Hospitalization and ICU Bed Usage Going Up In Dallas

As the state prepares to reopen more businesses and officials continue to monitor the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a lot of information to take in. Here are today’s bullet points.

  • Hospitalization and ICU Bed Usage Going Up In Dallas
  • Dallas County Reports 186 Additional COVID-19 Cases, Five More Deaths
  • Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, Speaker Bonnen Direct State Agencies To Reduce Budgets By 5%
  • Community Celebrates Dallas ISD Class of 2020
Hospitalization and ICU Bed Usage Going Up In Dallas

Mayor Eric Johnson said 25 hospitals reported their ventilator and bed capacity Tuesday. Of the 5,713 total beds available, 3,735 (65%) were occupied, of the 828 total ICU beds available, 588 (71%) were occupied, and of the 945 total ventilators available, 318 (34%) were in use. 

Johnson said the latest numbers mark the highest the ICU occupancy number’s been for any single day since they began tracking them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I wouldn’t read too much into it yet. It’s one day, so it’s something we’re going to keep our eye on,” he said during a Wednesday press conference. “After a conversation I had with the governor a week or so ago, he assured me that if we ever got into the danger zone, you know consistently above that 70% number starting to creep up, that he would step in very swiftly to assist us with increasing ventilators, getting ventilators here on a moment’s notice, and helping us address our capacity issues.”

Johnson added there’s still the ability to prepare the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center to help increase capacity if needed.

Monday, Johnson’s office reported that, of the 5,713 total beds, 62% were occupied. Of the 826 ICU beds available, 68% (or 562) were occupied. And 325 of the total 945 ventilators available were in use.

Johnson also addressed Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement reopening more businesses this week.

“We’re now in phase II of the governor’s reopening plan. I realize that there is intense interest in how this is going to go because we haven’t yet seen a decrease in the number of positive cases here in Dallas County, although we do appear to have plateaued for the time being,” he said. “As I’ve said numerous times, the governor has the ultimate authority in a public health emergency under state law, so I’m not going to waste time or energy Monday morning quarterbacking what the governor’s already decided, but I am going to caution our residents again that reopening does not mean a return to normal…we are still in the middle of a pandemic.” 

He also encouraged residents to continue wearing masks in public, following social distancing guidelines, and practicing good hygiene.

“This virus is still present and it’s still spreading in our community. I know we’re all tired and we want to return to some semblance of normal. We all want this economy moving again, but we have to do it responsibly or we risk further interruptions and, possibly, more loss of life,” Johnson said. 

According to a color-coded chart published on Dallas County Health and Human Services’ website, the county remains in the red zone now, which indicates a high risk for community transmission of COVID-19 and in which county officials recommend avoiding nonessential travel as well as restricting activities and gatherings.

The county’s COVID-19 Health Guidance for the Public is available here.

Dallas County Reports 186 Additional COVID-19 Cases, Five More Deaths

Dallas County Health and Human Services Wednesday reported 186 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total case count in Dallas County to 8,090, as well as five more deaths.

The latest deaths include a 40-something-year-old Irving man, a 50-something-year-old Farmers Branch man, a 70-something-year-old Grand Prairie woman, a 70-something-year-old Mesquite man, and a 70-something-year-old Dallas man, officials say. All had been hospitalized and one was a resident of a long-term care facility.

“Today’s number of cases is markedly lower than what we saw last week and now halfway through the week we’re seeing a healthy decline in the number of new positive cases. We have not seen an appreciable increase in testing yet in Dallas although there has been some increase in testing with the opening of some Walmart, Kroger Health and other sites. So this is somewhat of an apples to apples comparison over the last three weeks. We’ve seen an increase, then a plateau, and now we’re seeing a gradual decline. The doctors tell me to temper my optimism on this and that the key numbers to look at are ICU admissions, hospital beds and deaths but I’d rather see the number of new cases going down than up. Again, how well we do is dependent on the smart, personal decisions of all of us: avoiding unnecessary crowds, maintaining 6 foot distancing, wearing our face coverings on public transportation and at businesses, plus practicing good hygiene. As more and more businesses open, we must focus not on what is legal but on what is safe as advised by the doctors. You can find their advice at www.DallasCountyCOVID.org,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.  

More than 80% of cases requiring hospitalization who reported employment have been critical infrastructure workers, with a broad range of affected occupational sectors, including: healthcare, transportation, food and agriculture, public works, finance, communications, clergy, first responders, and other essential functions.

Two-thirds of cases requiring hospitalization have been under 65 years of age, and about half do not have high-risk chronic health conditions. Diabetes has been an underlying high-risk health condition reported in about a third of all hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

More than a third of the 196 total deaths reported to date have been associated with long-term care facilities.

Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, Speaker Bonnen Direct State Agencies To Reduce Budgets By 5%
Photo courtesy Office of Gov. Greg Abbott

Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen Wednesday sent a letter directing state agencies and institutions of higher education to each submit a plan identifying savings that will reduce respective general and general revenue-related appropriations by 5% for the 2020-2021 biennium.

In the letter, the officials also urge state agencies and institutions of higher education to pursue cost-saving strategies that will not affect the state’s response to COVID-19 such as forgoing capital expenditures that can be deferred, any avoidable travel expenditures, any administrative expenses that are not mission critical, and keeping unfilled any open positions that are not essential to COVID-19 response.

“As Texans recover from this pandemic, it is incumbent that state government continues to maintain mission critical services without placing a greater burden on taxpayers,” the letter reads. “We are confident that Texas will get back to work and continue leading the nation in job growth, economic innovation, and business creation. However, it will take months until we know the true extent of the economic ramifications of COVID-19, and how combating this virus will impact state finances. To prepare for this economic shock, we must take action today to ensure that the state can continue providing the essential government services that Texans expect.”

Read the letter.

Community Celebrates Dallas ISD Class of 2020

Lastly, we end today’s digest with a way to celebrate seniors. The community is also being asked to step outside from 7 p.m. to 7:10 p.m. for a district-wide ovation for the class of 2020. The district announced Reunion Tower will have a light show in honor of the class of 2020 at 8 p.m. after the ovation. 

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

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