As Dallas County continues to report record-high new COVID-19 case counts and state and local officials continue to monitor the state of the pandemic and the most effective ways to prevent its spread, there’s a lot of information to take in. Here are today’s bullet points:
- New Face Covering Requirements Could Be Forthcoming
- Dallas County Reports More Than 400 New COVID-19 Cases Wednesday
- Taiwanese Government To Donate 30,000 Masks To Dallas
New Face Covering Requirements Could Be Forthcoming
Gov. Greg Abbott, in an appearance on KWTX, didn’t object Wednesday to an order by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff requiring businesses to require employees and customers to wear face coverings when six feet of separation isn’t feasible or face a $1,000 fine.
“There has been a plan in place all along. All that was needed (was) for local officials to actually read the plan that was issued by the state of Texas,” Abbott told the TV station, which was also reported by the Dallas Morning News. “It turned out earlier today that the county judge in Bexar County finally figured that out.”
Abbott’s statements came the day after mayors from some of Texas’ largest cities signed onto a June 16 letter calling on him to allow local officials to enforce wearing face coverings in public venues where social distancing isn’t possible.
“Judge Wolff’s order is not inconsistent with the Governor’s executive order,” John Wittman, a spokesman for Abbott, told the Texas Tribune.
Following Abbott’s statements Wednesday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he’s planning to bring a proposal before the Dallas County Commissioner’s Court.
“I’m pleased that the Governor has changed his mind. I’m asking our county lawyers and business leaders to look at this and plan to make a proposal for the Commissioner’s Court to look at very soon,” Jenkins’ statement read.
Jenkins added on social media that the city of Dallas and Dallas County were following the state’s recommendations regarding face coverings last month until Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter in May to local officials warning that wearing masks, while recommended under Abbott’s order, couldn’t be required under the order.
Glad @GovAbbott has listened to science and changed his mind. @CityOfDallas @DallasCountyTx were requiring businesses follow Gov’s #OpenTexas recommendations last month on masking until his lawyer, @KenPaxtonTX ,wrote demanding we stop. This will save lives. #StrongerTogether https://t.co/c3flwhnpbk
— Clay Jenkins (@JudgeClayJ) June 17, 2020
The talk of new mask mandates follows a Tuesday press conference in which Abbott said he felt the mayors and other officials weren’t using all the tools available at their disposal under the constraints of his order to enforce health recommendations.
Dallas County Reports More Than 400 New COVID-19 Cases Wednesday
The latest deaths include a 40-something-year-old Dallas man, a 60-something-year-old Duncanville woman, a 60-something-year-old Mesquite man, a 60-something-year-old Dallas man, another 60-something-year-old Mesquite man, a 70-something-year-old Dallas woman, a 70-something-year-old Lancaster man, a 70-something-year-old Grand Prairie man, and a 90-something-year-old Dallas woman. Eight had been hospitalized, five had underlying, high-risk health conditions, and one died in hospice care, officials say.
More than 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases in children and staff were reported from nine separate childcare facilities in the county during the last week, with additional reports of associated illnesses in family members of affected children, according to the county.
Prior to this past week, only one daycare facility had been reported with any cases in the previous two months.
Increasing outbreaks of cases are also being reported from multiple large social gatherings since the beginning of June. The county reports the recent death of a 12 year-old is under investigation by the medical examiner’s office as a COVID-19 associated death.
“Today is our highest number ever for new positive COVID-19 cases as we break 400 in Dallas County for the first time,” Jenkins said. “Additionally, we have nine confirmed COVID-19 deaths and one death still under investigation by the Medical Examiner of a 12 year old that may be COVID-19 related.
“Of more concern is the 40% increase we’ve seen in hospitalizations in Dallas County over the last two weeks. If these percentage increases continue, many more people will get sick and die in the coming weeks,” he continued. “I’m pleased the Governor changed his mind and will allow reasonable local rules to require businesses to enforce masking and social distancing. Once enacted in Dallas County and in other local jurisdictions, this will save countless lives. In the meantime, it’s up to all of us to focus on what is safe for ourselves, our family, and our community.
“We now know from the recent medical articles reporting on studies on masking, that the single most important thing we can do to protect ourselves from COVID-19 is universal masking,” Jenkins said.
Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Phil Huang also told Allison Harris of Fox 4 News that he believes the record-setting number of new cases reported Wednesday date back to around Memorial Day weekend.
Just spoke with @DrPhilHuangDFW. He says he believes the record number of cases reported today date back to reopenings around Memorial Day weekend. He says many relate to childcare facilities and family gatherings, parties, large groups being together.
— Allison Harris (@AllisonFox4News) June 17, 2020
As for hospitalization, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson shared Wednesday that 25 hospitals reported bed and ventilator capacity. Of 6,065 total beds, 4,094 (68%) were occupied, of 927 total ICU beds, 656 (71%) were occupied, and of 972 total ventilators, 321 (33%) were in use.
The county remains at over 400 COVID-19 cases in a hospital or acute care setting, with an increase to 418. Additionally, the percentage of emergency room visits for COVID-19-like symptoms in Dallas County for a 24-hour period ending June 16, rose to almost 600 visits, representing over 28% of all visits according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council.
More than 85% of cases requiring hospitalization who reported employment have been critical infrastructure workers, with a broad range of affected occupational sectors, including: healthcare, transportation, food and agriculture, public works, finance, communications, clergy, first responders and other essential functions. Of cases requiring hospitalization, more than two-thirds have been under 65 years of age, and about half do not have any high-risk chronic health conditions. Diabetes has been an underlying high-risk health condition reported in about a third of all hospitalized patients with COVID-19.
The age-adjusted rates of confirmed COVID-19 cases in non-hospitalized patients have been highest among the Hispanic population (667.4 per 100,000), the Asian population (187.4 per 100,000), and Black people (136.4 per 100,000). These rates have been higher than White people (43.8 per 100,000).
Over 60% of overall COVID-19 cases to date have been among the Hispanic population. Of the 302 total deaths reported to date, over a third have been associated with long- term care facilities.
Taiwanese Government To Donate 30,000 Masks To Dallas
Lastly, as usual, we end today’s digest with some good news. Peter C.Y. Chen, the departing director general of the Taipei Economic Cultural Organization (TECO) in Houston, will make a ceremonial presentation of 30,000 masks that will be donated to the city of Dallas this morning.
Johnson requested that the city provide 20,000 masks to Parkland Memorial Hospital and 10,000 masks to local shelters for people experiencing homelessness.