health conditions.
“We're reporting 1,026 new cases today. That's our eighteenth day in a row of a thousand or more,” explained Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang. “The one thing is that we are seeing a slowdown in the rate of increase of hospitalizations.”
Doctors say it’s encouraging in that last month the rate of spread was 16 days away from putting Tarrant County hospitals at capacity and about 44 days for hospitals in Dallas County. For now, that threat has passed.
Dr. Rajesh Nandy is an associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at UNT Health Science Center.
“Encouraging in the sense that we're certainly happier to reach a plateau,” he said about his new report. “I mean that doesn't mean we are out of the woods. Far from it.”
Nandy’s fifth COVID-19 report out Monday shows the mask mandate is making a difference, but he warns we can’t become indifferent again.
“If there is another surge, then it would be really hard if not impossible to contain the surge,” he warned. “We cannot afford to become complacent by looking at a little bit of good news in terms of stabilizing. What we want is a decline, so we're not there yet.”
Dr. Mark Casanova is president of the Dallas County Medical Society.
“Unfortunately, while there’s a glimmer of hope, there’s also the realization that we may very well continue to see an elevated death count that may even increase in the short term,” he said.
Dr. Casanova says that’s because of the lag time between symptoms, serious sickness, hospitalization and death.
“For those that are not successful and that eventually pass away, that usually occurs on average a couple to several weeks of being hospitalized and typically in the ICU,” he said.
During an interview with FOX 7 Austin on Monday, Governor Greg Abbott again pushed face coverings as new cases across the state begin to show signs of leveling off.
“If a person is not wearing a seatbelt, they stand to injure themselves. If a person is not wearing a mask, they stand to injure somebody else by causing somebody else to contract COVID,” he said.
Governor Abbott echoed that the state may avoid another shutdown if people continue wearing masks.
“The study did point out that if people do continue to wear masks, it should be able to avoid a lockdown in the state of Texas,” he said.
The past week in Dallas County, the number of new cases has dropped slightly. Governor Abbott is seeing that trend statewide.
“If it goes from a plateau or stays flat or down, there won't be a need for a shutdown,” the governor said. “If those hospitalizations skyrocket once again, that would mean we would be running out of hospital beds in the state of Texas, which would mean further restrictions would be required.”
But masks cannot protect the people who are already sick, in the hospital, fighting for their lives.
There is still no sigh of relief from doctors.
“I think people got the message. We let our guard down a little bit around Memorial Day weekend,” Dr. Huang said. “But I think people are getting the message this thing is serious. We're going to have to have a new normal.”
The new normal is wearing masks, watching distance and washing hands.
Doctors emphasize we won't know for sure for another 10 to 14 days whether we are moving in the right direction, but it looks like the more people face cover the more we are slowing COVID-19 spread.