As May came to a close in North Texas, COVID-19 related hospitalizations looked to be trending downward and flattening from their peak in mid-May, but an uptick since June has more people in the region’s hospitals than ever due to coronavirus infections.
Hospital capacity is not in the danger zone yet, but public officials are getting stronger in their warnings about the need for social distancing and wearing masks. A rush of cases could end elective procedures, force officials to impose shutdowns, and send the economy back into a tailspin. As of June 11, the DFW area had 705 hospitalizations due to COVID-19, up from 521 on Memorial day, a gain of 35 percent.
The Texas Department of State Health Services keeps a massive amount of data online tracking everything from tests to outbreaks in long-term care facilities for regions around the state. Part of that data set is the number of hospitalizations by Trauma Service Area, which is a state designation for regions of Texas. The Dallas-Fort Worth Trauma Service Area has consistently had more people in the hospital than any other area, though Houston has at times had more people in the hospital due to coronavirus.
The third phase of Texas’ reopening began in early June, which enabled bars and restaurants to operate at 50 percent capacity as well as theme parks in areas with fewer than 1,000 COVID-19 cases. On Friday, June 12, restaurants are allowed to be open at 75 percent. In Houston, the uptick coincided with the third phase, and even though Dallas-Fort Worth hospitalizations were flat through early June, they have spiked in recent days.
Vox named Texas as one of eight states that experts are worried about as new COVID-19 hot spots, and Dallas County has added the fifth most cases in the country in the last several days. “I’m concerned because over the last few days we have seen an increase in those numbers,” says Dr. Kelvin Baggett, the city of Dallas’ COVID-19 Health and Healthcare Access Czar. “I am concerned that we are seeing hospitals go back to near peak levels and that we are still in summer. We are not in the fall where we might also have influenza and other respiratory illnesses and seasonal events.”
Protests, presidential fundraisers, and other gatherings have only exacerbated the problem. Pandemic fatigue is also a factor, as residents become tired of staying home, socially distancing, and avoiding group gatherings.
But as economic woes continue and unemployment continues at record highs, pressure is on to get back to business. Buzzfeed reports that things are set to get worse in the fall as government stimulus ends and evictions and loan payments return: “The US economy right now is like a jumbo jet that’s in a steady glide after both its engines flamed out. In about six weeks, it will likely crash into the side of a mountain.”
Late last month, D CEO hosted a panel discussing the reopening of the North Texas economy, where local business leaders shared their thoughts and experience about navigating between economic doom and the pandemic. Jorge Corrall, the managing director of the Dallas office of the professional services company Accenture, shared his thoughts about getting back to business. “This is going to evolve in phases over time. We are not going to back normal in the near future. We all have to redesign for business as unusual.”