Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley Says Bars Can Open At 50% Despite The County’s Steady Rise In Cases, Courts Battle Over Ballot Drop-Offs And More.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott’s new guidelines for reopening bars to 50% dominated the pandemic response debates in North Texas. This week, Tarrant County joined counties like Collin and Denton in pulling the trigger to reopen. Ken Paxton found himself in the middle of Abbott’s latest ballot drop-off stunt after a U.S. district judge blocked it. Plus more!

Catch up on the latest pandemic-related news below:

  • On Monday, Dallas County reported an additional 336 additional cases and 4 new deaths. Of Monday’s cases, one is considered a probable case. This brings the total case count to 86,775 and the death toll to 1,056.

  • As of  Monday, 4111 of 5819 total hospital beds were occupied, bringing the total occupancy to 71%. 663 of 919 ICU beds are filled and 325 of Dallas’ 985 ventilators are in use.

  • Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley has elected to reopen bars at 50% capacity starting Wednesday. This decision comes on the heels of Tarrant County reporting a single day uptick of coronavirus cases in the 700s for the first time in two months on Sunday. Of the 794 total cases reported, 683 were confirmed, with one new death. The last four weeks have shown a steady increase in Tarrant County case counts, though Whitley claimed hospitalizations had not gone up, which factored into his decision. Contrarily, The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports that hospitalizations are on the rise.
  • Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an emergency stay over U.S. District Judge Robert Pittman’s injunction that would have blocked Greg Abbott’s order limiting county absentee ballot drop-off locations. It really is just back-and-forth with these guys. Paxton motioned that the U.S. District Court lacks jurisdiction on the matter, while Governor Abbott maintains his sanctions are in place to limit voter-fraud, despite a lack of evidence that election security would be compromised in the first place. Paxton suggested the stay of the District Court’s ruling until Tuesday, pending an appeal. More on that, here.
  • The pandemic is expected to further inhibit numbers of medically insured children in Texas. Though this year’s numbers are not yet available, between 2016 and 2019, nearly a third of the increase of uninsured children in the United States came from Texas. This new comes as North Texans push for more focus on expanding Medicaid.
  • The Dallas Morning News reports homeless encampments in parks are up 30% since last year. These findings come after organized city “cleanups” this summer were delayed due to the risk of virus spread. Encampment cleanups are a controversial city expenditure that the ACLU has previously criticized for violating the rights of homeless people without providing meaningful solutions. The Office of Homeless Solutions has been working with Christian non-profit group OurCalling to institute more practical and humanitarian policies. Dallas counted 4,400 homeless at the start of 2020. The city has provided a new online dashboard showing encampments on a map.
  • A so-called “COVID-slide”, which refers to learning loss affected by school closures during the pandemic, is a hot topic among DISD officials. Early assessments have shown dismal signs for Dallas County students’ learning retention so far. However, any changes made will be a collaborative decision based on input from the school board, district leadership, educators and parents. An option of extending the school year through summer months is on the table.

That concludes our biweekly rundown of coronavirus updates. Remember to mask up, keep a safe social distance and stay the fuck home when you can.

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