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Tarrant County Officials Urge People To Stay Home For Thanksgiving As COVID-19 Cases Surge

The exterior of the Tarrant County Courthouse.
David Lee
/
Shutterstock
The Tarrant County Courthouse.

As Texas nears 20,000 COVID-19 deaths, the disease is spreading again in Tarrant County.

Last week saw 4,341 confirmed cases, the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data from Tarrant County Public Health. There were also an additional 1,062 suspected cases.

The county's public health authorities have classified community spread as “substantial,” its highest warning level, meaning there is large-scale transmission at locations like schools and workplaces.

Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja told the county Commissioners Court on Tuesday that spikes like this could strain the system.

“Gradual cases, healthcare can handle, public health can handle, our community can handle. When it starts to accelerate like this, that’s when it puts pressure everywhere,” he said.

Taneja also said to expect an increase in deaths, since there is usually a delay between a spike in cases and the spike in deaths that follows.

Unlike the beginning of the pandemic, when the focus was on protecting elderly people from the coronavirus, more young people in Tarrant County are getting sick as well, he added.

“It’s just a function of us being out more in the younger age group. People are back to work, back to school, back to college,” Taneja said.

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said on Tuesday he would consider extending the mask mandate that currently expires on Nov. 30. He also said he wishes schools would stop sporting events, to help curb the spread of the virus.

Tarrant County has seen several major sporting events over the past few months, with more on the way. The Cowboys are welcoming fans to watch games in person. Also, the World Series was played at Globe Life Field in Arlington this year. The National Finals Rodeo is scheduled for December.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram "pro-rodeo's equivalent of the World Series" relocated from Las Vegas to Arlington to avoid the former's stricter COVID-19 guidelines.

Besides sporting events, the upcoming holiday season is a potential COVID threat. Taneja warned there is no way to have a safe Thanksgiving with extended family this year.

“Our holiday season is at risk. Given the backdrop that we have, and we’re heading into Thanksgiving and other major holidays, we’re gonna have some problems, because people are sick and tired of staying at home,” he said.

Officials have a few theories for why cases are spiking again. Fort Worth Health Director Brandon Bennett, speaking to the Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday, blamed some of the spread on school re-openings.

“We tell them to social distance, we tell them to wear a mask, but children do what children do, and they interact," Bennett said. "They will pick up the virus at school, and they take it home, and they give it to their parents.”

Bennett laid out the now familiar series of events from there: The parents get sick or carry the virus with no symptoms, and spread it around even more.

Bennett also said that people are just tired of taking safety precautions.

“There’s fatigue. People are out shopping more than they were. They’re not social distancing with extended family like they used to. They’re coming closer together,” he said.

The virus does not get tired. Almost 240,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Texas surpassed 1 million cumulative cases on Tuesday, the highest of any state in the U.S.

Worldwide, Johns Hopkins says the disease has killed more than 1.2 million people. That’s hundreds of thousands more people than the entire population of Fort Worth.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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Miranda Suarez is KERA’s Fort Worth reporter. Before coming to North Texas, she was the Lee Ester News Fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio, where she covered statewide news from the capital city of Madison. Miranda is originally from Massachusetts and started her public radio career at WBUR in Boston.