FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – As COVID-19 cases surge, leaders In Dallas and Tarrant counties say now it’s more important than ever for people to take precautions and protect themselves and those around them.

Tarrant County Public Health reported 1,402 new coronavirus cases Friday, Nov. 13, which was the highest daily total anywhere in the region that day.

“This week’s been terrible,” said Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley.

Tarrant County saw the worst week of new infections since the pandemic began.

“I’ve been very nervous in regards to seeing the increase,” Judge Whitley said. “We were at 515 COVID patients in the hospital last Thursday. As of yesterday, we had 726.”

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says models indicate their county will be about 2,000 cases per day before Thanksgiving without drastic change.

“Let me point out that time is of the essence,” he said. “We cannot afford to wait until we’re in a situation that El Paso got into.”

Judge Jenkins, relying on recommendations from North Texas doctors, is urging Governor Abbott to immediately impose new restrictions in Dallas County.

He says he’d like to see stronger and more expansive mask rules, closing all restaurants to indoor dining, closing gyms, and restricting businesses like grocery stores and hair salons to 25% capacity.

Judge Whitley says the governor’s current executive order makes it impossible for the county to take more aggressive action to stop the spread of the virus, like issuing citations to people who don’t wear masks.

“He’s basically tied our hands and prevented us from being able to do a lot of the enforcement type deal,” Whitley said.

According to the governor’s order, coronavirus restrictions can only be scaled back if COVID patients make up 15% or more of all hospitalizations in the region for seven days in a row.

At that point, businesses must drop back down to 50% capacity.

Right now, that rate is 11.9% in the North Texas region.

“Again, that’s frustrating and just about the only thing we can do is to plead with people that if you’re doing to go to sporting events with your kids, wear a mask,” said Judge Whitley.

Tarrant County does have the authority to extend its emergency declaration and mask order, which are set to expire at the end of the month.

Judge Whitley says they plan to take that up at next week’s Tarrant County Commissioners Court meeting.

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