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'Prepare but don't panic' is the message from Dallas COVID-19 experts

Dallas County Health has one of the six labs in the state now actively screening for COVID-19.

DALLAS — Updated 1 p.m. Monday to reflect a presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in Collin County. 

“This is not a time to panic, but it is a time to prepare,” said Dr. Philip Huang at Dallas County Health and Human Services as he, along with Congressman Colin Allred, State Rep. Nathan Johnson and Dr. Trish Perl, infectious disease specialist at UT Southwestern, held a Friday afternoon update on COVID-19.

In a 45-minute town hall on the sixth floor of the DCHHS, they preached precaution. But while the Houston-area has at least six confirmed COVID-19 cases, there is only one presumptive positive case in North Texas.

On Monday, Collin County health officials confirmed a man in his 30s from Frisco tested presumptive positive for COVID19. He recently traveled to California but it was unknown how he contracted coronavirus.  

His symptoms have not required hospitalization officials stated. 

RELATED: Collin County resident tests 'presumptive positive' for COVID-19, county health officials say

“What’s nice is for this one we are not at ground zero,” said Dr. Huang. “But we’re seeing and learning lessons from the west coast, and now Texas, Harris County and Fort Bend. But we’re all working together with community partners, state and the CDC to address this.”

Dallas County Health has one of the six labs in the state now actively screening for COVID-19. Local testing can speed up containment efforts if needed.

RELATED: Labs in Dallas, Tarrant Counties now have capability of testing for coronavirus 

“We’re tracking this real time,” said Dr. Perl, who also preached that families, corporations, and congregations should have contingency plans at the ready if the virus does show up here. Contingency plans to work from home, contingency plans to be able to keep children at home if you eventually need to self-isolate to keep the virus from spreading.

But while also asking that people not make stores runs for toilet paper, tissues, cold medicines and other supplies, the experts also asked that the threat of the virus be put in perspective.

“The biggest problem we have is influenza,” said Dr. Perl. “We really need to think about other respiratory diseases that can cause other problems.” 

The meeting ended with Rep. Colin Allred saying the chances of COVID-19 emerging in north Texas are fairly high. But he also said he has been assured that the medical community is ready.

And, while we all might be tired of hearing it, Dr. Perl also recommended frequent hand-washing as a proven line of defense. Data has shown that hand-washing can reduce the spread of respiratory diseases by as much as 50%.

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