COVID testing

Tarrant County reported a pandemic high of more than 2,100 new coronavirus cases and nearly 800 hospitalizations Wednesday, the same day Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price tested positive for COVID-19.

“As we head into the holiday season, we continue to ask everyone to remain vigilant and prioritize the health and safety of our community by wearing a mask and social distancing,” Price said in a statement. Price’s husband had tested positive for the virus just hours earlier.

County data showed coronavirus patients accounted for more than 15% of hospital bed occupancy for a second straight day. If that rate continues for seven consecutive days, stricter health precautions that include bar closures and reduced restaurant capacities will go into effect, in accordance with Gov. Greg Abbott’s October executive order.

Public health officials are alarmed at the trends. On Tuesday, Vinny Taneja, the county’s public health director, issued a public health warning asking residents to help flatten the curve. But because of Abbott’s previous executive order limiting the authority of local officials to close bars or set curfews, the warning does not come with any mandates.

Taneja also noted that there are only 36 intensive care unit beds still available in Tarrant hospitals, a situation he called “dire.” The county is asking bars to close voluntarily to help stop the spread, and County Judge Glen Whitley urged churches to go back to online services earlier this week.

Across the state, public officials have urged constituents to avoid holiday gatherings with anyone outside of their household, and Fort Worth published guidance this week that recommended small, outdoor meals.

In August, during the county’s previous peak, more than 4,000 residents tested positive per week. This past week, more than 7,000 did. Throughout Texas, cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising steadily after passing the 1 million case count last week. Despite the rising numbers, Abbott has said no more lockdowns are coming.

On Wednesday, WFAA-TV reported that Tarrant County’s contact tracers identified at least eight people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the county who said they recently attended events at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, where the Dallas Cowboys play. The most recent exposure was one person Nov. 8, when the Cowboys played the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While other NFL teams have scaled back the number of fans they’ve admitted to games, Jerry Jones, the Cowboys’ owner, said in a recent radio interview he has no plans to do so after averaging around 25,000 fans per game.

Several national conventions and sporting events will also be held next month in the city, which has some in the industry worried about possible spread. The National Cutting Horse Association will hold its four-day world championship in Fort Worth’s Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, which is allowed to operate at 50% of its nearly 3,000-person capacity. The “Super Bowl of rodeo” will also take place next month, with more than a week of festivities and events in Tarrant County inside hotels and convention centers.

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