Officials Threaten To Close Parks If People Don’t Start Social Distancing, DART Modifies Schedule, A Lawsuit Over McKinney’s Shelter-In-Place Order & More.
It’s been a few days since our last coronavirus-related news roundup, so here’s another batch of pertinent news briefs meant to catch you up on the latest area goings-on.
As always, let’s kick this run off with another visual.
- As expected, the latest map breaking down confirmed COVID-19 cases in Dallas county by zip code continues to show an increased spread. This most recent map — compiled by Dallas County Health & Human Services and the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation — was shared through Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins’ social media channels on Saturday, March 28. It shows the regional spread of confirmed cases through Friday, March 27. Compared to the most recent previous map we shared, this one shows yet more area zip codes being infected by the virus than ever before, as well as increased rates of positive cases in many of the city’s most populated areas. We anticipate a new map being released at some point soon — likely Monday evening or on Tuesday. In the meantime, if you’re curious about what things look if you zoom out some, the Dallas Morning News has a handy county-by-county breakdown map.
- On Monday, Dallas County’s latest updated figures included 61 new confirmed cases, as well as its 11th coronavirus-related death. The most recent death was a man in his 40s, who was found dead in his home. Officials report that he suffered from high-risk and chronic health conditions prior to becoming infected. Monday’s numbers bring the area infected total to 549. Statewide, Texas has reported at least 2,877 positive cases and 38 related deaths as of Monday.
- The volume (or lack thereof) of Dallas County testing remains a concern, especially with weather forcing the county’s two test sites to close for the day. There are still just two drive-through testing sites in the county — located at the American Airlines Center (2500 Victory Plaza) and Ellis Davis Field House (9191 S. Polk St.) — and inclement weather concerns have forced both to shutter for the day on Monday. That could be an issue moving forward; fewer tests being conducted almost certainly means fewer positive cases being reported in the coming days, perhaps leading to false hope that the virus’ spread is being better controlled. This is especially concerning when considering the long-term, rain-filled forecast for the region, which could mean an extended period of tests being paused. On the other hand: Rain usually keeps people indoors, and could thus force them to better adhere to shelter-in-place mandates. Maybe? Regardless, the test site hours of operations are being changed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily starting on Tuesday — not that the closure times really matter, considering how each location has been regularly hitting its federally mandate 250-test cap since well before closing time each day since opening their services to the public.
- Dallas officials are threatening to close parks are citizens continue crowding the Katy Trail and White Rock Lake. Despite efforts to ease overcrowding of these areas through the use of patrols and barricades over the weekend, social distancing continues to be a problem along the Katy Trail and at White Rock Lake — so much so that government officials have now released a statement warning citizens that the increased usage of these two particular spots could lead to the immediate closure of all trails and 397 parks within Dallas Parks & Recreation’s jurisdiction. That’s quite the shame, too, since the majority of the city’s parks and trails are going unused as people seem to be exclusively flocking to the two most popular spots in the region. Worth noting: Even though Dallas Independent School District playgrounds are also closed, people appear to be continuing to use those spots during these times as well — leading to this tweet from DISD, which warns people against using the playgrounds and also warns people that violating the city’s stay-at-home order carries a fine of anywhere between $50 and $2,000.
- The actions of at least one bar in the State-Thomas neighborhood of Uptown has people concerned about proper social distancing, too. A video posted to Facebook on Sunday (see below) shows people hanging out on the patio of The Nodding Donkey, enjoying beers on the patio. Calls to the spot confirmed that the establishment, which was operating with all of its windows open on Sunday, was allowing patrons to hang out and drink on its patio while awaiting their to-go orders. That definitely feels like something of a brazen step to take as other restaurants in the area aren’t even allowing patrons inside of their doors, while taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of the virus — if they’re open at all. Meanwhile, Eater Dallas notes that some out-of-work service industry have taken to sending nudes to cover the bills.
- Dallas’ Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center is being converted into a pop-up hospital. At the direction of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and in order to “prepare for the worst-case challenges” relating to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Texas National Guard are converting the Downtown Dallas convention center into a temporary, supplemental hospital facility. The space will be set up to host 250 beds immediately, with plans accounting for a possible expansion to 1,400. Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson released the following statement in response to Abbott announcing the move: “I am grateful for the state’s assistance. The availability of hospital beds will be crucial to saving lives in the event of a surge in COVID-19 cases. We will continue to work with Governor Abbott to ensure Dallas has the necessary resources to help us through these difficult times.”
- The former FDA commissioner worries Dallas could become the next national outbreak center. In an interview with Politico, 47-year-old physician and former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb slammed Gov. Abbott’s slow response to the pandemic, noting his willingness to allow local officials to call the shots in terms of mandates. He also noted the lack of available testing currently available in the state before outright saying, “I’d be worried about Dallas.”
- Area hospitals are looking into new ways to treat COVID-19. While the Dallas Morning News reports on various clinical trials being set up within Dallas County as a way to test possible treatments for the virus, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes that a Fort Worth hospital is already using plasma transfusions in its treatments of the infected: On Saturday, a 42-year-old COVID-19 patient in critical condition at Harris Methodist Hospital began receiving blood plasma from a recovered patient. Though not a cure, doctors believe plasma could help in the reduction of certain coronavirus-related symptoms.
- A lawsuit is underway over the north Dallas suburb of McKinney’s shelter-in-place order. Seemingly at least in part due to confusion stemming from Collin County Judge Chris Hill’s very vague shelter-in-place order that referred to all business as “essential,” a real estate agent in McKinney is suing that North Texas city over McKinney Mayor George Fuller’s stricter orders for his municipality within that county. Fuller, who told the Dallas Morning News that his own 19-year-old daughter has tested positive for COVID-19 in Dallas recently, is confident that the suit, which is expected to be settled Tuesday, won’t stand: “I believe the law is on our side,” he told the DMN.
- DART will continue operating buses and light-rails throughout the shelter-in-place order, albeit with a modified schedule as ridership is down. The new schedule “reflects current ridership demand,” DART said in a statement on Monday. Head here for DART’s list of changes to its routes, which will go into place starting on Monday, April 6.
- Gov. Abbott expands his travel ban restrictions on flights coming into Texas. In addition to an earlier proclamation forcing all airplane travelers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Orleans to enter a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Texas, Gov. Abbott expanded these measures to include seven new markets on Sunday: California, Louisiana, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and Miami.
More as it comes.