Health officials urge small Thanksgiving gatherings as COVID-19 cases set records

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Texas has recorded record numbers of COVID-19 cases each of the past two days, with 13,998 cases reported Tuesday and 14,648 cases reported Wednesday. In North Texas, both Dallas and Tarrant Counties reported more than a thousand cases Wednesday.

"We are so close to having vaccines, having some good mitigation for COVID-19. Please see us through to the end," says MedStar's Matt Zavadsky.

Residents of Tarrant County received a text from Tarrant County Public Health Wednesday, urging people to only hold holiday gatherings with immediate family this year.

"COVID-19 cases continue to rapidly increase in your area," the message reads. "Health officials urge you to stay home except for essential activities. Always wear a face covering when you leave home. For the upcoming holiday season, do not attend gatherings other than with your immediate household members."

Zavadsky says people should avoid large gatherings with extended family, wear masks while inside on Thanksgiving and, since sunshine is expected with highs in the 70s, consider opening the windows to improve ventilation or even eating Thanksgiving dinner outside.

He also says people should avoid crowding stores for Black Friday.

"This is a great opportunity to take advantage of staying in your pajamas, logging onto the computer and doing some great virtual shopping," Zavadsky says. "Order away. That's much safer than going into places where they have crowds."

Zavadsky is also urging people to get a flu shot, and he says the same precautions to protect against COVID-19 will protect against the flu.

"When we talk about influenza, influenza is a coronavirus. It's just a different strain," he says.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported COVID-19 patients occupied 14.95% of hospital beds Wednesday. The DFW Hospital Council says the state's figures are several days behind, so the total may have topped 15%. If COVID-19 patients use more than 15% of capacity for more than a week, the state would require automatic restrictions, limiting restaurants to 50% capacity and requiring bars to close.

Wednesday afternoon, Texas Health Rockwall reported it had 72 patients but only 60 beds. President Cindy Perrin says some patients are being transferred as far away as Denton County.

"Projections now indicate that within a week there will be no ICU beds available in the entire Metroplex," she wrote in a statement.

Perrin says COVID-19 patients now occupy 75% of the hospital's beds, and the number of patients confirmed to have COVID-19 has more than doubled since the beginning of November.

"A growing number of these patients struggle valiantly but fail with those less-invasive devices. With terror-filled eyes and no family support present, they beg for the relief of a tube to be inserted into their airway and a ventilator to breathe for them while they enter an unconscious state. With aggressive treatment, most will get better in a few weeks and return home with after-affects ranging from 'not noticeable' to 'life altering'. Others are not so fortunate," she says.