Texas, Tarrant County seeing increases in COVID cases

Tarrant County is reporting an increase in hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

Like much of the country, Tarrant County is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases.

On Tuesday, Tarrant County Public Health officials announced there were 544 COVID-19 patients in the county hospitals, up from 510 the day before. The county’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 716 additional cases in the county.

“We’re definitely seeing a surge even though the last week,” said Vinny Taneja, director of Tarrant County Public Health, speaking to the Tarrant County Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday morning. “I think we seem to have stabilized a little bit on the hospitalizations. We’re hanging around the 500 mark … We saw a little dip into about 480s, I think over the weekend and now we’re back up again. But I’m liking that there’s at least a plateau giving us a little bit of a room here, but overall, the trend is up.”

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Also on Tuesday, the Tarrant County Public Health reported three COVID-19 deaths. The deceased include a woman from Arlington in her 70s as well as a man and woman from Fort Worth in their 70s. All had underlying health conditions.

Tarrant County now has 742 confirmed deaths from the COVID-19 virus and 54,399 people have recovered.

On Wednesday, the country reported 709 new COVID cases and three additional deaths, bringing the total to 745. There were no additional details on the deaths.

Taneja said the current uptick in cases is a little different than it was in June to early July when there was a rapid escalation in cases.

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“This time around it’s a little bit more cautious. That means things have changed. People are following advice, we’re wearing masks and other options that people were asked to do [are having an impact],” he said.

Tarrant County is not out of the woods yet, Taneja said.

“I do expect that if nothing changes, we’re going to match the peak or exceed it,” he said. “Our positivity rate is at about 11%. So as you can see, its kind of bounces around, I think the recent uptake we had was about 12% and I think it got like 12.9 and backed off to 11 something. So we’re kind of flatlined on the positive rate.”

Taneja said there are several indicators that are giving him a “little bit of optimism that maybe we’re kind of plateauing and we can bend the curve down. You just never know what’s going to happen in the future, but it’s flatlined for about two weeks here.”

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Statewide, Texas has surpassed California in recording the highest number of positive coronavirus tests in the U.S. so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

As the coronavirus pandemic surges across the nation, the data from Sunday — the most recent available — says that there have been 938,503 cases in Texas, the nation’s second-most populous state.

California, the most populous state, has had 938,119 cases, followed by Florida with 812,063.

The true number of infections is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

More than 29 million people live in Texas. The state’s cases per 100,000 population is 3,269.84. By comparison, California — home to more than 39 million people — has a rate of 2,371.56 cases per 100,000.

A summer surge of cases overwhelmed hospitals in Houston and along the hard-hit border with Mexico. But in the fall case numbers dipped, and Gov. Greg Abbott began relaxing some coronavirus restrictions, allowing restaurants and gyms to let more people inside. He also let county leaders decide if they wanted to reopen bars at 50% capacity.

But cases and hospitalizations are once again on the rise.

The Johns Hopkins data shows that Texas’ seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate has risen over the last two weeks from 7.12% to 10.72%. Nationwide, the positivity rate was 6.6%.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Texas rose from about 4,470 new cases per day to about 6,070.

Active cases were estimated at 105,658, the most since Aug. 26, and 63.5% more than when active cases bottomed out on Sept. 20. Almost 5,800 COVID-19 hospitalizations were reported in Texas Monday, 87.3% more than at the Sept. 20 low point.

Texas health officials have reported more than 18,000 deaths so far from COVID-19.

In recent weeks new hot spots have emerged in places including the rural upper Midwest and along the U.S.-Mexico border El Paso, where Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has sent additional medical personnel and equipment.

Last Thursday, El Paso County officials ordered a two-week shutdown of nonessential activities after the area’s medical resources were overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego says they’re struggling to find space for the increasing number of people dying and are setting up a fourth mobile morgue unit at the medical examiner’s office.

Samaniego said Monday that the county had a backlog of more than 90 deaths that needed to be investigated.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

“So how do we bend the curve?” asked Taneja. “Certainly, take your flu shot if you haven’t taken it this year. There’s plenty available and people are encouraged to go take their flu shot. We want to make sure that flu is out of the equation. That way we only have COVID to contend with.”

He also said residents should continue to wear masks and stay at home as much as possible. – additional reporting by Associated Press