Dave Moore, Staff Writer
Dallas County’s tough stay-at-home measures appear to be having a positive impact in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a virtual interview conducted Tuesday morning by the Texas Tribune.
While Jenkins urged continued caution, he also outlined a general game plan for how the economy’s workforce might head back to work.
“Our medical modeling from Medical City, UT Southwestern, and Baylor… are showing that our ‘Safer at Home’ model – that was first instituted on March 22 – is flattening the curve,” Jenkins told Texas Tribune reporter Patrick Svitek on April 14. “That is giving us cause for optimism and hope, but we’re in the middle. We’re not at the end. We have to stay focused on the mission, and the mission for everyone is personal responsibility to make good choices, and don’t let up now.”
On March 22, experts predicted the peak of the COVID-19 cases in Dallas County at the end of May. Now, thanks to the cooperation of residents and businesses, that date has moved to the end of April or early May.
“That peak day is moving back to toward us, which means we can get our economy, hopefully, opened up faster,” he said.
Jenkins said he’s been working with business leaders and health experts to determine a best course of action and list of needs for a return to normalcy. One such need is an increase in COVID-19 testing materials for Parkland Hospital and UT Southwestern.
“We need more tests – testing is what gives you visibility into what’s going,” Jenkins said. “We’re like second to last in testing in Texas, right now.”
He said over last weekend, he and others worked on a plan that would greatly expand the testing capacities of UT Southwestern and Parkland Hospital, in a manner similar to what was done in the state of Washington. Parkland’s capacity would grow from 620 tests per day to 1,600 tests per day. UTSW’s capacity would grow to 5,000 per day, he said.
“We need reagents and kits from the federal government,” Jenkins said, adding that the medical community also needs additional testing machines.
Jenkins said he’s completed the State of Texas Assistance Requests (STARs) to the State of Texas, seeking that assistance.
Key in attempting to return the county to normalcy will be an increased prevalence in testing and allowing a limited workforce to return to on-site work.
“You identify that first tranche of businesses (that will return),” he said. “The scientists and the worker safety groups look at safety for people going back. You put those folks back to work; this is sometime in the future, as we get past the peak.”
“When you see more movement (in the population), you have an opportunity for people to get sick, but you don’t want to see a huge spike. If you see what you want to see, that… relatively flat (level of illnesses) happening after opening the first section, say three weeks later, you maybe open another section (of workforce), then another section. And that’s how you get the economy moving again, we hope.”