This story is from March 31. For updates from April 1, click here.
After Governor Greg Abbott instituted an "essential services and activities protocol" Tuesday that called for Texans to stay home except for when conducting essential business, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins spoke about what that order means for Dallas County residents at a press conference.
Jenkins said Dallas County is already doing what Abbott's order says. He said the only thing that would have superseded the Dallas County shelter-in-place order already in effect would be Abbott's allowance of religious activities by following guidelines restricting gatherings to less than 10 people, but that Dallas-area religious leaders worked together to figure out a way to lend streaming gear and facilities so that church services could continue online.
Jenkins also clarified his Sunday remarks about nursing homes. If your loved one is at a nursing home that has a positive COVID-19 case and you want to take them home, they must test negative before you can take them home. If your family member is at any other nursing facility in Dallas County, you can take them home without getting tested, Jenkins said.
If you do have a loved one at one of the facilities that have positive tests, Jenkins said Parkland Hospital will test those residents and allow healthy residents to leave sooner if they have a negative test result.
"We're going to do everything we can to get those tests for you," Jenkins said.
Top updates for Tuesday, March 31:
- Two people have died from COVID-19 at long-term care facilities in Dallas County. There are now four nursing homes with known positive cases across the county.
- Plasma from a former COVID-19 patient has been used to treat an infected person for the first time in North Texas, but it will be a few days before doctors know if it worked.
- Collin County Commissioners have extended an emergency order for as long as the state emergency declaration stays in effect. But, they also asked the county judge to provide more clarity and direction for the county's approximately 1 million residents.
Dallas County reports 82 new cases, 2 additional deaths
Dallas County health officials confirmed 82 additional cases of the novel coronavirus and two new deaths Tuesday. This brings the total case count to 631 and 13 deaths in the county.
The most recent deaths include a Rowlett man in his 50s and a Dallas man in his 90s. Both men had underlying health conditions before becoming infected with coronavirus, officials say.
Last week, Dallas County officials confirmed that amount of patients requiring admission to the intensive care unit due to COVID-19 was increasing.
“Of cases requiring hospitalization, about three-quarters (75%) have been either over 60 years of age or have had at least one known high-risk chronic health condition,” officials said.
Now, officials say the numbers of ICU hospitalizations from the past week have exceeded the peak week of influenza-related hospitalizations from the 2019-2020 season in Dallas County.
In addition to the increase of hospitalizations, officials say 26 of the COVID-19 cases have been associated with long-term care facilities, including two deaths confirmed in the past week.
American Airlines Center testing site reaches capacity
The drive-thru testing site at the American Airlines Center in Dallas has reached its federal limit of 250 tests for the day.
Officials say it will resume testing at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
In the meantime, residents meeting criteria can still be tested at the Ellis Davis Field House located at 9191 S. Polk Street.
Texans asked to stay home, if possible through April
Gov. Greg Abbott shared details of a new executive order Tuesday, telling Texans to stay home unless grocery shopping, seeking medical care or working at "essential" business until April 30.
He also ordered schools remain closed until May 4.
More than 42,000 people have been tested for the new coronavirus in Texas, and 3,266 cases have been confirmed, the governor said.
Forty-one people have died from the disease in the state.
Abbott said he believes social distancing efforts have been working to slow the spread of COVID-19.
He said his latest executive order is "consistent with the guidelines offered by the president."
Fort Worth police officer positive for COVID-19, third case on the force
A third officer has tested positive for COVID-19 in Fort Worth. All three are self-isolated at home and "in good spirits," according to a release from the department.
Fort Worth police say all three officers worked in the same unit. They have created a team to trace the movements and interactions of these officers, and notifying anyone who may be at risk of exposure, officials said.
The department is also disinfecting the officers' vehicles and offices.
Two DART workers test positive for COVID-19
Dallas officials announced Tuesday that two Dallas Area Rapid Transit employees tested positive for COVID-19 and are self-isolating at home.
One of the employees is a DART police officer and the second is a bus operator.
The bus and police car used by the employees are no longer in service and will remain in quarantine.
Dallas hospitals now required to report capacity numbers daily to city officials
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said he believes residents still don’t understand what’s going on and how serious the spread of COVID-19 is within the community during a news conference Tuesday morning.
So now, city hospitals will need to report the number of beds, ICU beds and ventilators they have available every day by 4 p.m., Johnson announced. He believes the numbers could have a strong impact on making the dangers of the virus clear to residents.
"Transparency and facts are key to slowing the spread of this virus,” the mayor said.
Johnson also noted that more hospitalizations are expected because of the novel coronavirus, and watching the number of beds dwindle may encourage people to take the pandemic and official guidance more seriously, especially as the city continues to keep parks and trails open despite overcrowding problems.
“Not everyone in this city has a backyard to go outside and get some fresh air,” he said while explaining the decision.
Instead, the city is working with local park officials to enforce social distancing, especially on the Katy Trail and at White Rock Lake.
“Please keep your distance so we can keep these city amenities open as long as we can,” he said.
Dallas testing sites change hours
The two testing sites for COVID-19 in Dallas have changed their operating times from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m each day. The sites had previously been open until 8 p.m.
The locations are:
- American Airlines Center, Parking Lot E, 2500 Victory Plaza
- Ellis Davis Field House, 9191 S Polk St.
To qualify for a test, people must have the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Must show a temperature of 99.6 or higher
Southlake postpones elections
Southlake city officials announced Tuesday they will postpone the May 2 elections for two City Council members and a special bond election.
The elections will either be moved to the Nov. 3 elections or to an alternate earlier date approved by the governor.
Collin County reports 160 total cases
There were 26 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Collin County on Monday night, bringing the county's case total to 160.
There are 112 active cases of the disease in the county, health officials said. 47 people have recovered, 16 have been hospitalized and one person has died since the outbreak began.
For a more in-depth look at the data, click here.
As case count rises across North Texas, so do clusters at nursing homes
North Texas has officially passed the 1,000 mark for positive COVID-19 cases. But more concerning is the spread of cases occurring inside a number of care facilities across the region.
Those cases include 14 cases at one facility and four more — including two deaths — at a second in Dallas County, 12 at an assisted living home in Arlington, and the biggest spread in Denton, where 49 residents and 22 staff have tested positive at a state-assisted living center.
And officials at one of the facilities believe they could have potentially prevented the spread of the disease through their walls if a local hospital had informed them of the positive test results for two residents after they were hospitalized.
A spokesperson said they only learned of the positive results for the disease after one of the resident's family members informed them, several days after the results came back.
Experts told WFAA the lack of communication may have been because hospital officials thought it violated federal medical privacy rules, though the hospital did not return a request for comment.
But under these circumstances, a hospital can share the information with another health care provider, Jeffery Drummond, an expert on medical privacy at the Jackson Walker law firm in Dallas, told WFAA.
On Sunday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins enacted stricter regulations for nursing homes and care facilities, but at the same time advised residents to take their loved ones out of nursing homes if they are able to safely do so as cases have begun to cluster at the facilities.
Health experts recommend taking the following preventative actions:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Practice "social distancing" and stay at least 6 feet away from others and avoid large public gatherings
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Consult CDC’s travel website for any travel advisories and steps to protect yourself if you plan to travel outside of the U.S.