More Dallas County residents with coronavirus need hospitalization; Denton County reports 54 new cases

Updated at 7:35 p.m.: Revised to include new Collin County cases.

The number of Dallas County patients hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19 is increasing, county health officials said Friday, as they announced 64 new cases of the disease.

The county says that 111 of the 367 residents who have tested positive have been hospitalized — about 30%.

Of those patients, 40 required treatment in intensive care units, county health officials said. Sixty-five percent of cases requiring hospitalization are either among people older than 60 or people who have at least one high-risk chronic health condition.

As the number of positive cases continues to rise, county officials have put extreme measures like shelter-in-place orders into effect to slow the spread of the virus. County and public health officials say such measures are important to “flatten the curve” of the outbreak, or slow its peak over a longer period of time so hospitals and other health care providers are not overwhelmed and unable to effectively treat patients.

“I’m so proud of the way North Texas is stepping up to this challenge,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Friday in a written statement. “We will get through this together. #StayHomeStaySafe.”

The daily number of new cases was slightly lower on Thursday and Friday after reaching a one-day high of 78 Wednesday.

Dallas-area hospitals urged Gov. Greg Abbott to order residents statewide to stay at home and warned that a surge of patients sick with the new coronavirus could deplete their bed capacity by late April.

Parkland braces for surge in patients

Parkland Memorial Hospital is bracing for a massive influx of coronavirus patients around April 5-9, said Roberto de la Cruz, chief clinical officer for Parkland Health & Hospital System.

“It’d be like a wave. We’re preparing for a surge,” de la Cruz said.

Under normal circumstances, Parkland has 870 patient beds. The hospital is trying to set up space for 300 to 350 more to handle coronavirus cases — especially critical-care patients.

On Wednesday, staff converted half of Parkland’s operating rooms into space for COVID-19 patients, adding 55 intensive-care beds.

The space became available after the hospital put on hold nonurgent medical care and elective procedures after a recent mandate by Gov. Greg Abbot.

“We have limited surgeries, and right now operating rooms are working at about 60 percent their capacity,” de la Cruz said.

Breakdown of Dallas County cases

Dallas County officials release data about new cases each day but provide more detailed demographic breakdowns on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Dallas County officials said 36% of COVID-19 cases in the county are among people 18 to 40. And just over 36% are among people 41 to 60. About 27% of cases are in people over 60.

The city of Dallas has the most cases in the county, with 217 as of Friday. The city with the next-highest number of cases is in Irving, with 24.

The county’s total doesn’t include people who may have been tested in Dallas County but live outside the county. Health experts have said that the number of positive cases will increase as testing becomes more available.

In Dallas County, two drive-through testing sites are capable of testing hundreds of people each day. The sites are at American Airlines Center near downtown Dallas and Ellis Davis Field House in the Red Bird area, and can test anyone who has a fever of 99.6 degrees or higher, is coughing or experiencing shortness of breath.

The site near American Airlines Center has reached its federal testing limit every day after opening and closed shortly before 3 p.m. Friday.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Thursday that Dr. John Zerwas and his team on the governor’s Supply Chain Strike Force have secured a 250-bed mobile hospital to help combat COVID-19, but he is not sure yet where the unit will go.

Jenkins also said Thursday that National Guard may come to Dallas County, but that soldiers would not be in the county in a law-enforcement capacity. He added on Twitter Friday morning that they would only be doing contact-tracing interviews and don’t have the authority to quarantine people.

Postal worker tests positive

A North Texas postal worker has tested positive for the coronavirus, the U.S. Postal Service said Friday.

Postal service spokeswoman Carol Hunt said the employee works at the North Texas Processing and Distribution Center in Coppell.

Hunt said the postal service is reaching out to and will abide by the guidance of local health authorities.

“We believe the risk is low for employees” at the Coppell location, she said, “but we will keep our employees apprised as new information and guidance becomes available.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of spread from products or packaging shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures is low.

Denton County

Denton County reported 54 additional cases of COVID-19 Friday, including 31 residents and staff members at the Denton State Supported Living Center.

The Denton State Supported Living Center reported its first positive cases on March 21, when four people tested positive. Two more people tested positive just days later. There are now 39 cases.

One of the new cases is a staff member at the center but was not included in the county total as they live outside the county.

State-supported living centers provide care for Texans who have intellectual and developmental disabilities and are medically fragile or have behavioral problems. The Denton center is one of 13 in the state and the only one in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

There are now 137 positive cases of COVID-19 in Denton County, health officials said. The county has had one death related to the disease, and 23 people have recovered, according to the health department. No other details were given about the new cases.

The new round of cases include the first reported cases in Argyle, Corinth, Krum and Roanoke, said Denton County Judge Andy Eads.

“Community spread is being seen throughout Denton County now, and we continue to stress the importance of physical distancing,” Matt Richardson, director of the Denton County health department, said in a prepared statement. “With incubation and transmission timelines, we still expect to see cases continue to rise while community members stay home; however, we hope those numbers begin to flatten within the coming weeks.”

The county’s stay-at-home order, which closely resembles Dallas County’s and defines what businesses are considered essential or nonessential, was amended Friday. The order is extended until midnight March 31. It now allows car dealerships to stay open with online sales only and says golf courses are not allowed to stay open.

Collin County

Collin County public health officials reported 32 new cases of coronavirus Friday.

Twelve of the new cases are Plano residents, five each are in Frisco and McKinney, three are in Allen, two each are in Lucas, Prosper and Sachse, and one is in Richardson. Two are in their 20s, two are in their 30s, eight are in their 40s, six are in their 50s, nine are in their 60s, four are in their 70s and one is in her 80s.

In all, the county has had 119 COVID-19 cases. Earlier Friday, officials said they’d removed one case from their total because the patient lives in Dallas County.

The county has had one death related to the disease. Twenty-three people have recovered, seven are in the hospital, and 56 are in home isolation, according to the county.

Meanwhile, four Plano police officers have tested positive for COVID-19, Steve Stoler, director of media relations for the city, confirmed Friday.

The first officer tested positive for the virus last Wednesday and is believed to have contracted the virus during travel to another state.

The department learned Saturday that a second officer also tested positive, Stoler said. That officer was already on administrative leave after having contact with the first officer who tested positive.

The third and fourth officers tested positive on Tuesday and Wednesday, Stoler said. He said the department believes their infection also originated with the first officer who tested positive.

Stoler said none of the officers required hospitalization and were doing well.

“We are very thankful none of our employees required hospitalization or even a doctor’s care,” Stoler said in a prepared statement. “Most have mild symptoms. All of them are expected to return to work soon.”

One of the officers who tested positive this week had contact with two civilians while at work. Both have been contacted, Stoler said.

Employees who may have been in contact with any of the officers, who have not been publicly identified, are now on administrative leave. They will be tested if they meet the CDC guidelines, Stoler said.

Tarrant County

Tarrant County reported 14 additional cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the county’s total to 114.

Fort Worth and Arlington have had the most reported positive cases, with 41 and 18, respectively. The county has had one death related to the disease, and three people have recovered.

Ellis County

Ellis County reported three new coronavirus cases Friday, bringing its total to 13.

Of the county’s cases, Ennis has four, Midlothian has three, Red Oak and Waxahachie have two each, and Maypearl and Palmer each have one. Four cases are in their 30s, four are in their 40s, two are in their 70s, two are 80 or above, and one is in their 50s.

Johnson County

Officials in Johnson County amended its disaster declaration Friday to order residents to stay at home except for certain essential activities.

Residents may leave home to obtain health care, buy groceries, take part in outdoor activity or go to work. Only essential retail stores — which the county says include food providers, gas stations, hardware stores, laundromats, companies that sell products that allow people to work at home, gun stores, pawnshops and real estate companies — may remain open.

County Judge Roger Harmon told the Cleburne Times-Review that the order is different from those issued in larger neighboring counties because Johnson County doesn’t have the same population density. But he added that local officials are “prepared to do what we have to do to keep everyone safe.”

Johnson County announced four more confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing its total to six.

Baylor Scott & White in Southlake closes

Baylor Scott & White in Southlake closed temporarily after two employees tested positive for COVID-19, KXAS-TV (NBC5) reported.

The outlet reported that officials with Baylor Scott & White don’t believe patients were exposed or that the two staff members had any contact with patients while they were showing symptoms.

The location will be closed temporarily for cleaning and sanitation. It’s not clear when it will reopen.

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