The Fort Worth area is entering the most dangerous phase of the new coronavirus outbreak, city and county health officials said Tuesday, noting that cases of the virus are likely to increase even if an increase in hospitals is avoided.
The city and county residency order and social distance mandate, which has been continued through April 30, appear to have diminished the effect of the virus on hospitals, said Brandon Bennett, Fort Worth’s health officer and commander of the emergency surgery center. But if residents don̵
“This is one of the more risky times in viral transmission,” Bennett said. “It’s the time when we really need people to stay home, to isolate and social distance … it’s critical.”
Tarrant County’s top health officer, Vinny Taneja, said he is concerned – especially when Easter looms – that people are not following home-at-home orders as much as they did when orders first came out.
After an emergency was first declared on March 13, Taneja said he saw a sharp slowdown in traffic.
Now he sees an increase in traffic, especially around lunchtime, Tanea said Tuesday after county council commissioners met to formally approve Judge Glen Whitley’s extended disaster order urging residents to stay home until April 30. Fort Worth City Council approved the same extension Tuesday afternoon.
“It tells me that people are starting to become self-giving,” Taneja said. “We are starting to see an increase in the number. So this would be a good time to be attentive and stay home. “
Especially because the expected increase in COVID-19 cases may come before the end of the month.
As of Tuesday, there were 517 coronavirus cases in Tarrant County, with 18 deaths and 53 recoveries. Dallas County reported more than 100 new cases Tuesday, bringing the total there to 1,261.
While Fort Worth and Tarrant County adopted guidelines to curb coronavirus after Dallas, Bennett said those restrictions came at a time when local spread was not as strong as in Dallas.
“We haven’t reached a peak yet,” said Commissioner Roy Brooks, who attended the county commissioner meeting by phone. “Although we feel good about the people who have recovered (and) accept it as a blessing, it is not an indication that we are reaching any kind of peak in this society.”
He and others said that there may be countless people infected with coronavirus who do not show symptoms or even know that they are sick.
“All we can do is try to do the best job we can to treat the patients presenting,” Brooks said. “And urge everyone in the county … to stay home.”
It includes bypassing large family gatherings for Easter.
Bennet emphasized that Easter Sunday and Easter may be the reason for Fort Worth’s ability to weather the outbreak without rushing to hospital. A peak in patients can occur within five to seven days after the Easter weekend, if people gather in large groups, which Bennett called “unacceptable.”
“We are doing much better, celebrating this Easter at home and looking forward to a bigger Easter in the years to come,” Bennett said.
City Tuesday announced that it will close vehicle access to popular city parks on Easter Sunday. Gatherings of all kinds outside a household have been banned, including Easter parties and egg hunts.
Taneja urged residents to abolish the celebration and mark the holiday with their immediate family if they all live in the same home.
“I know it’s very difficult. We want to be with the extended family, he said. “Please, take this seriously. You don’t want to give it to a grandmother or grandpa when you haven’t even had it. “
On Tuesday, commissioners formally approved Whitley’s modified disaster claim, which also broadened the definition of major businesses, terminated religious services and removed a reference to pricing of grocery stores because the attorney general’s office will handle these cases.
Whitley said after the meeting that he does not hold much hope that he will be able to lift the order by the end of the month.
“People need to understand that we look at this daily, we talk to our health community, our hospitals, and if we feel we can relax a little, we will,” he said. “It is so important to stay at home right now.
“The only way we will beat this is to do the social distance, let this kind of work go through and then hopefully we can start again.”
Bennett said it is possible that home orders will continue into May.
By the third week of April, Bennett expects to be able to project whether the residency order should continue or be scaled back. He expects the city to slowly open if viral transmission is flattened, rather than revoke the entire order at once.
Beds, masks and more
Taneja told commissioners that 131 hospital beds are used by the sick with COVID-19.
There are more than 2,100 available hospital beds, and more may be available soon, he said. There are about 700 fans, with about 200 in use, and they’re not necessarily from people who are fighting coronaviruses, he said.
He encouraged people to follow the CDC’s guidelines for wearing masks – even if they are homemade – when out in public.
“Make sure your mouth and nose are covered,” he said. “If everyone does, we have a very good shot at reducing the transfer in our county.”
A case by case was expected to hit Texas around May 5 when hospitals were expected to be overcrowded by patients, according to forecasts from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. This projection has moved the spike to April 19, when there will be more than enough beds to handle coronavirus patients in the state.
Forecasts show that the curve in new cases can become flat, which means the peak becomes less extreme, Bennett said. While hospitals are seeing new coronavirus patients steadily, intensive beds or ventilators have not been available.
It can change if people do not stay home.
“We will see a spike in patients who do not make it through the virus, and they die,” he said.
When it comes to changing masks, he said they are designed to be disposable, disposable. In general, people will wear them all day. “When they get wet and dirty, you throw them away,” Taneja said.
During the meeting, public comments came in via telephone calls.
One resident said she was concerned about those in prison and how they cannot protect themselves through social distance. Another resident said she would like to see the number of cases of coronavirus broken down by race. And former Texas House speaker Gib Lewis in Fort Worth sent a letter praising the county’s leaders for the work they do to keep society safe.
Tarrant County commissioners also extended the pandemic pay for county workers by another week. This salary covers employees at work, those who telecommunicate and all employees who are sent home who can be called back to work at any time.
During the meeting, Taneja stressed that there is no vaccine and no cure and said it is up to every resident to take coronavirus seriously and stay home to reduce the spread.
“We’re in this together as a community and we have to work together,” he said. “And we will get through this.”