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Tarrant County to expand COVID-19 testing to people who've been in large groups

While the state experiences record number of hospitalizations, Tarrant County still reports overall downward trends in COVID-19 numbers

FORT WORTH, Texas — In Tarrant County, there's promising news -- with a caveat or two.   

"Our data trend is still declining," said Vinny Taneja, the county's public health director.

Tuesday, Taneja said overall, COVID-19 numbers are trending downward. But in recent days, he said he's noticed a plateau in hospitalizations, as well as a plateau, maybe even a slight increase, in patients with COVID-like symptoms checking into the emergency rooms.

This, mixed with news that statewide hospitalizations are on the rise has Taneja and other experts playing close attention. 

Wednesday, for the third day in a row, Texas hit a record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations with 2,153.

RELATED: Dallas County records highest number of single-day cases as COVID-19 testing expands

"If the entire state's having issues, and we're a mobile society, I mean, what's keeping things from happening here?" Taneja said. 

Dr. Diana Cervantes, an epidemiologist with UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, echoed that Wednesday.

"We're kind of on the cusp of: what's going to happen?" she said. 

"Is there a downward trend from, let's say, the peak in May? Yes. But now we’re sort of leveling off. And it could turn at any point. You could see an increased number."

Many point to large gatherings as a place to pay attention.

"Whether it was our protesters or there was a warehouse party in Fort Worth before Memorial Day, there was a Mother's Day celebration at a park with 600 people," Taneja said. "All of those group gatherings give us concern."

Tarrant County will soon expand its testing criteria to include people who've been at large gatherings.

"Every time people go out and they don't get sick or infected, they get a little braver and a little braver and they start doing less," Cervantes said, urging people not to let their guard down with prevention measures. She says a second wave is predicted.

"Just a reminder the majority of the population is still very susceptible to infection. We don't have immunity," she said.

Fort Worth reported five deaths Wednesday, as well as 166 new cases. The high number of cases reported were partially due to a lab reporting issue, the county said. To date, 2,897 people have reported recoveries to the county.

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