As Texans’ concerns about the spread of COVID-19 remain high, according to a new poll, and state and local officials continue to respond to the pandemic, there’s a lot of information to keep up with. Here are today’s bullet points:
- Poll: Texans say 2 to 1 COVID-19 spread is “out of control;”
- Dallas County reports record 30 new deaths from COVID-19 Wednesday, 413 new cases;
- Dallas Love Field to host a pilot project for Southwest Airlines’ thermal screening initiative;
- Gov. Abbott announces additional $118 Million in federal funding for Texas higher education.
Poll: Texans Say 2 To 1 COVID-19 Spread Is “Out Of Control”
With Texas among the hot spots in the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., voters surveyed said 65 – 31% that the spread of the novel coronavirus is “out of control,” according to a Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters in Texas released Wednesday.
Two-thirds, 66%, said they personally know someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, a 31-point spike since early June when 35% said they personally knew someone who had been diagnosed with it.
“The concern is palpable as the number of virus victims soars and it’s getting more personal every day, as the patient lists increasingly include friends, family, and neighbors,” said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy in a news release.
Nearly seven out of 10 voters, 69%, said they are either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the state’s hospitals running out of space to care for sick patients. Thirty-one percent said they are “not so concerned” or “not concerned at all.”
More than half of voters, 53 – 44%, think the governor should not issue a stay-at-home order for the state to slow the spread of COVID-19.
However, voters say 68 – 29% that if local officials want to issue stay-at-home orders for their local areas, the governor should allow them to do so.
Eighty percent of voters approve of Gov. Greg Abbott’s order requiring most people in Texas to wear a face mask in public. Nineteen percent disapprove.
More than half of voters, 52%, say, looking back, Abbott reopened the economy “too quickly.” Thirty-three percent say he reopened the economy “at about the right pace,” and 13% say he did it “too slowly.”
Overall, voters are split on the way Abbott is handling the response to the coronavirus with 47% approving and 48% disapproving. It’s a 21-point swing in the net approval from early June when 56% of voters approved and 36% disapproved.
“The governor takes a big hit for his haste in trying to jump start the state. Popular just seven weeks ago, his approval rating drops precipitously,” Malloy added.
In contrast, there isn’t much change in the way voters in Texas view President Donald Trump’s handling of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Texas voters approve, a negative 45 – 52%, compared to June’s 47 – 51% approval.
In the race for the White House, 45% of voters surveyed support former Vice President Joe Biden, while 44% back Trump. In early June, voters backed Trump 44% to Biden’s 43%.
“With crises swirling through American society and a country deeply divided, there’s no other way to slice it. It’s a tossup in Texas,” Malloy added.
As for Sen. Ted Cruz, 48% approve of the job he’s doing and 42% disapprove.
And for Sen. John Cornyn 41% approve of the job he’s doing and 35% disapprove.
Be sure to check out our August issue hitting newsstands soon for the results of our reader survey in which we asked how readers felt about state and local leadership, the reopening of the economy, whether they were wearing masks, and more.
Dallas County Reports Record 30 More Deaths From COVID-19, But Only 413 New Cases
Dallas County Health and Human Services Wednesday reported 413 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total case count in Dallas County to 43,439, and an additional 30 deaths.
The additional deaths reported Wednesday include a 40-something-year-old Irving woman who died in a hospital emergency room, a Dallas man in his 50s, a Richardson woman in her 50s, a Dallas woman in her 50s, seven Dallas men in their 60s, an Irving man in his 60s, two Dallas men in their 70s, a Grand Prairie woman in her 70s, a Mesquite man in his 70s, an Irving man in his 70s, a Mesquite woman in her 70s, a Carrollton woman in her 80s, a Dallas man in his 80s, an Irving man in his 90s, and a Dallas woman in her 90s. Additionally, two Dallas men in their 50s were found dead at their homes. A Garland man in his 70s and a Dallas man in his 70s died in hospice care. A Dallas man in his 60s, a Dallas man in his 70s, a Mesquite man in his 70s, and a Dallas woman in her 90s who lived in long-term care facilities were also among the deaths reported Wednesday.
Of the 567 total deaths reported to date, about a third have been associated with long-term care facilities.
More than 1,200 children under 18 years of age have been diagnosed with COVID-19 during the first three weeks of July, including 29 children who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 during that timeframe. There have also been 98 confirmed COVID-19 cases in children and staff reported from 65 separate daycares in Dallas County since June 1, including three staff members requiring hospitalization.
Of the cases requiring hospitalization to date, more than two-thirds have been under 65 years of age. Diabetes has been an underlying high-risk health condition reported in about a third of all hospitalized patients with COVID-19.
The percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for COVID-19 remains high, the county noted, with 26.8% of symptomatic patients presenting to area hospitals testing positive in week 28.
“Today we see a record for deaths reported in one day but also a very good number on the number of positive cases reported. It’s too early to say if this is the beginning of a trend or some anomaly but we were expecting good results from mask compliance after most persons visiting businesses and around others outside their home have been wearing their mask. The wearing of masks is the single most effective tool to prevent the spread of coronavirus when people congregate outside their homes and increase the risk of spread,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “You should continue to avoid any business where 100 percent mask wearing is not enforced or possible such as in-restaurant dining, youth sports, community pools, high-intensity workout classes, gyms, cigar bars, day camps, arcades, movie theaters, bowling alleys, amusement parks, concert venues, sporting arenas, group weddings or other large events or any other venue where there are high-touch surfaces and masks cannot be worn at all times. Additionally, daycare should be limited to essential workers only as we are seeing an increase in the spread to young people. We can and will get through this and come out stronger on the other side but it takes all of us making smart personal responsibility choices, wearing a mask outside of our home, and avoiding any unnecessary contact. You should only be going out for necessities and exercise during this time of high spread.”
The latest data from the Institute for Urban Policy Research, which collects data from the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council, showed 82% of hospitals were reporting, the occupancy rate is almost 72%, 79% of ICU beds were occupied, and 52% of ventilators were in use.
Of cases requiring hospitalization who reported employment, over 80% 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.
Dallas County reported 831 COVID-19 patients in hospitals Tuesday. The number of emergency room visits for COVID-19-like symptoms in Dallas County was 678 as of Tuesday, which represents around 29 % of all emergency department visits in the county according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council.
Statewide, 351,618 cases have been reported in 250 counties from 3,104,148 tests as of July 21, as well as 4,348 fatalities. There were 10,893 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the state as of Wednesday.
Dallas Love Field To Host Pilot Project For Southwest Airlines’ Thermal Screening Initiative
Dallas Love Field will host a Southwest Airlines pilot project that explores the use of thermal screening cameras to check body temperatures of outbound airline passengers in an effort to examine additional safety measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thermal cameras will be positioned at various locations prior to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) security checkpoint entrance beginning by early August.
“The safety of our customers and employees is priority number one at all times, but especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dallas Love Field Director Mark Duebner said. “We are happy to partner with our friends at Southwest Airlines to host this important initiative.”
Southwest and the airport reportedly intend to utilize a third-party contractor to facilitate the thermal screening demonstration, while evaluating potential technology, line and wait time management, and operational protocols.
During the first phase of the study, the thermal scans will not be linked to specific individuals, and the results will only be used for research purposes. The information gleaned from the study will guide future decision-making regarding the deployment of screening initiatives at Dallas Love Field and, possibly, other airport locations which Southwest serves.
“Southwest always operates a multi-layered approach to supporting the well-being of travelers and employees, which is especially important during the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said Scott Halfmann, vice president of safety and security at Southwest Airlines. “We are pleased to partner with Dallas Love Field on this pilot project as thermal screenings could be an important, additional layer of precaution that Southwest can offer customers starting at the very beginning of their travel journey.”
Gov. Abbott Announces Additional $118 Million In Federal Funding For Texas Higher Education
We end today’s digest with some news about additional resources for higher education. Abbott Wednesday announced that the state will allocate an additional $118 million in federal funding to support higher education, including $93 million to help students continue or restart their progress toward earning a post-secondary credential or degree.
The funding follows the $57 million that Abbott and legislative leaders recently allocated to offset potential cuts to state financial aid programs. This combined investment to post-secondary students and institutions, totaling $175 million, comes from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“One of the best ways to accelerate our economic recovery is to make strategic investments in our future workforce,” said Abbott. “These federal funds will provide targeted assistance to keep students enrolled or help them re-enroll in higher education so they can pursue new professional and economic opportunities for themselves and their families. By investing in our students and institutions, we will make our workforce and our economy even stronger.”
The funding announced today includes: $46.5 million in targeted financial aid for upskilling and reskilling displaced workers in high-demand fields, $46.5 million in emergency student support so students whose families have been severely financially impacted by COVID-19 can stay enrolled in higher education, $15 million for strategic education and workforce data infrastructure, and $10 million to strengthen distance education course offerings and bolster institutions’ capabilities to use data to support student success.
“In today’s economy, we know jobs increasingly follow skills,” said Commissioner of Texas Higher Education Harrison Keller. “These strategic investments in our students and institutions will keep more students on track to enter the workforce with the credentials and education that tomorrow’s economy will demand.