Tarrant County health leaders point to large gatherings, pandemic fatigue as cause of COVID-19 spike

Tarrant County health leaders say large gatherings are behind the spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Pandemic fatigue is also coming into play at a very key time of year: flu season.

“It’s not just one indicator that’s bad, all of them are bad,” Tarrant County Public Health Director Dr. Vinny Taneja said.

The top health official in Tarrant County continues to reiterate that COVID-19 cases are up, and so are hospitalizations and visits to the ER among people with symptoms of the virus. 

“All of that combined tells us we are in a true surge picture for COVID,” Dr. Taneja added.

Taneja points out that the positivity rate for COVID-19 in Tarrant County hovers near 12.8%, well above the 10% mark he said is considered a so-called line in the sand. 

A culprit remains: large gatherings.

An indicator of that this week was that the Fort Worth bar Ampersand had its alcohol permit suspended by TABC for 30 days after an inspection revealed unsafe crowding and people, including employees, without face coverings.

TABC spokesman Chris Porter, in Austin, said the agency encourages citizens who observe such violations to report them.

“In a very small number of cases we’ve seen so far, there might be instances where we have to take stronger actions, and hopefully that will serve as a wakeup call to businesses affected as well as those near them,” he said.

Dr. Taneja said it’s clear there is still some resistance to wearing masks.

“Please ban this business mask mandate, again, it’s redundant,” one person said at this week’s Tarrant County commissioners meeting.

But he added that another factor is that many Tarrant County residents have simply become complacent, and with the onset of cooler weather and flu season, the looming price to pay with COVID-19 is too high.

“It’s not just bars, it’s any large gathering. The setting doesn’t matter. Whether it’s a smaller, college, sports bar, restaurant, workplace. I mean, everywhere we look, if there are more people together, the likelihood of transmission goes up,” Dr. Taneja explained.