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Wesleyan grad on the COVID-19 frontlines

by James H. McBride

David Cook is a Texas Wesleyan graduate with a dilemma: He is the mayor of Mansfield, which has had the ZIP code with the most cases of COVID-19 in Tarrant County since the end of March.

Mansfield’s 76063 ZIP code had the most COVID-19 cases every day in April until Monday, when it was surpassed by 76179 in northwest Fort Worth and 76010 in east Arlington, according to the Tarrant County Health Department website, tarrantcountyhealth.com.

The county had recorded 1,430 cases and 44 deaths as of Tuesday, according to the site. The 76105 ZIP code, which includes Texas Wesleyan, has 21 cases and 1 death.

Cook said he is not surprised by76063 having the most cases when interviewed last week because of the density of the population. Most of 76063 is in Tarrant County, but a small part of it is in Johnson County and Ellis County. 76063 is Mansfield’s only ZIP code.

“This ZIP code has two to two and a half times the residents of other ZIP codes,” said Cook, who according to his city biography graduated from the Texas Wesleyan School of Law in 1996.

David Cook is a Texas Wesleyan School of Law graduate. Photo courtesy of the City of Mansfield.

Cook was first elected mayor in 2008 and is in his fifth term, according to the city’s website, mansfieldtexas.gov.

He said the county had not told him that 76063 had the most cases. The information about cases in Tarrant County by ZIP code has been available on the TCHD’s website since April 13. 76063 has had the most cases since at least the last week in March.

Several Mansfield officials, including two members of the seven-member city council, were unaware that 76063 had the most cases in the county in April until this week and/or believed that writing about this issue was a misrepresentation of the numbers.

Director of Communications & Marketing Belinda Willis believes that reporting that 76063 had more cases than any other county county code is a misrepresentation.

“If you printed a headline, ‘Mansfield has the most COVID cases,’ it would be true,” she said on Tuesday, “but it would also be a misrepresentation of the facts.”

Willis said this is because 76063 covers about 39 square miles and has a population of 100,000, making it almost impossible to compare to another city, which may have multiple codes.

Councilman Larry Broseh wrote in an email that the city has been very proactive in its COVID-19 response, as seen by its social media page.

“I would go for a more compelling story if I were you,” he wrote.

Broseh also wrote that he knows somebody who was infected with the virus who recovered with no complications.

Mayor pro tem Julie Short wrote in an email that council members know the numbers for their ZIP code, but she was not aware that 76063 had more cases than any other ZIP code in Tarrant County.

“I do not think the Mansfield citizens are at risk more than anyone else in this state,” Short wrote.

Short is not scared of contracting the virus and believes the city has done all it can to help mitigate the spread; she wrote that she knows someone in Colorado who was able to recover with few complications.

“I think Mansfield should open back up for business so our people can get back to work,” she wrote.

Cook said the city council has issued four emergency declarations on their own, but these were mainly passed to stay in alignment with the county-set standards and best practices.

“Each one of them has been very constistent with the Tarrant County judge,” Cook said.

Most of the comments coming from the TCHD are on a county-wide basis and do not centralize on individual cities or ZIP codes when it comes to fighting the virus, he said.

“Each time we have a new case, that information is provided to our police and fire chiefs,” he said.

Statistics from the TCHD show that the majority of cases are now coming from the community. Cook said this will not change his approach to Mansfield’s response to the pandemic.

“We have confidence in Tarrant County and their handling of the situation,” he said.

Restrictions put in place by Tarrant County dating back over a month seem to have a positive effect on slowing COVID-19, said Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja.

“There is clear evidence we are doing the right things,” he told the county Commissioners Court on April 14.

Taneja said COVID-19 cases are now doubling about every four days in the county, and the peak is expected by June.

“Keep staying at home,” he said. “We need to keep the course.”

Cook said the city only has one hospital but that they have not seen an influx of COVID-19 patients, and there were plenty of beds available at the hospital as of last week.

“We are certainly handling it one day at a time,” Cook said.

For more information on COVID-19 cases in Tarrant County, go to tarrantcountyhealth.com.

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