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Tarrant County COVID numbers increase, county officials again recommend booster shot

According to county data about 1.4 million people in Tarrant got their first vaccine. But just over 500,000 got a booster.

TARRANT COUNTY, Texas — Tarrant County is again classified as having high community levels of COVID-19, county data shows.

At the Tarrant County Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday, the county’s public health director, Vinny Taneja, gave a routine COVID-19 briefing to commissioners.

“As is no surprise,” he said, “COVID is still around.”

Taneja presented a slideshow which said hospitalizations and cases are above threshold. 

After the meeting, WFAA asked newly-appointed County Judge Tim O’Hare for his reaction to that.

“COVID is with us, it doesn’t look like it’s going away,” O’Hare said.

Over the course of the pandemic, elected officials across the country had the power to make decisions about how to handle the virus. 

O’Hare reaffirmed Tuesday he will never mandate any COVID precautions in Tarrant County.

“If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. You will never see me mandate masks in this county, or shut down businesses or churches or schools,” he said.

“Public health should provide avenues to treat lower-income folks that may not have access to treatment when they want it. Public health should be there to put out public service announcements,” he continued. 

“But you know, we have flus, we have colds, we have COVID, we have all sorts of things we’re always going to have them. And I think we need to get away from this idea that we all have to walk around on pins and needles on this.”

According to county data about 1.4 million people in Tarrant got their first vaccine. But just over 500,000 got a booster.

With cases increasing, Vaneja said Tuesday he recommends people get their booser. WFAA asked the new county judge if he agrees.

“I’m not a doctor,” he said, “and I’m not a scientist. That’s an individual’s decision for themselves and their families. I wouldn't tell them to get one, and I wouldn’t tell them not to get one. I would say there's been enough troubling things in the press where it makes you wonder, did we rush through this thing? But I'm not an expert.”

According to county data, 92% of hospital beds are full, and 95% of beds in ICUs are full. A county Health Department spokesperson confirmed to WFAA those numbers represent capacity at hospitals across the county, as opposed to just within one system. 

Of course, only a fraction of those patients are in the hospital with COVID.

As far as overall hospital capacity is concerned, O’Hare acknowledged, “there are lots of people who think we need more hospitals in Tarrant County.”

He said the commissioners court will consider that, looking into public-private partnership options. 

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