Tarrant County Health Director Dr. Vinny Taneja says COVID-19 hospitalizations have reached a critical threshold in North Texas.
Taneja says as of Tuesday, COVID patients occupy just more than 15% of hospital beds in the North Texas region.
Dr. Joseph Chang is the chief medical officer at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. Tuesday, he and other DFW health officials reported the region surpassed 15% of occupied hospital beds in the region with COVID-19 patients. It’s the first time since the pandemic started.
The doctors say the information comes from a Regional Advisory Council and that the official data from the state is lagging behind. State records show North Texas at 14.35%.
That's important because if the state data shows this region hitting 15% for seven consecutive days, that will shut down bars again and force other businesses to reduce occupancy.
Trauma Service Area E is the 19-county region that includes Dallas, Collin, Denton, Tarrant and other North Texas counties.
“The report we reviewed has showed starting yesterday evening that TSAE is above 15%. We are at 15.21%,” Dr. Taneja said during a Tuesday meeting.
It’s a telling barometer given Gov. Abbott’s executive order that states when hospitalization rates for the region hit 15% and stay there for seven days, business reopenings begin to scale back.
However, a discrepancy in the data begs the question when will the clock actually begin ticking.
“The problem is the state data somehow is not showing that we believe there may be a lag on how they capture the information,” Dr. Taneja said. “They’re showing we’re at 13.8%, and that’s below the 15% threshold. That’s from DSHS.”
“I am concerned that the percentages are going to get there and that we are ultimately going to be looking at the governor’s order bringing it back down,” said Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley.
The judge is sticking close to the hospital landscape. With currently 36 ICU beds available in all of Tarrant County, he says he’s listening to those who run them.
Health officials are bracing for a post-holiday surge.
Dr. Chang is in constant communication with his counterparts in the other 18 counties that make up North Texas Trauma Service Area E. Parkland went back to visitation restrictions this week.
“If you have more than 15 people in a group, I can almost guarantee you someone in there has COVID but they don’t know it. So we aren't saying people are going around recklessly spreading the virus. They don’t know it. That’s the problem,” Dr. Chang said. “I will see my family over the holidays, but I will do it in groups of five to six or smaller. That’s the way to do this smart. The other thing to do: get outside.”
Until a vaccine is widely distributed, masks are the best protection.
As well, frustration is detected. At this stage in the game, Dr. Taneja is having to remind people how to wear a mask.
“Don’t be doing this. 90% of COVID comes out of your nose. If you’ve got it below your nose, that’s a problem,” he said. “You have to wear it right all the time.”
Due to the holiday, Dallas County will not report cases Thursday and Friday.
Tarrant County won’t report from Thursday to Saturday.