The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit news organization that does very good work, got its hands on a White House report that details the states that need to quickly take further action to control the spread of coronavirus. Texas is, of course, one of those 18 states. And the Dallas-Fort-Worth-Arlington metropolitan statistical area is one of 51 that even the Trump administration believes should be doing more to keep its people safe. The report was issued on July 14.
The so-called “red zone” includes any state that has more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population. Eleven of those 18, including Texas, are also in the “red zone” for test positivity, meaning at least 10 percent of its tests are coming back positive. This report is apparently sent to governors. If so, Gov. Greg Abbott would see that the White House is advising closing gyms and creating additional outdoor dining opportunities while limiting dining rooms to 25 percent capacity.
As CPI notes, the World Health Organization has called for a positivity rate of 5 percent before reopening sectors of the economy. Others advise a rate of 3 percent or lower, to indicate that the virus is being suppressed and community spread is limited. That probably isn’t doable without further torpedoing the economy; at least we’re required to wear masks.
Currently, Dallas County’s positivity rate is at 14.3 percent. And dining rooms are open at up to half capacity. The White House is also advising public messaging to be tailored to focus on takeout and outdoor dining.
It also requests “surge testing” for neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19, like the 75211 ZIP code. The Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation has a vulnerability index that identifies these very neighborhoods by analyzing underlying health conditions, housing, mobility, employment, and other factors. The ZIP codes aren’t hard to find and they’re about where you’d guess they are; but we need the resources to test and contact trace. Two weeks ago, Adm. Brett Giroir announced that Dallas would be one of those locations for surge testing, but we haven’t heard anything since.
In the meantime, testing turnarounds have been so slow—usually about 10 days—that the city and the county will be processing their own lab results through a private vendor to speed things up. Here’s the full report from the White House. Texas is on page 305.