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Live COVID-19 updates: Dallas County to double coronavirus testing capacity

Dallas County is waiting on additional testing materials and reagents for labs at UT Southwestern and Parkland, which could provide an additional 6,500 tests a day.

This story is from April 15, click here to view the latest updates from April 16.

Testing capacity for the new coronavirus in Dallas County will more than double in coming days, according to Judge Clay Jenkins.

Jenkins tweeted that U.S. Health and Human Services has given Dallas County permission to up the number of tests at each of its drive-thru sites from 250 to 500. He said they are waiting to receive an official letter authorizing this increase.

Additionally, Jenkins tweeted that Walgreens will be opening two testing locations of its own — one at 2060 S Buckner Boulevard in Dallas and a second at 8600 Camp Bowie West in Fort Worth. Both of those locations will be able to provide 160 tests a day at no cost.

Jenkins said they are still waiting on test materials and reagents for the labs at Parkland Hospital and UT Southwestern Medical Center. Once those locations are fully stocked, they'll be able to provide 6,500 tests a day with same-day results. Those tests would be offered at sites across the county. 

Jenkins did not give a timeline for when those materials are expected so testing can begin.

Top updates for Wednesday, April 15:

  •  The Treasury Department expects by Wednesday that 80 million Americans will receive their emergency stimulus checks. Here's what you need to know about the stimulus checks. 
  • American and Southwest airlines will receive billions in grants and loans to help cover employee salaries. The funds will also protect team members from involuntary furloughs or pay rate reductions through Sept. 20, 2020.
  • On Tuesday, Dallas County announced 10 COVID-19 related deaths, which was its highest one-day total. Judge Clay Jenkins says Dallas is 'in the middle' of its coronavirus fight.

Dallas County reports another death, 109 new cases

Another person has died from the novel coronavirus in Dallas County, health officials said Wednesday. 

There are also 109 additional positive cases of COVID-19 in the county, according to the latest data. This brings the total case count to 1,986. 

A Garland resident in her 80s is the 43rd person to die from the disease in Dallas County. 

Officials say she had been hospitalized and did not have underlying high-risk health conditions. 

On Tuesday, Judge Clay Jenkins said he believes Dallas is "in the middle" of its coronavirus fight since the number of reported cases has remained steady each day.

Jenkins also said the peak is projected for the end of April or early May.

11 Dallas police officers have now tested positive for coronavirus

The Dallas Police Department is the latest law enforcement agency to announce that two more officers have tested positive for COVID-19. 

The command staff was notified Tuesday that a 10th and 11th officer within the department have tested positive, officials say. 

The 10th officer to test positive works at the southeast patrol and has not been at work since April 2. 

Dallas police officials say out of an abundance of caution, the officer has been in quarantine since April 2 because the officer’s work partner had previously tested positive. 

The 10th confirmed officer began to develop coronavirus-related symptoms and was tested on April 9, police officials say.

Dallas police say the officer will continue to stay home for an additional 14 days or more until cleared to return by DPD’s medical team.

According to Dallas police officials, the infected officer didn’t pose a threat to other employees because they had not been to work in 12 days.

The 11th officer to test positive is a background detective whose last day of work was April 11. The officer began experiencing symptoms of coronavirus after going home Saturday and went for testing. The officer learned of those test results on Wednesday.

The officer is also under quarantine for two weeks or until cleared by DPD's medical team. The area where the officer worked was sanitized by a professional contractor, the department said.

The department also has two civilians at the department who have tested positive for COVID-19. They work as a communications dispatcher and a public service officer.

"Please keep the officers and civilian employees in your thoughts and prayers for a full recovery," the department said in a statement.

RELATED: Dallas police officer recovers from COVID-19, tells people to 'think of others'

City launches new COVID-19 resource hotline

The City of Dallas has launched a new COVID-19 resource and information hotline that is available 24/7.

Residents can reach the automated line by calling 214-670-4636.

Dallas officials say the hotline includes local and federal information regarding the novel coronavirus.

The following information is available in English and Spanish:

  • Current COVID-19 regulations and testing locations
  • Employment assistance
  • Federal relief payment information
  • Volunteer/assistance opportunities
  • Rental/mortgage and eviction assistance
  • Small business assistance
  • Social services including food pantries, childcare assistance, senior assistance, unsheltered resident assistance, and mental health resources
  • Utility payment assistance

Additional information can also be found on the City's website.

RELATED: Need help in North Texas because of COVID-19? Here are the numbers to call

New self-swab method to be used at drive-thru testing site

City of Dallas officials announced Wednesday the COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at the Ellis Davis Field House will begin using self-swab kits.

The new process allows the person being tested to swab shallowly in their nose, instead of a health professional collecting a sample from further up the nasal cavity, officials said.

"The self-swab testing method proves to be less invasive and is safer for patients and healthcare providers," incident commander Randall Payton said.

According to Dallas officials, a practice run of using the self-swab kits was conducted Monday at the Ellis David Field House.

"Health and safety are the primary goals for workers and those being tested. We’re confident this new method will decrease the risk of contamination," Payton said.

The American Airlines Center testing site will continue using the nasopharyngeal swabs, officials say.

Both locations are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

RELATED: New serological coronavirus test could be critical for ending national lockdowns, researchers say

Dallas mayor calls for a citywide ovation for frontline workers  

Mayor Eric Johnson is asking the residents of Dallas to participate in a public ovation for frontline workers in the COVID-19 combat. 

Johnson requested that at 7 p.m. Thursday, the community step outside and applaud healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters, and other workers. 

"We have heroes among us, and they deserve to know they have supporters all around them," he said on Twitter Tuesday afternoon. 

RELATED: Dallas ISD food service workers honored as heroes by Time Magazine

Daily hospital capacity numbers released

The number of ICU beds in Dallas hospitals being occupied continues to increase, according to data released by Mayor Eric Johnson's office.

Twenty-five hospitals reported ventilator and bed capacity numbers to Johnson’s office on Tuesday. Johnson made it a daily requirement in late March for hospitals to report their numbers to his office. 

Tuesday's data shows that 505 ICU beds are being used, this is 20 more beds than the day before, according to Johnson's office. 

Below is an aggregate list of totals from the 25 hospitals:

  • Total beds: 5,710
  • Beds occupied: 2,928
  • Total ICU beds: 827
  • ICU beds occupied: 505
  • Total ventilators: 942
  • Ventilators in use: 293

Health experts recommend taking the following actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Practice "social distancing" and stay at least 6 feet away from others and avoid large public gatherings
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Consult CDC’s travel website for any travel advisories and steps to protect yourself if you plan to travel outside of the U.S.

Digital producer Eline de Bruijn contributed to this report.

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