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As the holidays draw near it's natural to want to be with loved ones. However, with an ongoing pandemic surging, Cooke County Emergency Management Coordinator Ray Fletcher advises residents to avoid large gatherings.

As of Monday afternoon, Nov. 23, the hospital occupancy rate of confirmed coronavirus cases in the region had reached 15% — a number that could cause some state mandates to go into effect if it continues to remain that high.

The county is part of trauma service area region E, which includes most of the metroplex and surrounding counties of Dallas and Fort Worth, Fletcher said. 

He said overall, hospital admissions have been consistently increasing “pretty rapidly” for the past month and “continues on that same pace.”

“Hospitalizations have increased dramatically even in our area,” Fletcher said. “ … Almost everybody is getting to or near capacity.”

He said the ability to transfer patients has become “very difficult.”

“Our goal is to slow it down enough that our medical system can take care of it and handle it,” Fletcher said. “When you need to go to the hospital for whatever that emergency is, even if it's not COVID, if it's full it's full. Our goal, for everyone, is to try to slow it down. Take some responsible actions to not be part of the spread.”

In Cooke County, nearly 30% of hospitalizations had the coronavirus as of Sunday, Nov. 22. This number is measured against hospital capacity.

Cooke County Judge Jason Brinkley said one of the issues across the nation is there's not enough medical staff to handle the influx of patients.

In the county, information provided to members of the Cooke County Commissioners' Court shows 25 available staffed inpatient beds and no available adult ICU beds. The data provided was from Sunday.

Brinkley said the region's coronavirus cases have to top 15% for seven days or more before Gov. Greg Abbott's orders begin to go into effect. Those orders include closing bars again and rolling back restaurant occupancy to 50%.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Leon Klement said he wanted to be clear that people understand that when saying the hospital is full it doesn't necessarily mean there isn't an empty room, it just means there isn't enough staff.

“There's a difference between the two,” Klement said.

As of Sunday, there were 11 hospitalizations in the county with the coronavirus.

County officials said it's important that everyone is mindful of guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those include wearing a mask, frequently sanitizing hands, avoiding large gatherings and keeping socially distanced. 

Social distancing is keeping six feet away from someone not in your immediate household.

Free coronavirus testing continues from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, Tuesday, Nov. 24, at the Cooke County Fair Association barn, 1901 Justice Center Blvd.

Fletcher said the testing does not create new cases, just identifies the ones already here. Numbers released by the county so far have only included the first day of drive-by testing, which was Nov. 17, he said.

Through Friday, Nov. 20, there were 271 active coronavirus cases in Cooke County, according to a tally released by county officials Saturday, Nov. 21. Twenty-five of those cases were hospitalized. Hospitalizations do include county cases hospitalized in other counties.

There have been a dozen coronavirus-related fatalities.

A total of 1,230 cases have been recorded, counting active, recovered and fatal cases.

COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2. It first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC.

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