Tarrant County is getting ready for the potential spread of the new coronavirus in North Texas by preparing to test for the virus locally and updating the county's pandemic response plan.
Because the flu shares viral properties with COVID-19 — the illness caused by the new coronavirus — the Tarrant County health department is updating its pandemic influenza response plan.
Senior planner Mark Fulmer said they're closely monitoring respiratory viruses and recommending non-pharmaceutical interventions like regular hand-washing and covering your cough with your elbow.
"They're more of what we call the common sense things that you do in an everyday influenza season,” he said. “They're stay at home when you are sick. Do not go to work. Do not go to school."
The health department is also working to localize testing for the virus. As of Wednesday, Dallas County can test locally — but in Tarrant County, samples still have to be sent to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said that means waiting up to a week to get results back.
"We expect that by next week Tarrant County will be in a position to be able to do the testing locally here, as opposed to sending the results or samples to the CDC and waiting for the results,” he said.
So far, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Texas.