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Stay-at-home-orders were effective in Tarrant County, but next few weeks critical, HSC analysis finds

Posted May 14, 2020

Tarrant County’s stay-at-home order and social-distancing measures have been largely effective in slowing transmission of COVID-19, but the next few weeks are critical in determining if the relaxation of restrictions causes a surge in cases, according to an analysis by the University of North Texas (UNT) Health Science Center at Fort Worth.

Publically available data suggests Tarrant County has reached a plateau in new daily COVID-19 cases. But “with the lifting of many of the mandated restrictions starting May 1, it remains to be seen how effective the more limited social-distancing measures are,” said Dr. Rajesh Nandy, associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology in the School of Public Health, who conducted the analysis.

Dr. Dennis Thombs, dean of the School of Public Health, said the report shows “the county’s stay-at-home-order was effective.”

“However, we may be in the third inning of a nine-inning game,” he said. “The final local outcomes are dependent upon the practices we adopt going forward. Increased mobility creates risk that new cases will surge.”

To conduct the analysis, Nandy gathered and compiled data from numerous resources, including Tarrant County Public Health, the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council and Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

Among the important findings was the impact of restrictions on health care resources. Because Tarrant County currently appears to have reached a plateau in new daily COVID-19 cases, the current level of hospital beds, intensive care beds and ventilators is adequate for “the near future,” the report found.

“Health care facilities have been able to operate well below capacity, providing necessary treatment and care to all patients,” Nandy said. “However, with the mandated restrictions being gradually lifted, we will keep monitoring the transmission of the disease to identify a future surge in the number of cases.”

City of Fort Worth partnership, modelling yields usable data

The City of Fort Worth has enjoyed a strong partnership with the UNT Health Sciences Center.

“We have collaborated on a number of health issues, including the H1N1 pandemic, West Nile virus epidemic and now the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Brandon Bennett, the city’s health officer and director of code compliance. “They have been helping with public education, contact tracing and more since the very beginning. They are now providing the medical and call center staff for our new public testing centers.

“After many weeks of working with Tarrant County Public Health, they are now able to provide local modelling,” Bennett said. “All of the partners have been working very closely to develop these models so that we can take raw data and produce useful information.

“Modelling helps by factoring in and out data that could impact an assessment on community spread,” Bennett said. “In the models we are looking at, prison inmates at Federal Medical Center Fort Worth were taken out of the assumptions because that is not true community exposure and spread, and those positives skew the numbers, although workers at the facility could still be counted because they return to the Fort Worth community to live, shop and so on.”

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