With lower rates of COVID, officials are cautiously optimistic

Lower rates of COVID
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins talks about wearing mask to prevent community spread of COVID, July 24 – The Dallas Examiner screenshot/ social media

 

Special to The Dallas Examiner

 

Since the first case of 2019 novel coronavirus in Dallas County, the Dallas County Health and Human Services reported has reported 46,813 cases of COVID-19 – of which 25,475 became infected in July. Of the 605 total confirmed deaths since March, 232 died in July – with record highs of 20 and 30 deaths on three separate days.

Of the total confirmed deaths reported to date, about a 1/3 have been associated with long-term care facilities. Though efforts have been made to have individuals in long-term facilities tested, the numbers may indicate a need for greater prevention efforts.

Local health officials have stated that the cases Dallas has seen recently was due to changes made three months ago.

In late April, Gov. Greg Abbott began issuing orders to reopen business across Texas. In June, Dallas County Commissioners Court issued a mandate that businesses require all guests to wear masks while in their buildings. Still, the number of cases began to rise from an average of 200 new cases a day in May to 400 to 600 by mid-June. But it was July that saw the highest rate of cases, in Dallas County as well as many cities across Texas.

As the number of infected Texans skyrocketed, Abbott issued a statewide mask mandate July 2. But by then, many residents had become infected.

Since July 1, DCHHS has reported 20 days of over 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID throughout the county – hitting record numbers with the highest recorded number of infected individuals at 1,267 on Saturday.

“Today is our highest day for reported new cases. Additionally, the 18 deaths reported today make this the deadliest week thus far in the outbreak,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said.

He called on the public to wear masks whenever outside their homes and to avoid unnecessary trips and any establishment where a mask cannot be worn the entire time.

“I know today’s numbers are disappointing, but if we continue to do what science tells us is necessary to keep ourselves safe, we’ll see benefits. I again call on Gov. Abbott to listen to the advice that doctors have given for the last month to close all businesses where masks cannot be worn 100% of the time, including: in-restaurant dining, youth sports, community pools, high-intensity workout classes, gyms, cigar bars, day camps, arcades, movie theaters, bowling alleys, amusement parks, concert venues, sporting arenas, group weddings or other large events or any other venue where there are high-touch surfaces and masks cannot be worn at all times.”

However, the county began to see numbers drop between July 21 and July 24.

“I believe we are beginning to see a positive trend due to the masking order that Dallas County implemented a month ago that was later followed by Gov. Abbott and made statewide,” Jenkins stated. “The fact that our numbers are down though does not mean that we can afford to relax what we’ve been doing. One 100% mask wearing around other people outside your home is critical to our success going forward.”

This month, the county experienced an increase in young adults between 18 to 39 years of age. Of the cases requiring hospitalization to date, more than 2/3 have been under 65 years of age. Diabetes has been an underlying high-risk health condition reported in about a third of all hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

Of cases requiring hospitalization who reported employment, over 80% have been critical infrastructure workers, with a broad range of affected occupational sectors, including: health care, transportation, food and agriculture, public works, finance, communications, clergy, first responders and other essential functions.

July has also seen an alarming increase in adolescent cases. During the first three weeks of this month, over 1,450 children under 18 years of age have been diagnosed with confirmed COVID-19 – 29 of the children have been hospitalized with four admitted to intensive care units.

There have been over 98 confirmed cases in children and staff reported from 65 separate daycares in Dallas County since June 1, including 3 staff members requiring hospitalization.

On July 24, a 5-year-old boy who had contracted the virus died. He had been critically ill in an area hospital, and had underlying high risk health conditions, according to DCHHS.

“Sadly, today we announced the death of a 5-year-old child from COVID-19. This is our first pre-teen death here in Dallas County. I want to point out to the public that we have seen a sharp uptick in children getting COVID,” Jenkins warned. “Parents, it’s imperative that children, like everyone else, follow the guidelines to stay safe.”

But with the mask order, there may be a little hope and health officials remain cautiously optimistic. Between July 21 and July 27, the DCHHS reported 800 or less additional confirmed cases of COVID-19, with the exception of July 25. The lowest numbers recorded this month were 413 on July 22 and 426 on Sunday.

“Today’s numbers are lower than they have been since July 22,” he said Sunday. “Although there is some concern that some of the testing may not be getting through on the reports due to a potential glitch in the state’s electronic laboratory reporting system, I’m increasingly optimistic that your use of masks and sacrificial delay of unnecessary trips outside the home for things other than necessities are having an impact on flattening the recent explosion in cases since the governor’s Open Texas plan was implemented.

“Please keep wearing your mask and don’t let up on making smart decisions. Public health and our economy can’t afford it.”

Jenkins warned that the number of those hospitalized with COVID continues to be high. He went on to state that the community needed to continue to be vigilant and follow health guidelines.

“We continue to see businesses operate where masks are not possible 100% of the time and, pursuant to the recommendations of our public health experts, ask the governor to close these businesses,” Jenkins stated, calling the governor to close topless bars and cigar bars.

On Friday, Jenkins held a media conference announcing an order to close all sexually oriented business and remaining bars.

“While the governor closed the bars that make over 50% of their revenue off of liquor, these establishments make their money off of tips, lap dances, etc. And so, somehow they’ve managed to stay open,” he stated during a media conference.

Jenkins stated that he and Dr. Philip Huang, Dallas County Health and Human Services director, sent a letter to Abbott the day before, encouraging the governor to take action or tell them why they could not shut down the aforementioned businesses. They received no response.

The county judge explained the decision came in response to several complaints about various businesses where wearing a mask and/or social distancing was not possible or not enforce.

Other businesses he said county doctors have asked patron not to visit was dine-in restaurants, youth sports, summer day camps, bowling alleys, movie theaters, gym activities like spin classes, and any other business where masks can not be worn all of the time and social distancing does not exist.

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