We’re keeping track of the most up-to-date news about the coronavirus in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. Check back for updates.
DA’s office: Texas mask order isn’t enforceable. Fort Worth, others focus on education
It’s been nearly a month since Gov. Greg Abbott mandated face masks statewide to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. But some cities in Tarrant County and across Texas aren’t issuing citations and fines to enforce it, and some have pointed to language in Abbott’s own order as the reason why.
Local officials across many of Texas’ largest metro areas have repeatedly called on Abbott for greater control and were among those urging Abbott to mandate masks statewide before he did at the start of July.
When asked if he’ll give mayors and county judges’ the authority to issue greater restrictions to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, Abbott often points to the need for officials to enforce the restrictions already in place.
“Everyone was clamoring, asking for a mask order. I imposed a mask order, and nobody’s enforcing it,” Abbott told WFAA Channel 8 on July 24, pointing to the fact that the city of Austin had yet to issue citations to violators.
But Austin isn’t alone. Neither has Fort Worth and smaller cities in the Fort Worth area, including North Richland Hills, Flower Mound and Grand Prairie. Arlington officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Instead, they’ve prioritized education over citations — and they say their approach is effective.
Tarrant County extends face mask order through Aug. 31 amid coronavirus pandemic
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley has extended an executive order requiring businesses to enforce face coverings for employees and customers through Aug. 31.
The order, first passed on June 25, reinforces Gov. Greg Abbott’s July 2 statewide order, which requires face masks and limits outdoor gatherings. Abbott’s order did not have an end date. Tarrant County’s local order was set to expire on Monday.
Both the state and local orders are aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, which spiked in Texas in late June and most of July. The state reported 322 coronavirus deaths and 8,800 new cases on Thursday.
Tarrant County reported a single-day high 18 COVID-19 deaths and nearly 600 new cases on Friday.
Whitley’s order notes that “the transmission of COVID-19 has not significantly dissipated and remains a serious threat to the health and safety of the Tarrant County community and additional action is necessary to decrease rates of infection and the number of people admitted to hospitals, ICU, or on ventilators.”
The face mask requirement does not apply if covering the nose and mouth “poses a significant mental or physical health risk to the individual,” or when an individual is “consuming a food or beverage or receiving a service where the wearing of a face covering would impair the performance of the service.”
Businesses are required to post the policy to provide notice to employees and visitors of all health and safety requirements. Failure to implement and follow the order’s guidelines may result in a fine up to $1,000 for each violation.
Not quite a ghost town, here’s how downtown Fort Worth could change after coronavirus
Despite the surgical mask draped over Chris Gensheimer’s face, it is easy to tell he’s smiling at the woman approaching the counter in his Earth Bones boutique in downtown Fort Worth.
They clearly know each other, exchanging pleasantries about their families before the woman says she’ll be back soon.
These small personal interactions are often a thrill for small business owners like Gensheimer, but they’ve become increasingly precious as the coronavirus has left people weary of being together. The huddled groups of name-tagged convention-goers and office crowds are gone, replaced with infrequent visitors and Sunday brunchers.
After roughly 30 years in retail, Gensheimer has decided to close his three downtown shops. First a gift store in the Sid Richardson Museum, last month the Retro Cowboy and by the end of August, Earth Bones, too, will close. Gensheimer’s wife and her late sister opened Earth Bones in 1989 on Hulen Street in Arlington Heights with a collection of homemade jewelry.
Leaving retail has been in the works for a while, he said, so he can’t fully blame the coronavirus or the shutdowns that followed. But the situation did escalate his decision.
“I’ve been wanting to go do something else, but the corona was kind of a, well, you may as well jump to it and push to finish up,” he said. It could take three years to return to profitable business, he guessed. “To what end is that worth it?”
His shops are among at least seven businesses that have closed in downtown Fort Worth since the pandemic forced local and state leaders to shut down in-person commerce in March. While some businesses have been able to reopen at limited capacity, restaurants Bird Cafe, Cantina Laredo, Taverna and The Brass Tap have also shuttered.
Fort Worth’s downtown commerce is heavily dependent on tourism and conventions, two industries rocked by the pandemic. Last year downtown hotel occupancy was above 70%, according to Visit Fort Worth. It’s currently at 28%. Downtown parking is operating at about 30% of normal occupancy, according to Downtown Fort Worth Inc. The first convention since March, the Southwest Believers’ Convention, is expected to bring 1,500 people between Monday and Saturday.
Protesters call for release of inmates at risk of COVID at Fort Worth federal prison
Like many of the inmates at Federal Medical Center Carswell, Yolanda McDow is in poor health.
She has high blood pressure, asthma and has been an above-the-knee amputee since she lost her leg in a vehicle crash before her conviction 11 years ago in connection with a series of Dallas-area bank robberies in which she was a lookout.
McDow is 54 and a grandmother.
As the coronavirus churned through the west Fort Worth prison in the spring, McDow filed in U.S. District Court a motion seeking compassionate release. She wrote that she was housed with five to seven other inmates, a circumstance that did not allow for social distancing. Guards “are not all using their mask, nor regularly wearing gloves, especially when [handing] items to inmates,” she wrote.
The court denied McDow’s motion, and she pursued release via the Bureau of Prisons. That request was declined because her conviction involved an act of violence, Deangela Merida, a cousin, said Saturday outside the prison.
Merida was one of about 15 people who demonstrated Saturday evening outside FMC Carswell, one of two federal medical prisons in Fort Worth, to call for the release of inmates whose health they said was imperiled by the novel coronavirus.
Public health officials report seven new coronavirus deaths Saturday in Tarrant County
Public health authorities in Tarrant County on Saturday reported 461 new coronavirus cases and seven new deaths.
The people whose deaths were reported were a man and woman in their 50s, a man and woman in their 60s and a man in his 80s from Fort Worth; and a man in his 50s and a man in his 90s from Bedford, the Tarrant County Public Health department said. Each had underlying health conditions, the department said.
Tarrant County has had in total 28,871 cases and 388 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, and an estimated 15,182 people have recovered.
The county’s coronavirus data dashboard will not be updated on Sunday due to an upgrade to systems that process the data, according to the website. Data for Sunday will be posted along with Monday’s data update.
Dallas County reports 7 additional deaths from coronavirus, including man in his 30s
Dallas County reported 518 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday and seven additional deaths.
Dallas County now has 51,108 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 688 deaths, according to the county health department.
The seven people whose deaths were reported Sunday included five people who lived in Dallas — a man in his 30s, a man in his 40s, a woman in her 60s, a man in his 70s and a man in his 60s who was an inmate at a correctional facility. The other two people were a man in his 60s from Duncanville and a woman in her 50s from Garland. Three of those who died did not have underlying health conditions, including the man in his 30s.
Sunday is the eighth straight day that the county reported fewer than 1,000 new cases. Dallas County has the second most coronavirus cases in the state to Harris County.
Arlington state Rep. Tony Tinderholt recovering after testing positive for COVID-19
Rep. Tony Tinderholt is recovering after testing positive for the novel coronavirus just over two weeks ago, making him the first known Texas state lawmaker to contract the virus.
In a statement Friday afternoon, Tinderholt, a Republican from Arlington, confirmed that he and his family had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The Texas Tribune first reported the news Friday.
Luke Macias, a spokesman for Tinderholt, said that Tinderholt had begun to experience a loss of taste and smell, headaches, aching joints and trouble breathing. When asked if Tinderholt had any underlying conditions that might put him at greater risk, Macias said Tinderholt has a titanium heart valve as a result of injuries received during his time in the military.
“I went to the hospital and was sent home and told to come back if my oxygen count decreased beyond a certain number. Though I got increasingly worse, it was not to the level at which my hospital said I should return,” Tinderholt said in a statement.
Instead, he sought treatment from Dr. Brian C. Procter at McKinney Family Medicine. He said he started improving “almost immediately” after his treatment began.
Texas Rep. Kay Granger gets COVID test result back
U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, who has been self-quarantining since finding out she sat next to a colleague who tested positive for coronavirus, has tested negative for COVID-19.
“She is following the guidance of her physician and remains symptom free,” her spokeswoman, Michelle Koepp, said in a statement Friday afternoon.
This comes after Granger, R-Fort Worth, sat next to U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, on an airplane flight leaving Texas on Sunday night.
Gohmert, who often was seen walking around the U.S. Capitol without a mask, learned he tested positive for the novel virus on Wednesday. Gohmert, 66, had been scheduled to fly to West Texas Wednesday with President Donald Trump but he tested positive for coronavirus when he was being screened at the White House.
He was not allowed to go on the trip.
Wednesday was the first day of quarantine for Granger, 77, who has served in the Texas House since 1997 and is seeking re-election in November. She is in Washington, D.C.
Bankruptcy experts warn a wave of filings could soon happen in Texas and other states
Although he lives on a fixed income, Michael Wayne Lowman says he has tried to provide financial help for two relatives who lost their jobs during the pandemic, including a 20-year-old son who lost his job at a Wendy’s restaurant.
But then Lowman, a disabled veteran, fell behind in paying his own bills. As the medical bills and payday loans stacked up, the 48-year-old Richland Hills resident concluded he had no choice but to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.
“I’m pretty dadgum sure a lot of other people are doing to be in a situation like this, probably relatively soon if something doesn’t ease up with the economy,” Lowman, 48, said in a phone interview.
Lowman’s bankruptcy filing comes at a time when many others are postponing their day in court. Experts say the $3 trillion in federal COVID aid already provided by Congress has provided many low-income and middle class Americans with the stimulus payments, unemployment benefits and grants and loans they needed to stay afloat financially, at least temporarily.
But even as Congress prepares to vote on yet another stimulus package to extend many of those benefits, bankruptcy experts warn that a wave of filings is on the way, once the federal aid provided to individuals and businesses eventually runs out.
“The chickens are going to come home to roost, and it’s going to hit hard unless there’s another huge stimulus and people go back to work quickly,” said Reed Allmand, a lawyer who specializes in bankruptcies with offices in Hurst and Dallas. “It’s good news that bankruptcies are down, but I think most people are delaying filing bankruptcy even when they need it. A lot of this is kicking the can down the road.”
Texans can shop tax-free Aug. 7-9 for school supplies, clothes, shoes despite COVID
School may be starting later than normal for many students, as officials push back start dates trying to slow the spread of coronavirus.
But mark your calendar because the Texas sales tax-free holiday — the one weekend each year when most school supplies, clothes, shoes and backpacks that cost less than $100 are tax free — is Aug. 7-9. The tax-free weekend includes online purchaases.
Depending on the city’s tax rate, shoppers should save about $8 on every $100 spent.
Families with children in school are projected to spend about $789.49 and families with college students are expected to spend about $1,059.20, according to a National Retail Federation survey.
“I think people will use the tax free weekend to stock up on school supplies, children’s clothes,” said Daniel Rajaratnam, a marketing professor at The University of Texas at Dallas. “However, some of this shopping will shift to online due to COVID-19.
“It is definitely a good way to save money. My tip is always have a list and shop online first before going to a store.”
Texas’ ‘Midnight Cowboy’ Bill Mack dies of COVID-19 Friday morning, family says
Bill Mack, country singer-songwriter and the “Midnight Cowboy,” died Friday morning from COVID-19. He was 88.
His son Billy Mack Smith posted news of his father’s death on Facebook, and said Mack had underlying health conditions.
“He was an amazing father, grandfather, great grandfather and husband to my mom,” his son wrote. “I’m blessed to have had not only a great dad but my best friend as well.”
Mack was born in Shamrock, Texas, and was a musician and a radio host at WBAP. His show was named the “Midnight Cowboy Trucking Show” for its overnight airing that catered to truckers and millions of others, beginning in 1969, according to the Texas Heritage Songwriters’ Association.
“Nobody in broadcasting has a more recognizable voice than Bill Mack,” according to the association. “He has been heard on radio, seen on television, heard on records and featured in various publications for years.”
Former NFL defensive back helps high school athletes during COVID-19 pandemic
Hundreds of sporting events have been postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus this year, making it difficult on athletes to enjoy a normal summer.
While games slowly return, the offseason has been tough for colleges to recruit.
One sport in particular that has suffered more during COVID-19 is volleyball. Many of the club tournaments across the country were canceled to limit large gatherings indoors.
But with the help of former NFL player Melvin Bullitt, recruits got a chance to showcase their talents. Bullitt held in July a two-day volleyball camp for the first time at his facility, which is named after his father Jerry, in Rowlett.
“I reached out to colleges. I made personal calls and sent out emails and told them what we were doing,” said Bullitt, who played for the Indianapolis Colts for five seasons.
“They just ate it up. They needed to recruit. Sports aren’t going to stop.”
Soup’s on: Church delivers meals to Arlington hospital as COVID response continues
Hundreds of medical professionals in Arlington received home-cooked lunches Friday as part of a north Texas church’s effort to thank those devoting long hours and intensive care to coronavirus patients.
Employees with Potter’s House of Dallas unloaded 500 boxes filled with baked chicken, green beans and corn to Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital at 800 Randol Mill Road. Hospital administrators thanked staff as they carted away the 18 boxes prepared by a team of chefs and other churchgoers.
The delivery marks the church’s second stop at the hospital.
“It’s faith, it’s science coming together and we’ve got to keep them nourished,” said Frank Dyer, Potter’s House chief operating officer.
Blake Kretz, hospital president, said deliveries from Potter’s House and various community organizations go a long way as his employees enter month five of pandemic response.
“Food like this really does lift the spirits of the employees and shows that the community’s really behind them,” he said. “I think that really does mean a lot to them.”