Southwest Airlines Blocks Off Middle Seats Through November, Texas Motor Speedway Will Be A Polling Location, People Are Upset Over Big Tex’s Mask & More.

Believe it or now, but we’re now officially fewer than two months off from November’s general election.

Time flies when you’re living in hell, I guess!

Listen, we don’t need to tell you that the pandemic has penetrated every facet of public life. That point has been made carefully and concertedly clear over these last few months.

But, every week, we’re presented with even more news involving fixtures of existence that COVID-19 has affected — and, for this go-around, we’re looking at education, voting, flying, Thanksgiving, public transit and even the sacred pastime that is movies.

For more on this, here are some of the latest developments:

  • Dallas County reported 458 additional cases and one death on Thursday. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in Dallas County to 76,607. It also brings the death toll to 986. Of these new cases, 52 were late reports from previous months, which means 406 of the Thursday-announced positive test results are new.

  • 4,233 out of 5,822 hospital beds in Dallas are occupied, which brings the total occupancy to approximately 73 percent. Also: 613 out of 916 ICU beds are filled, while 348 out of 994 ventilators are in use.

  • According to the latest data from the Department of State Health Services dashboard, over 4,500 students and school staff members in Texas have tested positive for COVID-19 since late August. This data comes from weekly reports that every school is required to send to the Texas Education Agency.
  • On Wednesday, DART announced plans to return to a service level that matches 90 percent of its pre-pandemic output. The local transit authority has indicated in a press release that more concrete details on this plan are still forthcoming — but, so far, the agency has indicated plans to restore dozens of bus routes, and to offer 20-minute frequency for those route on weekdays until 7 p.m.
  • On Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced yet another plan to loosen coronavirus restrictions for restaurants and other private businesses. This time around, he’s giving license to office buildings, retailers and restaurants to expand their capacity from 50 percent to 75 percent. This new order is being applied to 19 out of Texas’ 22 hospital regions, with the three outliers being the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo and Victoria. Abbott also announced that long-term care facilities such as nursing homes can allow visitors starting on September 24.
  • In an effort to better meet social distancing guidelines, the Dallas-based Southwest Airlines announced on Wednesday that it will be blocking off middle seats through November. Meanwhile, American Airlines is transitioning a significant chunk of its US-to-Eastern Asia flights from Los Angeles International (LAX) to Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW). In an extensive report, the Dallas Morning News elaborates on why the airline made this seemingly counterintuitive decision.
  • Fort Worth NASCAR track Texas Motor Speedway will serve as a polling location on Tuesday, November 3. To better accommodate social distancing amid an election cycle characterized by an intentional gutting of the U.S. Postal Service, TMS will serve voters in Denton and is now the second major sporting facility in North Texas to announce its plans to act as a polling station, following the lead of the American Airlines Center, which also announced this week intentions to serve as an early voting location and not just an Election Day one. The Dallas Mavericks, who play at the AAC, are also hosting a drive-through voter registration campaign at their headquarters across the highway from their arena on Tuesday, September 22.
  • Alamo Drafthouse is temporarily closing four of its six North Texas locations. All six of the cinema chains were briefly open for a week in August, but the company has now decided to shutter for the time being its locations in Denton, Las Colinas, The Cedars and North Richland Hills. Instead, cinephiles with lucrative life insurance policies will now have to venture out to either Richardson or Lake Highlands to get their film fix.
  • Big Tex is now wearing a mask. And some people are upset about it. Yes: Somehow, even this has been politicized.

And thus concludes our biweekly COVID-19 news roundup.

Be sure to wear a mask, practice social distancing and stay home as often as possible.

Otherwise these posts ain’t going away.

Cover photo by Stephen M. Keller courtesy of Southwest Airlines.

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