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COVID-19 hospitalizations could prompt new restrictions if trend continues, North Texas officials say

COVID-19 patients now make up more than 15% of hospital capacity in the North Texas trauma region — a statistic that could trigger business closures and capacity reductions, according to officials in Tarrant and Dallas counties.

The number was around 15.21% of capacity as of Tuesday morning.

If the number of COVID-19 patients continues to stay at or above 15% of total capacity for at least seven days in a row, bars will be closed and other businesses, including restaurants, will be reduced to 50% capacity under state guidelines.

The chief medical officer at Parkland Health and Hospital System said the hospital has been above the 15% threshold for weeks.

“It’s just taken the 19 counties a while to catch up, I think. In fact, well over 20 percent of our volume is COVID and rising daily so it doesn’t surprise me,” said Dr. Joseph Chang.

There are about 150 patients who either have COVID-19 or are recovering from the disease at Parkland. The peak for the hospital was almost 190 patients with the novel coronavirus during the summer, he said.

UNT Health Science Center report predicts hospitals in Dallas or Tarrant counties could reach capacity in the next 30 days if COVID-related admissions don’t change.

Health officials are urging people to remain vigilant about following guidelines, including wearing masks, staying physically distant from others outside the household and regularly washing their hands.

“Not only is it disheartening to see folks come in, get sick and sometimes not go back out; what is more disheartening is when we see our community treating this like it’s not a big deal,” Chang said.

Tarrant County health officials reported there are currently 804 people hospitalized because of COVID-19. This is the first time there have been more than 800 people in Tarrant County hospitals with COVID-19.

“We can’t afford more outbreaks,” said Vinny Taneja, the Tarrant County public health director.

He said he worries there could be a spike in cases after Thanksgiving. Hospitalized coronavirus patients in the county make up 16.78% of hospital capacity, he said.

Dallas County health officials reported there are currently 758 hospitalizations in the county. This is the highest it has been since mid-July.

Gov. Greg Abbott has repeatedly said anything above 10% should be considered a “warning flag.”

Tarrant County commissioners and Judge Glen Whitley extended the local disaster declaration through Feb. 28, 2021, citing that the county and its residents continue to be negatively impacted by COVID-19.