Southern Dallas Cases Are Spiking, All County Residents Are Now Required To Wear Masks In Public, Testing Capabilities Are Finally Rising & Much More.
It’s been a minute since we last took a zoomed-out look at all of the latest coronavirus-related goings-on in and around Dallas — and tons has transpired over that stretch.
So, that in mind, we’re well overdue for another round of COVID-19 contextualization through bite-sized, digestible news nugs.
Per tradition, let’s start our proceedings off once again with the latest map from Dallas County Health & Human Services/Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation, which details the infection counts within zip codes across Dallas County.
- The latest map of Dallas County’s confirmed cases broken down by zip code — this one updated through Thursday, April 16 — shows infections mostly now spiking in the city’s southern sector. Almost a month after DCHHS and PCCI began regularly releasing these maps, these visuals (which are now also available in interactive form) are finally starting to offer a full, 360-degree look at the battle the city is facing with the coronavirus — and not just the previous snapshot they provided of those who were able to gain access to testing early on. In turn, it’s now becoming increasingly clear that communities of color in southern Dallas County are facing increased exposure to the virus, which is especially concerning given studies that indicate these areas are also the ones researchers say are most at risk in terms of fighting off the virus because of underlying health conditions. The racial breakdown of confirmed cases across the county released by DCHH and PCCI further highlights this: Of the 2,0666 cases confirmed in the county through Thursday, 24 percent of the infected are Hispanic, 18 percent are white, 17 percent are black and 2 percent are Asian. It’s worth bearing in mind, too, that 39 percent of Dallas County’s infected — representing 800 cases — do not bear any race information.
- As of Friday afternoon, Dallas County has reported 2,190 positive cases and 55 deaths related to the coronavirus. Across Texas, there have been 17,515 reported positive cases and 434 deaths to date. The Dallas Morning News has amassed a collection of interesting visuals representing the statewide infection totals.
- Dallas hospitals still believe they boast the capacity to handle the virus as its spread increases. Based on information shared to Mayor Eric Johnson’s office by 25 hospitals across Dallas through Thursday, the city’s current hospital capacity numbers are as follows: 2,995 of 5,710 of all beds are currently filled; 519 of 827 ICU beds are currently occupied; and 299 of 940 available ventilators are in use. That in mind, an earlier battle between Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over the use of the state’s pop-up hospital that had been up at Downtown Dallas’ Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center has come to a conclusion: Based on the advice of area medical professionals, Dallas County is no longer fighting to keep the facility in place, instead relinquishing those resources to be used elsewhere in the state as needed.
- Testing capabilities across the county — and North Texas at large — is finally increasing. After weeks of public pleading by County Judge Jenkins, the federal government has finally given the green light for Dallas County’s two public testing sites — located at the American Airlines Center (2500 Victory Plaza) and Ellis Davis Field House (9191 S. Polk St.) — to up their daily testing capacity from 250 tests per day at each location to 500 tests per day. Jenkins also announced that Walgreens has agreed to open two additional free public testing sites — one in Dallas and another in Fort Worth — that will each offer an additional 160 tests per day at no cost to the public. It’s worth noting, however, that the majority of tests being conducted around the region at this point are being conducted by private labs.
- All Dallas County residents are to wear some sort of protective cloth covering over their faces when in public starting on Saturday, April 18. On Thursday, Jenkins issued an order announcing that all residents over the age of two years old are to wear some sort of mask or face covering while working an essential job, riding public transportation or otherwise engaging in an activity that allows them to leave the house amidst the county’s ongoing shelter-in-place order. At the press conference where he made his announcement, Jenkins noted that residents not adhering to this mandate could face a fine of up to $1,000. On Friday, county commissioners voted to scale this initiative back some, removing wording referencing any fines and also adding a provision that allows crafting business to open so that residents can purchase materials for making masks of their own. While masks are an improvement over nothing, the best preventative measure for COVID-19 is still not leaving the house if at all possible. Alas, Dallas doesn’t appear to be doing a great job of this just yet, with one research firm giving Dallas a “C” grade on its residents’ social distancing efforts to date. Oh, and speaking of masks? The company behind the popular N95 masks, 3M, has filed a lawsuit accusing a Dallas fraudster of ripping off its trademark and using it to sell overpriced masks during this pandemic.
- Following President Donald Trump’s lead, Gov. Abbott now says he is intent on “reopening” Texas sooner than later. At the same Friday afternoon press conference in which he announced plans to keep shuttered all school campuses across the state through the remainder of the academic year, Abbott also announced intentions to rev the state economy back up by issuing exceptions from his statewide stay-at-home order: On April 20, state parks will reopen; on April 22, restrictions on certain elective surgeries will be lifted; starting April 24, Abbott hopes to allow retail operations to offer to-go services along the lines of what restaurants are currently offering; and on April 27, he plans to announce additional businesses across the state that he will allow to return to operations, albeit under certain provisions. It’s worth pointing out at this point that Texas is currently ranked fifth in total unemployment claims during the pandemic.
- As of Sunday, 31 inmates at Dallas County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19. That’s the highest figure of any such facility in Texas, accounting for more than half of the 54 county jail positive cases statewide. As a result, two inmates confirmed to have been infected with the virus have filed a joint lawsuit against the county that demands better treatment, practices and care for inmates during this time. WFAA has more on the lawsuit here.
- Major industries across the region are finding their essential employees infected with the virus. A worker at an Amazon warehouse in North Texas — a facility recently visited by billionaire Amazon owner Jeff Bezos — has tested positive. A worker at a Fiesta Mart grocery store in Irving has also tested positive. Meanwhile, at least 100 American Airlines flight attendants have also tested positive to this point.
- Front-line workers in Dallas are being publicly and repeatedly thanked for their efforts. On Thursday night at 7 p.m., at the urging of Mayor Johnson, Dallas became the latest city to participate in a citywide ovation for health care workers, police officers, firefighters, park rangers, code officers and other workers providing essential services across the city during this time of crisis. This symbolic effort followed last week’s similar gesture in which the Downtown Dallas skyline turned blue for a night in order to recognize these workers. Meanwhile, six DISD cafeteria workers were featured as part of a series of covers for an issue of Time magazine that highlighted the efforts of essential workers across the country. And, in some truly encouraging news, the Dallas Police Department’s social media channels have been flooded of late with images of officers who won their battles with COVID-19 and are now back on the job.
- In the midst of all this, a possible serial killer is on the loose in South Dallas. Dallas police believe the same man is responsible for three random murders and an additional shooting in South Dallas in recent weeks. Without many other leads to go on, DPD has turned to the media for help in possibly identifying the suspect.
- Major sports in America will make their return here in North Texas, with the PGA announcing plans to return to play starting with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Fort Worth’s Colonial Country Club in June. The tournament will be played without fans in attendance, but will be broadcast on television. Interestingly, this announcement was made in the wake of Gov. Abbott announcing just a week earlier that he did not consider golf course operations to be “essential” business during the pandemic.
- The Dallas Cowboys seem to have a wishy-washy understanding of proper quarantine protocol. After getting some social media blow-back for practicing together in the midst of shelter-in-place orders, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott once again came under fire for ignoring government mandates by hosting a get-together at Prescott’s home in Prosper over the weekend. In a statement released after additional public criticism, Prescott maintained that he is indeed taking the pandemic seriously, that the event he hosted involved fewer than 10 attendees and that the whole situation is being blown out of proportion. Sure, man! Whatever you say! Granted, early ’90s Cowboys antics these ain’t, but Prescott and Elliott’s actions of late sure come off as crazy tone-deaf in light of all else that’s going on in the world these days.
That does it for now. Expect another round of updates sooner than later.