Although evidence shows that Dallas is doing its part to “flatten the curve” as almost 25,000 COVID-19 deaths have been reported nationwide, elected officials gathered Tuesday night to urge residents to keep doing what they’ve been doing.
“The sacrifices you’ve been making since March 22 are paying off,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins during a telephone town hall meeting hosted by Texas Rep. John Turner (D-Dallas). “We’re unlikely to have it as bad as other metro areas in the U.S. because of the sacrifices you’ve been making. This is not a time for you to relax on your personal decision-making.”
Although officials did not provide certain dates, Dallas ISD Trustee Miguel Solis ensured attendees that no one is going back to school until leaders are confident students and staff will be safe.
“In the Dallas Independent School District, we have begun to embrace a new reality,” Solis said. “It has not been easy but I’m proud of our district and what we’ve done. I am most proud of the parents, grandparents, caregivers, guardians, brothers and sisters who have stepped up and become teachers themselves.”
With 222 schools across the district, it’s a priority to ensure students have the technology they need for at-home learning.
Richardson ISD Superintendent Jeannie Stone added that meal provision also is a priority among the area’s school districts.
“Sixty percent of our students are on free or reduced lunch,” Stone said. “We have heroes preparing meals every day at 6 a.m. Some of our community partners have provided take-home boxed meals so they not only have meals during the week but on the weekend.”
Turner said his aim with the town hall was to open communication lines – the hour-long phone conference was open to questions from the public – and provide information.
“We are in an extraordinary time,” he said. “Six months ago, none of us expected that we’d be in a global pandemic. We know this is a challenge. We also know that past generations have endured similar challenges and we will get through this.”
Healthcare And Hunger
Jenkins announced that 10 COVID-related deaths were reported Tuesday in Dallas County — five of whom were residents of the Brentwood Nursing Home Complex in East Dallas. The other five were residents ranging in age from about 30 to 90, he said.
However, the judge also had some good news, sharing that FEMA is now allowing disaster funding to feed the hungry.
“With this unprecedented situation where 70 percent of the people going to the North Texas Food Bank are brand new customers, they’ve relented and allowed money to flow to the food banks,” Jenkins said. “That will give us about $3 million for the food banks.”
Work is being done to “dramatically increase [the county’s] testing capacity for COVID-19. With federal assistance, more than 6,000 people could be tested per day with a one-day turnaround, Jenkins explained.
“Evidence keeps coming in that we are flattening the curve,” he said. “It’s important that we don’t waste the sacrifice you’ve made. If we can stay the course, we can get to a point where sooner rather than later we can begin to loosen the restrictions in a safe way … and get back to some semblance of normal. If we don’t do that we’re going to find ourselves in the same rut that we’re in now for a lot longer. Stay the course for a little while longer.”
Dr. John Carlo of the Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Task Force said the virus is “extremely infectious.”
“For most people, this is a mild illness, but even with that small amount, it’s still a concern to make sure we have enough hospital capacity,” Carlo said. “I think we are going to be in this together for some time. Our biggest hope is the vaccine.”
Turner noted that a vaccine may not be available for 12 to 18 months. However, he said it’s possible students may be able to safely return to classrooms before a vaccine is available, “If we can bring this under some level of control.”
Paying Jobs Are Available
More than 6,800 referrals for jobs were made by Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas in about a week’s time, said CEO Laurie Larrea.
“We have paying jobs,” she said.
Larrea added that the majority of those displaced from the workforce are under age 30, due to restrictions in the restaurant and service industries. About 57 percent are female and 35 percent are Hispanic.
In addition to assisting with job placement, Workforce Solutions is the major purchaser of subsidized childcare in the area. New funding is allowing room for 7,000 additional children under COVID guidelines and a new initiative is in place for the children of essential workers. More information can be accessed at www.wsdallas.com.
Each of the officials on the telephone town hall meeting emphasized their appreciation for the “heroes” who have emerged during the pandemic.
“We want to thank those on the front lines, our health care workers, first responders, teachers, grocery workers and many more who are at the center of helping us get through this,” Turner said.
Local COIVD-19 statistics updated daily at Dallascounty.org. To contact State Rep. John Turner, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 214-234-7625. To contribute to protective equipment and sanitizer for first responders, visit dallascountycovid.org.