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Coronavirus

North Texas’ ICU Capacity Reaches an All-Time Low with ‘Rampant’ Community Spread

Intensive care unit capacity in the region is down nearly 40 percent over the last week. Hospitalization capacity is down as well.

Over the past couple of weeks, hospital capacity in North Texas has been depleted further, even as Dallas County reports fewer new cases of the coronavirus. On July 31, the state reported just 231 available intensive care unit beds in Dallas-Fort Worth, down 38 percent since July 21 when there were 370 beds. Overall, hospital capacity is down 27 percent since July 21 when 2,748 beds were available. By July 31, there were only 1,999 beds. 

Dallas County has recently reported lower case numbers than in weeks prior, with new cases hovering below 1,000 for most days. But increased hospitalizations mean individuals probably contracted the disease days or weeks ago. The increased positive case numbers from past weeks are reflected in current hospitalization rates. 

The lower positive case numbers may also be a result of reduced testing. According to state data, through much of July, Dallas County averaged around 5,000 tests administered per day between public and private sources. But since July 21, there have been five days where under 4,000 tests were administered, meaning the lower case totals may be connected to fewer tests.

Rather than new cases, which can be influenced by testing, Dallas County’s positivity rate reveals that the region is still not out of the woods. The seven-day rolling average in Dallas County is 18.3 percent. The 14-day rolling average is 20.8 percent, both well above the 10 percent threshold that experts say signifies that the spread is under control. 

“There is still rampant community spread, and continued vigilance on all of our part will be necessary to bring it under control,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tweeted this week. 

A recent Yale University study found that most infections are caused by those without symptoms and are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic. The same study found that 18 percent of those who are infected did not exhibit symptoms. Pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals represent more than half of all infections, though most come from pre-symptomatic individuals. This means that temperature checks or other symptom-driven screenings may not control the spread. 

But statewide, the positivity rate has been continually falling, which is a good sign moving forward. The positive cases reflect the number of people tested weeks ago, so it seems that the reduced case numbers are reflective of the statewide mask order imposed in July.

“The virus is still rampant, and residents have a moral responsibility to wear masks, practice safe physical distancing, wash their hands, and practice good hygiene, especially when we are around other people. If someone simply coughs, it can cause infection,” wrote Steve Love, the president of the DFW Hospital Council. 

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