At the end of March, Dallas-Fort Worth hospitals were worried that they might be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. But because of social distancing and stay-at-home, they now feel that they have the capacity to handle the predicted peak in patients in early May.
DFW Hospital Council President Steve Love says the distancing measures are playing a major role in flattening the curve in North Texas. “We started social distancing much quicker than they did in New York and it is paying big dividends,” he says. “I have to credit the people for following the public officials and doing social distancing and staying at home.”
Love wrote a letter to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins saying that data coming from Dallas, Collin, Denton, and Tarrant counties show that, “We believe the hospitals in Dallas County will have the capacity, on their existing campuses, to handle the expected COVID-19 volumes, which should peak later this month or in early May.”
The letter did not mention the hospital in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, which was created in case the existing hospitals grew worried about their capacity to treat severe cases. County Commissioners this week delayed voting on whether to extend the contract with the federally run hospital at the convention center as more data comes in about potential patient numbers.
Love emphasized that while the hospitals will most likely handle the COVID-19 patients, it would be dependent upon the continuation of social distancing until the curve is not only flat, but trending downward.
The hospitals didn’t always have the confidence they now do about the ability to handle coronavirus patients. The DFW Hospital Council asked Gov. Greg Abbott in March to ask for federal relief, make it easier for nurses to begin working, and for a statewide stay-at-home declaration to slow the spread, because they were worried about being overwhelmed. “On March 22, we were extremely concerned,” Love says. “We were absolutely preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best.”
But social distancing and other measures are paying off, he says. Looking forward, Love says hospitals are more optimistic, but not getting ahead of themselves. People need to continue to stay home, wash their hands, distance themselves from others when possible, and take the precautions that have had a positive effect so far. “We’re still worried, don’t be wrong,” he says, echoing Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang. “We’re not out of the woods yet and we have got to stay vigilant.”