The Texas county hit hardest so far by the new coronavirus is strengthening its medical response with a mobile hospital and by calling in health care workers from the National Guard, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Thursday.
Dallas County, which has more than 300 positive cases, will eventually open the 250-bed hospital, Jenkins said, but it was unclear when. Doctors and nurses from the National Guard are also expected to assist with epidemiological detective work known as “contact tracing” to identify people who have been in contact with anyone who tests positive for the novel coronavirus.
“We’re asking for logistical support, you will see military vans moving around,” Jenkins said at a news conference Thursday evening, adding that the National Guard will be in the county on a medical mission — “they are not coming here to impose martial law.”
Jenkins said officials also plan to use the old Parkland Hospital building, which was replaced with a new facility a few years ago, to quarantine people.
Gov. Greg Abbott has left plenty of COVID-19 response decision-making to local officials, and Jenkins has been aggressive, issuing countywide emergency orders such as the state’s first shelter-in-place order. In response to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, Jenkins also ordered the temporary closure of hair salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors and other businesses where people cannot maintain 6 feet of distance from one another.
The temporary hospital will be the first of its kind in Texas during the new coronavirus outbreak, which has killed 18 Texans and has infected at least 1,396 other Texans as of Thursday, according to the state.
Officials in North Texas expect more people to contract the novel coronavirus in the Dallas County jail. After an inmate there tested positive this week and operations were upended, an official who joined Jenkins at Thursday’s news conference said the jail is now up to seven inmates who have tested positive. Nearly a dozen other inmates, officers and health care workers are in quarantine.
The officials said the results were not surprising and they expect others at the jail to likely become infected, as the authorities this week began confronting the outbreak in Texas prisons.
Disclosure: Parkland Health and Hospital System has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.