FORT WORTH, Texas - Tarrant County is less than 30 deaths away from matching the current death toll in Dallas County.
In just the past two days, more than 50 deaths have been reported. And with COVID-19 hospitalizations again nearing 1,500, there are fears the situation will only get worse.
Tarrant County is reporting 1,817 new cases on Tuesday and 30 additional deaths.
But as the case count continues to climb, hospitals in Tarrant County have avoided fully maxing out ICU beds.
"The bad news is they’re having to triage and make these decisions," said Tarrant County Health Director Dr. Vinny Taneja. "Somebody who would have normally qualified for ICU care is now being told we’re going to manage you outside of the ICU because we’re starting to get full."
As of Tuesday night, the county had 14 available ICU beds.
Earlier in the pandemic, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley says local hospitals determined they could make 2,000 additional hospital beds available if necessary. So he isn’t surprised hospitals are figuring out how to manage.
"I think they’re making adjustments in a couple of different ways," Dr. Taneja said. "First off, they have stopped if not every elective surgery. So that frees up beds."
Stephen Love with the DFW Hospital Council adds that North Texas hospitals have been referring to their surge plans by putting two patients in a room, putting ICU beds in recovery rooms and conference rooms and putting up tents in some rural areas.
Love says hospitals are working with each other to make sure they keep available beds.
"If we get into mass critical guidelines, that’s going to be a very difficult situation," Love said. "We’re going to do everything we can not to apply that here, like what we’re seeing in California."
Still, Dr. Taneja calls it dangerous to have limited ICU space available.
"My fear is that we’re probably going to see some more deaths," he said. "And that is not good for our community."
With a half million more residents, Dallas County is reporting 1,791 deaths while Tarrant County is reporting 1,762. The difference is just 29.
Tarrant County now has access to deaths that were previously only reported to the state but not the county. Based on that, the county added 127 deaths to its total last Friday from October, November and December.