COVID-19 image from the CDC, otherwise known as the coronavirus.

Healthcare

COVID-19: Dallas County Can Test Only a ‘Small Number’ of Patients Daily

Texas as a whole is doing better, but we've got a ways to go.

It has been an interesting day at the D Magazine studios (cooler word than “office”). We’ve had a lot of discussion about how to react to the spread of COVID-19, both managerially and editorially. The latter concern, in the near term, in print, is difficult to address. We are pretty far along into production of our May issue. To a large extent, our hands are tied. Anyway, how to predict the future? What’s North Texas going to look like in six weeks, when the May issue lands in mailboxes?

Which leads me to the managerial stuff. With COVID-19 in mind, what do we do about the people who work here? Should we be doing anything? In this discussion, I feel I’ve been cast by my fellow editors as the Jeff Goldblum character in Jurassic Park. (I’m sure they will suggest a different movie character in the comments.) I’ve been telling them that I see major disruptions in our near future. A week. Ten days. I’ve been reminding them to maintain safe social distance and to wash their hands and to sneeze into their elbows and — well, you get the picture. In response, earlier today I returned to my desk to find a co-worker licking my iPhone. She thought it was funny. When I told her how not funny I found it, I drew some sour looks.

Here’s what we know, folks. About a dozen days ago, there were 600 cases in Italy. That country, on lockdown, now has about 10,000 cases. That’s in 12 days. In the United States, we’re at about 800 cases right now. Many people around me are saying, in so many words, “Sure, but that’s Italy. We’re different. We’ve got just three cases in Frisco and just one in Dallas County.” Feeling like Jeff Goldblum, I say, “Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and, um, screaming.” My words have not been well-received.

The only reason we’ve got four cases in North Texas — officially — is because we can’t test fast enough. From the Texas Tribune today: “The state lab in Austin can only test samples from up to 26 patients per day, while labs in Houston and El Paso can test up to 15 samples daily, officials said. Labs in Dallas, Lubbock and Fort Worth, which can handle a small number of daily samples, are also ready to begin testing.”

A small number of samples daily? That sounds, um, small.

I’ve been arguing, so far unsuccessfully, that those of us who can work from home should be doing it. Not necessarily for our own safety. We are a (mostly) young and (mostly) healthy bunch up here. If one of us were to get COVID-19, we’d likely be uncomfortable but fine. The point is to slow the spread of the virus so that our hospitals aren’t overwhelmed. Read this Washington Post story about social distancing. It’s a civic issue. It’s your responsibility as a member of our community. If you can stay away from other humans, do it.

The Post has decided that, starting tomorrow, its employees will be encouraged to work from home. At D Magazine, our policy is still evolving. I hope to have something to report tomorrow.

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