COVID-19’s Arrival in North Texas Impacting Millions as Churches, Sports, Schools Shut Down

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Updated March 13

North Texas officials announced this week the Dallas area’s first “presumptive positive” cases of COVID-19, prompting schools to close, sports to cease, and churches to halt services.

Late Friday afternoon, Bishop Edward Burns of the Catholic Dioscese of Dallas announced that daily and Sunday Masses will be canceled, as well as activities at parishes through March 30. Catholic schools will be closed through March 27. Baptisms, weddings and funerals may proceed but must be limited to immediate family and guests.

The first presumptive case was announced in Collin County on Monday, with additional cases in Dallas, Tarrant, and Denton counties following later in the week. “Presumptive positive” means a patient tested positive by independent lab but is still pending CDC confirmatory testing.

A Frisco man in his late 30s traveled to Silicon Valley for work and began exhibiting mild symptoms when he returned home, Collin County Judge Chris Hill said on Monday. The patient is a parent of a student at Frisco ISD’s Tadlock Elementary, Frisco ISD said in a release. Tadlock is located at Preston and Eldorado in the 75035 zip code. Soon after, his wife and 3-year-old child tested positive. A total of five presumptive cases are in Collin County, officials reported Friday.

Dallas County has reported nine presumptive cases, which includes the first likely incidence of community spread by a patient with no history of travel. Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson declared a local state of disaster and restricted gatherings within the city limits to no more than 500 people.

Dallas County canceled all jury trials for the George Allen Civil Courthouse and for all Justice of the Peace (J.P.) Courts until April 13. Dallas County citizens summoned to appear at the George Allen Courthouse or a J.P. Court prior to April 13 should not report nor call to reschedule their service.

Tarrant County, which has three presumptive cases, has also issued a declaration of local disaster due to a public health emergency. Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley signed the order to help contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

There are at least 39 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state of Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday before declaring a state of disaster. Abbott said more than 50 Texans had pending tests.

What Does Presumptive Positive Mean?

According to the CDC, a patient considered presumptive positive is someone who tests positive for the virus using the CDC-developed rRT-PCR method but is still pending CDC confirmatory testing.

Collin County Health Care Services does not have an onsite laboratory to test for COVID-2019. Instead, physicians treating patients with suspected COVID-19 symptoms are tested in office and swab samples are sent to one of two independent labs, Quest Diagnostics or LabCorp, that have developed a test with the CDC- and FDA-developed rRT-PCR method for testing. Physicians do not need to obtain permission from county public health officials to order testing through commercial laboratories. However, suspected cases of COVID-2019 are reportable to the county health department.

In the United States, 754 cases were confirmed as of March 10, according to Johns Hopkins. By Friday, that number jumped to 1,992.

Schools Take Precautions

Public and private schools are taking action to keep their students safe, including asking parents to fill out surveys notifying them of recent travel, thorough campus cleaning, and even extending spring break to two weeks to allow for traveling students to stay home in quarantine.

Frisco, Plano, and Grapevine-Colleyville ISDs were the first school districts on Monday to ask parents to self-quarantine students who’ve traveled to certain countries amid the coronavirus outbreak.

By Thursday, Frisco, McKinney, Lovejoy, Plano, and Prosper ISDs extended their spring break holidays through Friday, March 20. Classes in the five districts will tentatively resume March 23.

NBC5 has an updating list of school closures and spring break extensions.

Retailers are limiting the sale of antibacterial products to prevent panic buying. CandysDirt.coms’ Karen Eubank observed empty shelves at Target today.

Real Estate Impacted by COVID

The real estate market is feeling an impact, too. In an emergency decision, the Federal Reserve cut its benchmark lending rate in response to the spreading coronavirus. 

“The Federal Reserve cut interest rates by half a percentage point following an unscheduled meeting [March 3], an emergency move designed to bolster the U.S. economy against the rapidly spreading coronavirus that’s roiled financial markets,” states a Bankrate article by Sarah Foster. 

Several of the world’s most prominent real estate companies pulled out of the MIPIM conference in Cannes, France, because of concerns about exposure to Coronavirus. The conference subsequently was rescheduled to June.

South by Southwest organizers canceled the two-week tech, music, and film conference last week, a major contributor to the economy in Austin. A popular energy conference in Houston was canceled last week, and rumors are circulating that the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo could be impacted.

Information Sources

With misinformation running rampant, Harvard Health urged citizens to apply a critical eye when reading about coronavirus on social media platforms.

“Just as the number of people and countries affected by this new virus have spread, so have conspiracy theories and unfounded claims about it, including:

  • “Oregano Oil Proves Effective Against Coronavirus,” an unfounded claim
  • A hoax stating that the US government had created and patented a vaccine for coronavirus years ago, shared with nearly 5,000 Facebook users
  • A false claim that “coronavirus is a human-made virus in the laboratory”
  • Sales of unproven “nonmedical immune boosters” to help people ward off 2019-nCoV
  • Unfounded recommendations to prevent infection by taking vitamin C and avoiding spicy foods
  • A video with useless advice about preventing 2019-nCoV by modifying your diet (for example, by avoiding cold drinks, milkshakes, or ice cream). This video, which demonstrates the removal of a parasitic worm from a person’s lip, is many years old and has nothing to do with 2019-nCoV.
  • Facebook is trying to fact-check postings, label those that are clearly false, and reduce their ranking so they are less prominently displayed. Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok have also taken steps to limit or label misinformation. But it’s nearly impossible to catch them all, especially since some are in private social media groups and are harder to find.”

Helpful Links

Federal and National Government

Johns Hopkins University has published a constantly updating dashboard of data.

The CDC’s information page is updated at noon Mondays through Fridays. Numbers close out at 4 p.m. the day before reporting.

CDC database for travel restrictions by country.

State and Local Government

Dallas County Health and Human Services updates

City of Dallas COVID Updates

The City of Frisco has set up a page for continuing updates regarding closures, preparedness, and health information.

Frisco ISD has frequently asked questions posted.

This COVID-19 post, last updated at 7 p.m. CT March 13 is being updated as more information becomes available.

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Shelby Skrhak

Shelby is Associate Editor of CandysDirt.com. She's a journalist and podcaster turned full-time freelance writer based in Plano. She comes to CandysDirt.com after 12 years with SUCCESS magazine as digital content director. After hosting two top-rated iTunes Top 200 podcasts, she launched her own podcast called the Secret to My Success. She's a Lake Highlands native and graduate of UT-Dallas.

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