If you’re like me, you are probably following the COVID-19 pandemic closely. And you are probably very concerned for the health of your family, friends and loved ones.

I am writing to you to let you know that Texas Health Resources, the largest provider of healthcare in North Texas, has been working around the clock to provide the communities we are so fortunate to serve with the care and resources you need to heal, stay safe and co-exist with this disease. Whether you’re calling this a second wave or a surge, I want to assure you that we are ready and able to care for you whatever your healthcare needs are. But we cannot do it alone.

We need all in our communities to help us contain the spread of the virus by taking the simple precautions that we know work to help get and keep this disease under control. The pandemic poses many challenges, but we have been preparing for this battle since January, even before the first COVID-19 positive patient walked through our doors on March 9.

As you read through this update, you’ll see what we have learned, and steps we have taken to improve the care and treatment of COVID-19 patients and the research in which we are participating and leading. We continue to evaluate operations daily. We’re watching capacity and supplies to ensure we can safely care for our patients. However, even with all of our efforts, we need everyone to get back to the smart, reasonable steps that we can all take as individuals to prevent the transmission of this disease.

We need your support. We ask that all North Texans practice good hand hygiene, maintain social distancing, wear masks and stay away from crowds. Everyone must contribute to get this under control now. It’s not about politics; it’s selfless actions that can help prevent you, those you love and strangers from getting the virus.

Surge planning

In March, we created surge planning workgroups to develop and test plans. With our surge planning, we can add additional beds for COVID-19 patients systemwide. We’ve taken steps to speed up triage while reducing the risk of cross-contamination in our Emergency Departments.

Additionally, we have completed more than 15,000 patient interactions through virtual rounding. Each hospital incident command center can see bed capacity, ventilators, supplies and staffing in real-time, with predictive analytics providing guidance on future resource utilization. We planned. We tested. We responded. We are ready.

Supplies

Preparation and having the right tools on hand is an important part of any job, but nowhere is that more evident than in a health care system during a pandemic. Thankfully, even before COVID-19 began surfacing, Texas Health had strong supply lines and ample personal protective equipment available. We use analytics to better manage supplies and to track and predict our needs. We receive replenishments weekly and have met all supply demands to date. Although clinical leanings and new treatment guidelines require less reliance on ventilators with improved patient outcomes, we have increased our count should they be needed. Our testing capacity has greatly increased and is sufficient for our needs.

Treatments and therapies

Although there is no specific cure or vaccine for COVID-19 at this time, new information, therapies and treatments emerge daily. As we care for patients, we analyze what is effective to help guide future treatment decisions. We are proud to be authoring journal articles on the use of therapeutic steroids and leading efforts to advance the use of convalescent therapy donor programs. We also review evidence and develop recommendations on investigational therapies. From the success of convalescent plasma therapy to increased access to pharmacotherapies to participation in clinical trials, we know how to better treat and care for COVID-19 patients. And we will continue learning and adapting and improving.

Elective procedures

We appreciate Gov. Abbott’s leadership and remain committed to complying with his new and existing orders regarding the care of COVID-19 patients. At this time, Texas Health has sufficient resources, including bed capacity, to care for all patients safely. People need preventive screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies. Disease and pain should be treated whether that’s implanting a port for chemotherapy transfusions or replacing a deteriorating hip to allow a patient to regain mobility. It is with your utmost safety in mind that we continue to provide these important procedures and surgeries, and we are closely monitoring all issues that would impact our ability to do so.

We need to understand more how race and ethnicity are impacting COVID-19 diagnosis and hospitalizations. In addition to mortality data, Dallas County reports age-adjusted rates of COVID-19 in non-hospitalized patients by race and ethnicity. This provides some insight into disease prevalence by ethnic group.

We need more information about where the virus is spreading in North Texas and why certain populations are more affected than others. Working with researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center, we will be conducting what could be one of the nation’s largest community studies on the prevalence of COVID-19 by testing tens of thousands of people who represent a cross-section of the population.

This research will involve about 45,000 residents from Dallas and Tarrant counties who will be randomly selected to ensure participation from various racial, ethnic and socioeconomic populations, as well as occupations at higher risk for exposure such as grocery store and airline employees. Participants will be surveyed and tested for active COVID-19 infection and evidence of past infection, then followed over time to provide insights into how individuals’ immune response evolves and how hot spots emerge in the community.

Thank you for caring for and supporting us. We’re here to do the same for you.

Barclay Berdan is CEO of Texas Health Resources

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