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Hospital beds top of mind as North Texas leaders order public to shelter-in-place

Dallas County and Tarrant County expressed concern about the number of hospital beds if the public doesn't shelter-in-place.

Leaders across North Texas are working hard to keep hospitals running smoothly as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Dallas County and Tarrant County officials have expressed concern about having a sufficient number of hospital beds if the public doesn’t work to shelter-in-place.

This week Dallas County leaders shared what they called “extreme” and “conservative” projections to outline why the shelter-in-place order is necessary. 

RELATED: Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins orders shelter-in-place from Monday night until at least April 3

The extreme model predicted that without a shelter-in-place order more than 70% of Texans would be infected and hospitals would reach capacity by the end of April.

A conservative model showed that Dallas County would be short more than 70,000 hospital beds, but with the strict order they may have more than 500 to spare.

“I want the public to know that all of the hospitals are working together to ensure we have adequate staff, we’ve got supplies, and we’ve got adequate beds,” Cook Children’s CEO Rick Merrill said. “Now that said, if we don’t flatten the curve, we’ve got a real concern over our bed count.”

RELATED: Collin, Denton, Tarrant counties issue 'stay at home' order to stop spread of COVID-19

At a press conference Tuesday morning, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price expressed similar concern for Tarrant County.

“We have 5,300 hospital beds in Tarrant County and at any given time about 85% of those are full,” Mayor Price said. “The estimate is, even conservative estimates, we could easily have 12,000 people who need hospital care.”

At the Dallas County Commissioners meeting Tuesday commissioners pressed Dr. Phillip Huang, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, about the back-up plan in case hospitals fill up. He was asked to prepare a public list of options in case other buildings are needed to house patients.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said one announcement is expected in the coming days.

“I don’t want to say what city facility that’s in until that city says yes, but we have asked a city to convert a building,” Judge Jenkins said.

Jenkins says that they are taking every possible step to keep the public healthy.

“We have to put the life of our people above our livelihood,” Judge Jenkins said. “The first thing we have to do as a community is protect one another.”

RELATED: Gov. Abbott issues 2 executive orders to free up 'countless hospital beds'; says no statewide shelter in place

Gov. Greg Abbott has also emphasized the importance of having enough hospital beds. 

In a news conference Tuesday, Abbott reiterated an executive order issued on March 22 and issued a new one on March 24. 

First, Abbott said hospitals must postpone all surgeries not medically necessary to free up more hospital beds to battle the spread of coronavirus. He also urged hospitals to allow more than one patient per hospital room. 

Second, the governor said hospitals must submit daily reports on hospital bed capacity to state health department and all healthcare providers must provide reports of COVID-19 testing.

More from WFAA:

Do I have to stay inside? Here's how North Texas counties are handling COVID-19

What are the 'essential' jobs listed in county stay at home orders?

These are the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Dallas-Fort Worth

No need for panic buying groceries; warehouses are full, trucks are moving

Timeline: Tracking the spread of COVID-19 in Texas