Parker County Judge Pat Deen is not concerned about the increase in active COVID-19 cases, saying officials anticipated that number to go up. He said he is, however, concerned about people dropping their guard.
“We have 27 [active cases] out of 140,000 people that we know about, so it’s very manageable. We knew that number was going to go up and fluctuate given the number of tests we’ve done. I don’t have a concern,” Deen said. “What concern I do have is that we keep this in perspective that it’s not over, that while we continue to open up — and I’m very much for opening businesses and getting back to a pre-COVID condition — we do it in a way that is cautious. We know this is contagious, it still exists and people continue to test positive, so we’re still in the midst of a pandemic and nothing is over yet.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott along with other state officials addressed Texans Tuesday afternoon addressing hospital capacity and COVID-19 numbers, saying there are 14,993 total hospital beds available in Texas, a 78% increase since March 18.
“[Tuesday], there were 64 people who tested positive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who were added to hospital beds, but there were about 250 beds more available in that region. The same is true for the Houston area. In Houston there are 65 more people who tested positive hospitalized, but 183 beds that became available,” Abbott said. “We are now in a situation where we are coexisting with COVID-19 where we do not have to choose between returning to jobs or protecting healthcare. We can achieve both of those ends — jobs can be maintained without jeopardizing our health, if everyone follows the safe strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. [There are] 2,518 people who tested positive who are hospitalized in the state of Texas. That’s really a small percentage of all the beds that are available. There’s only one region in the state of Texas where COVID patients represent more than 10% of the hospital beds available and that would be Galveston County. The average is 6.3% of the hospital beds are occupied by COVID patients.”
Abbott said those strategies that Texans can use to help reduce the spread of the virus include wearing face masks, sanitizing hands frequently and using safe distancing practices.
Deen said along with practicing safety, residents who may not be as concerned with COVID-19 should respect others that are.
“The second thing that needs to occur is respect. There’s going to be varying opinions and we have to respect each other and work together because it’s not right to criticize someone who is being very careful. When you pull back the layers of some of these people that are being cautious, they have children, loved ones, relatives that have pre-existing conditions and they owe it to themselves to be responsible to not bring that home and spread it to someone that could be at more risk,” Deen said. “That’s concerning to me, we’re quick to criticize and I think that’s just simply the stress that’s been put on our society. We’ve had our way of life altered.”
Deen said the Parker County COVID-19 Task Force and his office has met with local hospital officials.
“The current strategy with Medical City is we transport those that have this because they have the isolation, they have the technology there that’s setup in Arlington and they’re nowhere near capacity with the beds that they have available and that strategy will continue if we did have an outbreak here, which we do not expect. In talking to the CEO of Medical City, they would be transferred over and they have an 80-bed capacity for those local,” Deen said. “So we do have a plan in place if something did happen and we had an outbreak here. We’re prepared for that.”
On June 10, Texas saw a record of 2,504 residents test positive for COVID-19.
Abbott said there are reasons behind why that number was so high. Jefferson County, which averages about 12 to 15 cases per day, saw 537 positive tests on June 10 and according to Abbott, the reason was from a batch of 520 tests from prison inmates that came back on that day. Pecos County, which averages one or two positive tests per day, reported 92 positive COVID-19 tests on June 10; however, because of a data error, the correct number was two positive tests.
Deen said testing will continue to be a high priority in Parker County.
“We have 2,461 that were tested, we have 112 [total positive cases] and then 2,188 that tested negative, so one would say with a population of 140,000 that’s still a small number and that’s true, but we don’t expect to test everyone. If you don’t have symptoms, there’s really no reason in getting tested,” Deen said. “I think we’ve been very proactive in working with our healthcare network in keeping those tests local rather than having [residents] drive to Fort Worth. As I understand, the Willow Park testing has stopped due to the heat. That was the feedback we received, that they were going to put a hold on it for now because of how the weather is right now. We hope that picks back up again because that is another drive-thru site that helps here. We’ll continue to work with [Texas Department of State Health Services] to continue more drive-thru testing. We don’t have the schedule of when that’s always going to be, but that’s something that DSHS puts out and then notifies us.”
Abbott said Tuesday would show another new high of people who test positive at about 2,622 and that increases in batch testing in some Texas counties as well as delays in reporting could be contributing factors.
Abbott said something else that the state learned was that the majority of those testing positive at this time are under the age of 30.
“This results from people going to bar-like settings. It’s hard to tell exactly where those people contracted COVID — it could be Memorial Day celebrations, bar settings or some other type of gathering,” Abbott said. “TABC issued a warning to bars and restaurants across the state of Texas that serve alcohol.”
That warning included a 30-day suspension of liquor licenses for violation of Abbott’s executive order followed by a 60-day suspension for another violation. Abbott said this is to ensure that all are following the standards that were issued.
As for any type of point to which Parker County would have to move back into a lower phase of Abbott’s executive order, Deen said it’s not defined clearly.
“The understanding that I have is that it would have to be a serious outbreak where these numbers continue to trend upward at a drastic level and what we’re doing is failing. Now that it’s 75% capacity, you’re almost back to full capacity where now there’s actually somebody sitting next to you, more people around you. I think the main thing is there is a trigger, we don’t know what that is and the state is monitoring and they have said they will pull back,” Deen said. “We just don’t know what that number is. We are at 27 active cases, we’ve clearly not had an outbreak that jeopardizes where we’re at. I do feel comfortable that the state is tracking this in a way that if these numbers get out of control, then they’ll starting pulling back.”
Deen said the task force continues working daily and makes adjustments as needed to any plans that will keep the COVID-19 cases to a minimum.
“I have not let up, nor has our task force and our emergency operations team. We still have conference calls each week and will continue to do so and continue to have a very strong plan in place that adjusts every single day to work on keeping those numbers low,” Deen said. “There are silos of people that have specific responsibilities that vary from monitoring and working with doctors, continuing to expand on the network of testing, pushing for more drive-thrus and all of these things are happening at once. I feel very good about what the task force is accomplishing. Together with all the cities, the county and health professionals, it’s been very successful.”