North Texas COVID-19 hospitalizations stay above 15% for fifth day

For a fifth day, North Texas COVID-19 hospital cases have stayed above 15%.

Dallas and Tarrant counties on Tuesday both reported a pandemic-high when it comes to hospitalizations.

If the trend continues through Thursday, businesses will be forced to limit capacity or close down and hospitals will have to postpone elective surgeries.

Right now, more than 16% of the patients hospitalized in our 19-county region are virus patients.

As the seventh day approaches that would trigger capacity rollbacks, health officials say everyone needs to show discipline as hospitals brace for possible Thanksgiving impacts.

Tuesday marks the fifth consecutive day above the state-imposed 15% hospital capacity threshold. It’s set to trigger reopening rollbacks in North Texas after day seven.

Dallas County hospitals reported on Tuesday 806 COVID-19 patients, which is the most since late July.

“We are hearing from all the hospital systems that they have either exceeded the highest levels they've seen or very close,” said Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang.

On top of the growing concern in the hospitals is the community spread with new positive cases.

For the month of November, more than 4,900 school-aged children and school staff in Dallas County tested positive.

Dr. Huang says contact tracing shows some spread is in homes.

“Small to medium-size gatherings, whether its people going to bars, restaurants, going to birthday parties, going to weddings,” he explained. “The occupancy may go from 75 to 50%, but we recommend don’t go indoors to restaurants and do other things.”

Contact tracing continues to be a struggle. It’s something other counties in Texas also have issues with. In Dallas County, only about 50% of people respond.

County leaders were frustrated in Tuesday's commissioner's court meeting because millions of dollars have been invested. But to some, there has not been a substantial return on that investment.

“I know that contact tracing does work, but we are facing a deadline,” said Commissioner JJ Koch. “If the deadline is such that we cannot definitely say that $1,000 in contact tracing is more valuable than spending on hospital beds and medicine, we have to shift the funding.”

Dr. Huang says contact tracing is becoming even more difficult because they're getting an average of 1,400 new cases a day. But he says it helps prevent people from ending up in the hospital.

“Everything we do is to slow down the spread,” Dr. Huang said. “If we can prevent one case from being transmitted and prevent them from going to the hospital and ICU and prevent death, that’s what we are trying to do.”

Health officials say despite the pandemic highs, there is no plan to create field hospitals. They say room can be made if needed in hospitals.