North Texas crossed a critical threshold in the number of hospital patients fighting COVID-19 that could trigger bar closings and lower occupancies at stores and restaurants if such cases don’t decrease within a week.
With more than 2,300 patients testing positive for the coronavirus in the 19-county hospital region, 15.05% of all beds were occupied by a person with COVID-19, according to state data.
Hospitals had been approaching the 15% red line — set by Gov. Greg Abbott in October — for several days before the Thanksgiving holiday as the state continued to report record-breaking numbers of new coronavirus cases. On Friday, Texas reported 2,473 new cases and 51 new deaths — a drastic drop compared to recent results likely due to labs being closed for the holiday.
Currently, most businesses in the area may operate at 75% capacity. But under Abbott’s Oct. 7 executive order, businesses will be forced to limit capacity to 50% if they are in a region where more than 15% of hospital patients have tested positive for the coronavirus for seven consecutive days. The rate must drop below the red line for one week before business capacity can rise again.
“As the number of positive cases grows, our health care heroes need your patriotism and sacrifice,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins in a statement Friday. “Please put off get-togethers and avoid crowds to protect public health and the economy.”
The 19-county region includes both Dallas and Tarrant counties as well as smaller counties, including Rockwall, Cooke and Hunt.
A total of 8,518 people were in a Texas hospital Friday with COVID-19, the state reported. That’s about 2,400 shy of the state’s peak, set in July.
Nine of the state’s 22 regions reported at least one day above the 15% threshold this week. And another hovered just below it Friday. The region that includes El Paso was by far the worst, with about 35% of all its hospital patients fighting COVID-19.
Abbott on Friday tweeted a rosier outlook, highlighting that the rate of infected patients at El Paso counties had dropped for two weeks in a row, and the state’s positivity rate has been declining.
Earlier this month, Abbott rejected the idea of once again scaling back the economy statewide. Another shutdown would have a disastrous effect, he said. At the time of his comments — just eight days ago — six of the state’s regions were above the line.
At this point, we’ve basically surrendered. I have no expectation that Abbott will take any action, other than maybe to cheerlead treatment options, for those who will be able to use them. If you don’t want to be complicit in this, do your part – wear your mask, maintain social distancing, avoid public gatherings, and so on. I don’t know why our leadership is so terrible, but it is and it’s up to us to keep our own selves safe.