Tarrant County surpasses 1,000 COVID-19 deaths as hospitalizations reach record high

COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations and cases are rising rapidly across north Texas, and Tarrant County is seeing some of the most concerning trends.    

There have been 129 deaths reported since last Tuesday and more than 20 each day since Friday.

The county surpassed 1,000 deaths since the first fatality was reported on March 17. The 129 deaths in just seven days account for nearly 13% of the total.

Hospitalizations also increased to a daily pandemic high of 958.

Health officials say part of the increase is due to Thanksgiving gatherings, but it’s also the continued social gatherings amongst friends.

The rising number of cases is pushing hospitals towards their limits.

Tarrant County reporting 22 COVID deaths on Monday, marking its fourth consecutive day of more than 20 deaths.

The overall death toll in Tarrant county pushed past 1,000 on Monday to 1,014. And 1 in 5 hospital beds in Tarrant County is currently being used by a COVID patient.

Dr. Veer Vithalani works in the ER at both John Peter Smith and Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospitals in Fort Worth.

“There’s only so much space in the hospital. There’s only so many staff to take care of you when you’re in the hospital,” he said.

To make up for the lack of staffing North Texas hospitals have contacted traveling medical staff, and the state has provided medical resources.

“If we reach a point where the hospitals are overflowing with patients, then the diseases or processes that would normally be handled really easily may end up getting worse because of the fact that there’s not enough space in a hospital,” Dr. Vithalani said.

Cook Children’s Hospital on Monday reported it saw its highest positive case count of the pandemic last week with 492 COVID cases in seven days. There are currently 17 pediatric COVID patients there.

Texas Health receives its first doses of vaccine on Tuesday with more expected in North Texas as the week progresses. Those vaccines will go toward protecting healthcare staff.

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley warns families against COVID fatigue.

“The vaccines are arriving this week. We’re excited about that, but we can’t let our guard down,” he said. “If you’re getting together with your family, instead of just wearing the masks outside, wear the masks inside too.”

Dr. Vithalani says while just knowing a vaccine is on the way gives healthcare workers a morsel of hope, he and his colleagues are still worried, looking ahead to Christmas.

“I think we are reaching, hopefully what looks like the endpoint here,” he said. “But the important thing is until we can get the majority of the country vaccinated, until we can achieve herd immunity through vaccination, we still need to be careful.”

While the state has contracted healthcare workers, Dr. Vithalani says there are only so many licensed in the state. He worries that eventually there may not be enough nurses to continue to give patients the care and attention they need.