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Tarrant County drops COVID-19 disaster declaration

Rebecca Hoke
LM Otero
AP Photo
Paramedic Rebecca Hoke prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 12 years old at a vaccination site in Fort Worth, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021.

In a statement, County Judge Tim O'Hare called living with the virus — which has killed more than 90,000 Texans — "a new normal."

Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare has ended the local disaster declaration tied to the COVID-19 pandemic in place since 2020.

In a statement, O’Hare said we’ve moved “into a new normal” while acknowledging COVID-19 is still in the community. He added also added the virus, “may be here to stay."

"Together, we can move forward, and the time to move forward is now," O'Hare wrote.

The judge urged high-risk residents to take precautions they deem appropriate.

Tarrant County is at "high" COVID-19 risk, according to the county's public health department.

Texas itself remains under a disaster declaration from Gov. Greg Abbott. That has given the governor wide-ranging authority to suspend local control in many instances and limit how counties can respond to the pandemic. Because of that, many local rules related to COVID-19 have become mostly symbolic without enforcement power.

Still, Tarrant County's decision to rescind its order is another indicator that officials have prioritized moving on from the pandemic on a local, statewide and federal level: In September, for example, President Joe Biden declared the pandemic "over" despite growing case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths.

Since Abbott's initial disaster declaration, more than 92,000 Texans have died among some 8 million cases in the state.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.