Dallas County reports 205 more confirmed coronavirus cases as health official says numbers in area hospitals ‘disturbing’

Dallas County reported 205 more confirmed coronavirus cases Tuesday, all of which the county considers new. One new COVID-19 death was also reported.

Labs either report coronavirus cases directly to the county health department or to the state health department, which then relays the information to individual counties. Of cases reported Tuesday, Dallas County health officials said 132 came from the state’s reporting system, including 33 from September and 99 from October. The remaining 73 cases were reported directly to the county health department.

The latest victim was a Dallas man in his 50s. He did not have underlying health problems.

Additionally, the county added 41 new probable cases to the newly reported cases Tuesday. Probable cases and deaths include people who had a positive antigen test (sometimes called rapid tests); had antibodies for the virus; or had COVID-19 symptoms and contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

According to a county spokeswoman, the countywide totals for confirmed and probable cases will be unclear for a few more days, due to the ongoing transition between data platforms. The county’s confirmed death toll stands at 1,038.

Dallas County health department director Dr. Philip Huang told county commissioners Tuesday that the hospital data he’s monitoring is “disturbing.”

While the number of ICU beds has remained stable for several weeks since the county downgraded its suggested COVID-19 threat level, the number of confirmed cases in county-area hospitals is on the rise.

“Bottom line: We’ve been successful, the universal masking, the closing of the bars, and people being vigilant, have shown we can make a difference,” Huang said. “Everyone needs to stay the course.”

Commissioners told Huang that as flu season begins, they want more nuanced data, such as the number of hospitalized flu patients.

“I want us to have a good measurement for the flu impact,” said Commissioner John Wiley Price, a Democrat who represents southern Dallas. “It needs to be real clear.”

Commissioner J.J. Koch, a Republican who represents northern Dallas County, said he hopes the health department can better understand what is the cause of the slight increase.

“The bars aren’t open yet,” he said.

While other North Texas counties provide estimates for how many people have recovered from the virus, Dallas County officials do not report recoveries, saying it’s not a measurement used by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials use hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and emergency room visits as key metrics to track the real-time impact of COVID-19 in the county. In the 24-hour period that ended Monday, 276 COVID-19 patients were in acute care in hospitals in the county. During the same period, 427 ER visits were for symptoms of the disease.

The county’s provisional seven-day average of daily new confirmed and probable cases for the latest reporting period, Sept. 20-26, was 348 — an increase from the previous week. The figure is calculated by the date of the COVID-19 test collection, according to the county.

The county reported that during the same period, 252 school-age children tested positive for the coronavirus.

Dallas County doesn’t provide a positivity rate for all tests conducted in the area; county health officials have said they don’t have an accurate count of how many tests are conducted each day. But as of the county’s most recent reporting period, 10.7% of people who showed up at hospitals with COVID-19 symptoms tested positive for the virus.

Statewide data

Across the state, 3,872 more cases and 78 COVID-19 deaths were reported Tuesday. Texas has now reported 773,435 confirmed cases and 16,111 fatalities.

There are 3,394 COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals, including 888 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The seven-day average positivity rate statewide, based on the date of test specimen collection, was 6.43% as of Monday. State health officials said using data based on when people were tested will provide the most accurate positivity rate.

The state also provides a positivity rate based on when lab results were reported to the state; that rate stood at 8.06% as of Monday.

Officials previously calculated Texas’ coronavirus positivity rate by dividing the most recent seven days of new positive test results by the most recent seven days of total new test results. By that measure, the positivity rate is now 7.36%, according to its dashboard.

A spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services said that positivity rate data based on lab results and new cases will likely be phased out but is still provided for transparency and continuity purposes.

Doctors look at a lung CT image at a hospital in Xiaogan,China.