Report: Masks Could Help Avoid Another Shutdown

As Dallas County continues to report 1,000 or more new cases of COVID-19 per day and local officials work to slow the spread and keep the economy open, there’s a lot of information to take in. Here are today’s bullet points:

  • Report: Masks can help avoid another shutdown;
  • Dallas County reports 18th day of 1,000 or more new COVID-19 cases;
  • Allred calls for federal support for testing supplies;
  • Office of the Governor, Dr. Francisco Cigarroa release Spanish language COVID-19 PSA.
Report: Masks Can Help Avoid Another Shutdown

 A new report by the University of North Texas Health Science Center says masks help slow the spread of COVID-19, and may even be enough to avoid another shutdown in North Texas, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Dr. Rajesh R. Nandy, associate professor of biostatics and epidemiology at the Health Science Center’s School of Public Health, noted that the basic reproduction number, which indicates how contagious a virus is, was significantly above 1 before mask requirements went into effect and reflected the surge in cases in North Texas in June.

“Basically people returned to normal [in June] and that without masks contributed to a deadly surge,” Nandy told the Dallas Morning News

Gov. Greg Abbott’s order requiring masks in most public spaces statewide was effective July 3, but Dallas County’s order requiring businesses to require masks went into effect June 20.

“While mobility data through July 13 shows overall declines from the highs of mid-June, declines appear to have halted last week,” new data from UT Southwestern Medical Center states. “The mobility activity related to the July 4 holiday weekend appears to be muted and helped mitigate the disease’s impact on hospitalizations.”

In the DFW area, UT Southwestern Medical Center data as of July 17 shows hospitalizations because of COVID-19 increased 3% compared to a week ago and 124% compared to a month ago.

In Dallas County, hospitalizations increased by 92% compared to a month ago and 2% compared to a week ago.

In Dallas County, total COVID-19 hospitalizations are predicted to increase to between 700 and 1,100 concurrent hospitalized cases by July 30, and roughly 1,250 new COVID-19 infections per day are projected by July 30, per UT Southwestern.

Dallas County Reports 18th Day Of 1,000 Or More New COVID-19 Cases

Dallas County Health and Human Services Monday reported 1,026 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total case count in Dallas County to 42,292, as well as an additional death.

The death reported Monday was of an 80-something-year-old man who lived at a Dallas long-term care facility. Of the 526 total deaths reported to date, about a third have been associated with long-term care facilities.

“Today marks our 18th day in a row reporting over 1,000 new COVID-19 cases. Fortunately, we only had one death today although each life is precious. The most important thing for you to do right now is to stay home whenever possible and wear your mask when around people outside your home. It’s up to all of us to #FlattenTheCurve. Specific things to avoid are in-restaurant dining, gyms and indoor workout facilities, and anywhere where everyone cannot wear their mask 100 percent of the time. For more information on what is recommended and not recommended, go to www.DallasCountyCOVID.org,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

Per Sunday data from the Institute for Urban Policy Research, which collects data from the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council, in Dallas County, about 66% of hospitals were reporting and the occupancy rate is about 71.6%, almost 80% of ICU beds were occupied, and about 52% of ventilators were in use.

Of the cases requiring hospitalization to date, more than two-thirds have been under 65 years of age. Diabetes has been an underlying high-risk health condition reported in about a third of all hospitalized patients with COVID-19. 

Of cases requiring hospitalization who reported employment, over 80% 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. 

The percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for COVID-19 was about 27% among symptomatic patients presenting to area hospitals in week 28.

An increasing proportion of COVID-19 cases in Dallas County continue to be diagnosed in young adults between 18 and 39 years of age, such that of all cases reported after June 1, half have been in this age group. Reports of cases are continuing to be associated with multiple large recreational and social gatherings since the beginning of June.  

Statewide, 332,434 cases were reported in 250 counties from 2,984,554 tests as of July 19. Additionally, 4,020 fatalities have been reported and 10,569 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals across the state as of July 20.

Allred Calls For Federal Support For Testing Supplies

U.S. Rep. Colin Allred shared in a  Monday newsletter that he, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, and Congressman Marc Veasey urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide federal support for testing supplies in Dallas County after learning that federally-funded testing sites throughout Dallas County were taking eight to 10 days to deliver results.

“I will continue to fight at the federal level to support our local officials in combating the spread of the coronavirus,” the newsletter read. “Like so many North Texans I’ve spoken with, I too want to get back to normal. That can only be done when we have a comprehensive plan of testing, tracing and treatment for COVID-19.”

Those who need pandemic-related assistance are asked to visit Allred’s website.

Office Of The Governor, Dr. Francisco Cigarroa Release Spanish Language COVID-19 PSA

We end today’s digest with an educational reminder to follow public health guidelines. The Office Of the Governor and Dr. Francisco Cigarroa of UT Health San Antonio released a new Spanish-language public service announcement (PSA) urging Texans to work together to slow the spread of COVID-19. In the PSA, Dr. Cigarroa encourages Texans to follow simple steps to protect themselves and others: wearing a mask, regular hand washing, staying home when possible, and socially distancing from others.

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 [email protected]

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