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Increase in Tarrant County coronavirus cases a 'clear correlation' with reopening activities, health director says

County officials said the increase in cases isn't just because they're testing more; the positivity rate is also up.

FORT WORTH, Texas — The Tarrant County health director said the increase in COVID-19 cases is likely connected to the reopening of businesses. 

Last week, Tarrant County officials reported 1,630 new coronavirus cases — the "highest week reporting so far," said Vinny Taneja, the county's public health director. 

"We're seeing some great increases in our numbers," Taneja told Tarrant County commissioners on Tuesday. 

Health officials reported another 260 new cases Tuesday. 

Though there has been an increase in coronavirus testing in the county, the percentage of people found to be positive for the disease remains high. 

"We’re increasing testing and the positivity rate is increasing, meaning there are actually more people out there getting the disease. So that’s a concerning trend," Taneja said. 

Hospitalizations for the novel coronavirus have also gone up in Tarrant County. In the county, hospitals reported 318 COVID-19 patients Tuesday. 

"We are seeing an unfortunate uptick and an increase," said JPS President and CEO Robert Earley, as he gave Tarrant County commissioners a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday. 

He said the number of confirmed COVID-19 patients at JPS had been as low as 35 and has now jumped back up to 59. 

RELATED: MAP: These are the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Dallas-Fort Worth area

The spike in cases isn't just in Tarrant County. 

"There are states that are re-opening their economies, including Texas, and the bulk of the volume is coming from those states, so there's something to be learned from that," Taneja said. "There's clear correlation between when people get out and do activities, we're going to see more case activity."

He said it's not just big parties or protests. 

"A lot of people are coming out, they're going to routine activities for entertainment, for work, for a variety of things," Taneja said.

RELATED: Gov. Abbott allows local leaders to put limits on outdoor gatherings with more than 100 people amid ongoing COVID-19 surge in Texas

County Judge Glen Whitley says the emphasis needs to be on wearing masks.

"I believe masks are the one thing we can do that can most positively affect the decline in this virus," he said.

He said he was with a group on Saturday and few of the people wore masks. 

Whitley said he told the group, "You have a right not to wear a mask. That doesn’t make it right."

RELATED: If more Texans don't start wearing masks, businesses could have to shut down again, Gov. Abbott says

But he doesn't believe Tarrant County is ready for a mask mandate, like the one in Dallas County, which requires businesses to enforce mask policies for employees and customers. 

"I don't know if it's just the Texan in us or what," he said. "We just don't like to be told what to do."

So for now, Tarrant County residents won't be told – but, rather, simply asked – to help protect others.

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