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COVID-19 In DFW May 30-June 5: Public Schools Can't Require Masks On Their Campuses Anymore

A photo of disposable face masks.
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Also, the state fair is officially back on Sept. 24, and Southwest and American Airlines hold off on serving alcohol on flights for now.

For the latest on the pandemic in North Texas, visit KERA News' COVID-19 Live Updates page.

Friday, June 4

Dallas County Reports 82 Cases, One Death

The death was of a person in their 80s who had underlying health conditions. Dallas County now has a total of 4.070 deaths.

Tarrant County Reports 131 Cases, Two Deaths

The deaths included a man from Saginaw in his 80s, and a woman from Everman in her 20s. Both had underlying health conditions.

Tarrant County now has 3,517 confirmed deaths and 255,383 people have recovered.

Denton County Reports 42 Cases

Of the 42 cases reported Friday, 37 are active cases. Denton County also reported 61 newly recovered cases of COVID-19.

Texas Public Schools Must Drop Mask Requirements After June 4

Friday is the last day that public schools can require students, staff, and visitors to wear a face mask on their campuses. That's because of an executive order Gov. Greg Abbott issued last month.

The policy change is leaving many educators nervous, said Ovidia Molina, who heads the Texas State Teachers Association.

"And it sends a mixed message to our staff, our students, the community," she said. "You know, if somebody wants to wear the mask are they could to be made fun of? Are students going to be reluctant to wear a mask even if they need to wear a mask for their safety? It's just a lot of confusion. And yet again there's no educator voice in this decision."

COVID-19 vaccines are not yet available to children below the age of 12. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 should continue to wear masks.

​"One of our concerns is that not all of our students can get vaccinated. So we're still going to have some of our students susceptible to getting COVID, to bringing home COVID."

Thursday, June 3

Dallas County Reports 141 Cases, Four Deaths

The four deaths give Dallas County a total of 4,069. The deaths reported Thursday include people who ranged in age from their 60s to their 90s and all had underlying high-risk health conditions. The county also reported another 27 cases that involved COVID-19 variants, for a total of 135 cases.

Denton County Reports 34 Cases, Six Deaths

The deaths included people who ranged in age from their 50s to their 80s, and Denton County now has a total of 596 deaths. The county also reported 34 new cases and 74 newly recovered cases.

The State Fair Of Texas Returns On Sept. 24

It's been almost two years since the State Fair of Texas closed its gates, two years since anyone's taken a ride on the Texas Star, eaten a corny dog, or wandered around the Texas Auto Show.

But this fall, visitors from around the world will be welcomed to Fair Park with a wave from Big Tex — who may have had a hand in picking this year's theme: "Howdy, Folks!"

The theme represents everyone coming together to reconnect and celebrate all things Texan. This year is also the fair's 135th anniversary.

So if you don't want to miss the fried delicacies, carnival rides, livestock shows, and more, the State Fair of Texas is back Friday, September 24th.

Texas Workforce Commission Is Helping Certify Former And Prospective Restaurant Workers

The Texas Workforce Commission is providing a new online option to help former and prospective restaurant workers get certified to handle food and serve alcohol. The agency this week launched free courses to help rehire staff lost during the pandemic.

Spokesman James Bernsen said many restaurant owners can't find workers with the required training.

"And they really said this was a very hard problem for them to solve, especially when social distancing was really — made a lot of that training impossible to get," he said.

The Service Sector Is Growing In Texas, But At A Slower Pace

The monthly Fed survey of nearly 300 executives in fields from health care and finance to education and hospitality shows ongoing growth in employment and hours worked. But, both saw a slight decline from April.

The Dallas Fed's index of wages and benefits also hit an all-time high. Meanwhile, retail sales activity last month contracted for the first time since February.

Wednesday, June 2

Dallas County Reports 253 Cases, Six Deaths

The six deaths give Dallas County a total of 4,065. The deaths included people who ranged in age from their 50s to their 80s and all had underlying high-risk health conditions.

Over the past two weeks, new cases in Addison, Balch Springs, Cockrell Hill, and Highland Park have been about 50% higher than countywide case rates. New cases in Cedar Hill, Coppell, Lancaster, Mesquite, Rowlett, Seagoville, and Wilmer have been 30% higher than countywide rates. For the week ending May 22nd, the seven-day average of daily cases for the county is 4.8 new cases per 100,000 residents.

Tarrant County Reports 190 Cases, Four Deaths

The deaths include a man from Fort Worth in his 70s, a man from Hurst in his 60s, a man from Fort Worth in his 60s and a man from Haltom City in his 20s. All had underlying health conditions.

Tarrant County now has 3,512 confirmed deaths and 255,083 people have recovered.

Denton County Reports 68 Cases

Of the 68 cases reported Wednesday, 64 are active cases. Denton County reported 77 recoveries, bringing that total to 73,122. There have been a total of 590 deaths in the county.

Southwest And American Airlines Won't Serve Alcohol On Planes — Yet

The airlines are pushing back the date they'll resume in-flight alcohol sales. Alcohol sales were suspended on planes last year in response to the pandemic.

Southwest Airlines had intended to resume selling alcoholic beverages this month to and from Hawaii, and on other flights beginning in July. But the Dallas-based carrier now says it'll wait, citing an industry-wide uptick in disruptive passengers. That includes an assault on a Southwest flight attendant in May.

American Airlines is also holding off on resuming alcohol amenities for its economy class passengers. The Fort Worth company said it's waiting until the federal aviation mask mandate expires, which is expected in September.

Emergency SNAP Food Benefits Will Be Extended Through June

Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission will provide about $208 million in emergency food benefits for the month of June.

HHSC received federal approval to extend the maximum allowable amount of SNAP benefits to recipients based on family size, and all SNAP households will receive a minimum of $95 in emergency allotments.

Recipients will also continue to get a 15% increase in total benefits monthly until September 2021. The increase and the additional emergency allotment should appear in recipients' accounts by June 30.

Deadline To Apply For Fort Worth ISD Summer Learning Program Is Friday

Fort Worth ISD is offering Summer Launch, a program that will allow students to catch up or accelerate their learning or recover credits lost because of COVID-19 disruptions. The program is open to all K-12 students and the deadline to apply is Friday, June 4. Registration and information can be found at the Summer Launch website.

Grades K-8 will be taught entirely in person, while high school students have the option for virtual or in-person learning or a combination of both.

Tarrant County Public Health Goes Door-To-Door To Combat Vaccine Hesitancy

Vinny Taneja, the director of Tarrant County Public Health, said the city of Fort Worth and the public health department are taking a different approach to tackling COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy — they're going door-to-door to dispel myths about the shot.

“Y'all have heard the same myths being talked about here," Taneja said. "It's the gene therapy, they're implanting a microchip, I'm going to go infertile. All of those types of things they're trying to address by talking to people, one-on-one.”

Taneja said the county is planning to use federal grant money to hire more community health workers to help educate residents. The initiative has already reached more than 32,000 households in the Fort Worth area.

Legislature Passes Permanent Expansion Of Telehealth Coverage Under Medicaid

During the pandemic, more people started using virtual doctor visits. The state temporarily expanded coverage for telehealth under Medicaid and CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program. Now, these emergency rules could become permanent if Gov. Greg Abbott signs the bill into law, as is expected.

The expansion is only for Medicaid, though. Tom Banning is CEO of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians. He noted this bill doesn't apply to private insurance or Medicare. Those bills failed.

"There were actually three bills in the House and one bill in the Senate to require payment parity for telemedicine services," Banning said. "Unfortunately none of those bills passed."

Banning said lawmakers were concerned about the cost. Even though other states have passed what's called payment parity with in-person visits, he said there isn't a lot of long-term research on whether paying for telemedicine lowers the cost of care.

Tuesday, June 1

Dallas Housing Authority Begins Taking Rental Assistance Applications

The Dallas Housing Authority (DHA) opened a new round of applications today for Dallas residents who need help paying rent.

DHA has $18 million in federal relief funds available to help lower-income Dallas residents who lost jobs or lost income because of the pandemic.

Full program information and an application can be found at DallasRentRelief.com.

The funds can be used to help eligible applicants pay off up to 12 months of past-due rent. It’s also available to help with upcoming rent payments. Landlords can submit applications on behalf of tenants who have missed rent payments.

In addition to living in the City of Dallas and experiencing financial adversity due to the pandemic, applicants need to meet certain criteria to qualify. They must:

  • Earn less than 80% of Dallas’ area median income, which varies based on the size of a household. An individual must make less than $48,300 and the threshold for a family of four is $68,950
  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • Be a renter, not a homeowner, and live in a property not owned by a family member
  • Be at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.

While most other pandemic rental assistance programs can also help with utility bills, the funds available from DHA only cover rent.

Other cities and counties in the region have assistance programs of their own, and there's a statewide rent relief fund as well.

Check out KERA's rental assistance guide to find ways to get help across North Texas.

Fort Worth ISD Lessening Graduation COVID Restrictions

The district will relax previous COVID-19 restrictions for all high school graduation ceremonies this year.

Unlike the spring 2020 graduations ceremonies, Fort Worth ISD will not limit the number of attendees, allowing all family members and friends to celebrate students.

Masking and social distancing preferences are optional, but still recommended. The district is also asking all attendees to please self-screen for possible signs or symptoms of COVID-19, including:
• Cough
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Chills, repeated shaking with chills
• Muscle pain
• Headache
• Sore throat, loss of taste or smell
• Diarrhea
• Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit,
• Known close contact with a person who is lab confirmed to have COVID-19

Fort Worth ISD asks that people do not attend any graduation if they are experiencing the aforementioned symptoms.

Dallas County Reports 70 New Cases & 6 More Deaths

There've now been a cumulative total of 260,581 cases in the county, including 4.059 deaths. Today's report represents the totals from Friday, May 28 since there was no reporting made through the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

91 New Cases In Denton County Public

This increases the cumulative, countywide total to 76,135 COVID-19
cases, including 590 deaths.

Tarrant County Has 63 New Cases & 1 More Death

Tarrant County now has 260,706 confirmed cases and 3,508 confirmed deaths from the COVID-19 virus.

Flight Attendants Applaud American Airlines' Decision On Alcohol Service

The union representing over 24,000 American Airlines flight attendants is praising the Fort Worth-based carrier's decision to delay the return of in-flight alcohol sales.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants say they have been in talks with American Airlines since last year on how to safely resume food and beverage services in all cabins amid the pandemic. The group adds flight attendants are increasingly facing verbal and even physical altercations mainly focused on face mask compliance.

The airline announced alcohol sales will not begin in the Main Cabin again until the federal mask mandate is lifted. That mandate is currently set to expire in mid-September.

Texas Long-Term Care Facilities Prep For Hurricane Season

Atlantic hurricane season begins today, and Texas health officials are urging long-term care providers to be prepared for what is expected to be another above-normal season.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission says providers at Long-Term Care Facilities should review their emergency preparedness and response plans, and update them, if need be. The goal is to make sure staff know what to do when there are shelter-in-place orders, evacuations and emergencies during severe weather.

Long-term care providers — like nursing and assisted living facilities, hospices and group homes — are required to prepare for natural disasters in Texas. So are hospitals and state-regulated child care operations.

Texas Health and Human Services officials are also advising all facilities to include ways to address any COVID-19 emergencies in their preparedness plans.

Monday, May 31

More Than 10 Million Texans Fully Vaccinated

The Texas Department of State Health Services reports 10,146,184 people are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. More than 12 million Texans have received at least one dose.