When Steve Love and the DFW Hospital Council looked at the COVID-19 numbers for North Texas, they didn’t like what they saw. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins shared the data for a study by the Imperial College of London that said 480,000 Texans would die if it continued down the path it was on without a statewide shelter in place. With a statewide order, that number was reduced to 5,000.
Days after declaring confidence in the volume of hospital beds in the region, Love, the president of the Council, joined local mayors in signing onto a letter to the governor’s office to advocate for a statewide shelter-in-place order. (Or as the hospital council prefers to call it, a stay-at-home order.) The council also wanted to offer support to receiving the maximum amount of federal aid and waive some nursing licensing rules to add to the ranks, which he did.
The data didn’t look great for Texas as long as it kept doing what it was doing, and Love says the hospitals wanted to provide a credible voice to slowing the spread. “We’re not saying any one of these models are 100 percent accurate,” Love says. “All we’re saying is, they all show a trend of increased volume. Can we do things to help stop the spread of the infection? We really think we need to get serious attention to flattening this curve.”
Abbott has left the shelter-in-place decision up to the counties, and while Dallas County was the first in the state to issue such an order, its effectiveness will be limited because the surrounding counties in DFW have failed to do so. The lack of a statewide decision means that those in adjacent counties could be continuing behaviors that could contribute to the spread of the disease, which could then find its way back to Dallas. “Many of our hospitals have not only people from their own county, but outlying counties,” Love says. “This is a step in the right direction, as far as helping to flatten the curve, but it probably would be best if we could do it statewide, and not just municipality by municipality.”
Love says that hospitals are continuing to prepare for a surge of patients due to the virus. He feels they are well-prepared and well-supplied, but he sees the shortage of personal protective equipment impacting hospitals around the world. He expects supplies will run short in North Texas hospitals as well. “Our supply managers had done a great job, but we’re beginning to eat away into that,” Love says of the supply of PPE.
The potential lack of equipment contributed to the hospitals’ emphasis on a statewide ban. Reports from around the country describe healthcare workers making their own disinfectant wipes, using construction masks, and rationing protective equipment to deal with the influx of patients. Similar conservation efforts are underway in Dallas, but Love doesn’t know if it will be enough. “They’re being very judicious. They’re conserving it,” he says. “They’re doing everything they can, but it’s hard to predict how big the volume increase could be.”
Despite the hardships ahead, Love says the hospitals are not panicking, and the public shouldn’t either. He knows the impact these measures have on the economy, and he wants to find a balance between economic and health concerns. But right now, the hospitals are worried that according to the data Texas could exceed current bed capacity if no further action is taken.
“All we were trying to do as a credible healthcare resource was to raise our hand and say that we really think we need to do this to stop this infection from spreading and to protect the paper to protect the health care workers,” Love said.