COVID-19 Live Updates: Abbott Announces Most Texas Businesses Can Operate At 50% Starting Today | KERA News

COVID-19 Live Updates: Abbott Announces Most Texas Businesses Can Operate At 50% Starting Today

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Get live updates throughout the day on how COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, is affecting North Texas. 

» COVID-19 By The Numbers:

Thursday, June 4

Sports Venues Can Open To 50% Capacity. What Does That Mean For Texas Teams, Events? 

Texas college sports programs appear to a major beneficiary from Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision Wednesday to expand capacity for sports venues, including indoor arenas, to 50 percent capacity.

The mandate, part of the third phase of the governor’s task force’s plan to reopen the state, also applies to professional sports leagues, whose seasons are either on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic or are in the offseason.

Sports leagues must first approve a safety plan to the state for approval to hold events, and players and fans must follow state guidelines.

While this would appear to give the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros an avenue to allowing fans should there be a 2020 MLB season, the league and players association do not plan to initially allow fans to their games.

The Dallas Stars will also resume their season without fans, according to the NHL’s return-to-play plan, and the Dallas Mavericks will be among the NBA teams that resume their season in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., without fans.

This story was provided by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Wednesday, June 3

Abbott Announces Reopening Phase III: Almost All Texas Businesses Can Operate At 50% Capacity

Gov. Greg Abbott announced the third phase Texas’ reopening plan today. Effective immediately, almost all businesses in the state can operate at up to 50% capacity, with very limited exceptions. Businesses that previously have been able to operate at 100% capacity may continue to do so, and most outdoor areas are not subject to capacity limits, a statement from the governor’s office said. 

"The people of Texas continue to prove that we can safely and responsibly open our state for business while containing COVID-19 and keeping our state safe,” Abbott said. "As we begin Phase III, I ask all Texans and Texas businesses to continue following the standard health protocols and to heed the guidance of our state and federal officials who continue to closely monitor COVID-19. If we remain vigilant, we will continue to mitigate the spread of this virus, protect public health and get more Texans back to work and their daily activities."

According to the governor’s office, between May 26 and June 2, over 45% of new cases in Texas came from jails or prisons, meat packing plants and nursing homes. There are currently 1,487 Texans hospitalized due to the disease, 20,679 active cases in the state and 45,858 Texans are estimated to have recovered.

Here’s a breakdown of the Phase III Reopening Plan:

Effective June 3:

All businesses currently operating at 25% capacity can expand their occupancy to 50% with certain exceptions. 

Bars and similar establishments may increase their capacity to 50% as long as patrons are seated.

Amusement parks and carnivals in counties with less than 1,000 confirmed positive cases may open at 50% capacity. 

Restaurants may expand their maximum table size from 6 to 10 persons.

Effective June 12:

Restaurants may expand their occupancy levels to 75%. 

Counties with 10 or less active COVID-19 cases may expand their occupancy limits to 75%. Counties that fit this category but have not previously filed an attestation with DSHS will need to do so.

Effective June 19:

Amusement parks and carnivals in counties with more than 1,000 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 may open at 50% capacity.

Additional Openings:

Special provisions have been made for outdoor gatherings, such as Fourth of July celebrations, but it is imperative that local officials and public health officials collaborate on safe standards. These provisions are included in the Governor's Executive Order and are also available on the Open Texas webpage.   

4 More Deaths And 239 New Cases In Dallas County

Dallas County is reporting four additional deaths and 239 new cases of COVID-19 today. This brings the total case count in Dallas County to 10,958, including 249 deaths.

“Today’s numbers add to a week that appears to be a significant increase from last week for both cases reported and deaths,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a statement.

The four deaths reported today are described as:

-A Lancaster man in his 40s who had been critically ill in an area hospital. He had underlying high risk health conditions.

-A Dallas man in his 50s who had been critically ill in an area hospital. He had underlying high risk health conditions.

-A Dallas woman in her 50s who had been critically ill in an area hospital. She did not have underlying high risk health conditions.

-A Dallas woman who was over 100 years old. She was hospitalized and had underlying high risk health conditions.

138 New Cases In Tarrant County 

Tarrant County Public Health reported 138 additional cases of COVID-19, raising the case count in the county to 5,761. 

There have been 168 deaths due to COVID-19 and 2,420 patients have recovered from the virus in the county. 

Frisco Man, 89, With COVID-19 Dies In Plano Hospital

An 89-year-old man from Frisco with COVID-19 died late Tuesday night at a hospital in Plano, according to a report received by Collin County health officials. The Man also had underlying health conditions.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is reporting a total of 1,346 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Collin County as of today, including 36 deaths. As of June 1, DSHS took over investigating, monitoring and tracing Collin County COVID-19 cases. 

Denton County Reports 19 New Cases

Denton County is reporting 19 new cases of COVID-19. This increases the cumulative, countywide total to 1,435 confirmed cases, including 32 deaths. 

Denton County Public Health will offer free drive-through testing Friday at Sanger Sports Park at 2101 I-35 Frontage Road from 8 a.m. to noon. All essential employees can get tested for free, but general community members must have had symptoms of COVID-19, or have been symptomatic within the past 7 days. Community members must call to pre-register for testing at 940-349-2585.

Officer Assigned To Texas Capitol Tests Positive

A member of the security force temporarily assigned to the Texas Capitol has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the State Preservation Board.

The agency was informed overnight that a case of COVID-19 had been confirmed at the Capitol, where extra security has been stationed during recent protests over police brutality.

“We understand the case involves the DPS/national guard security contingent temporarily assigned to the Capitol,” State Preservation Board spokesman Chistopher Currens said in an email.

Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Read the full story at the Austin American-Statesman.

Some North Texas Cinemark Theaters To Reopen June 19

Plano-based Cinemark Theaters plans to reopen select North Texas theaters June 19, then all of its U.S. locations by next month.

CEO Mark Zoradi described the process during an investor conference call Wednesday morning.

"The first phase is a five-theater test phase in and around the DFW area,” Zoradi said. “Close to our headquarters and service center just to make sure we've got all of our systems in place, everything is working technically and all of our health and safety protocols are operating as planned." 

Cinemark reported a $60 million loss in the first quarter. The theater chain has been closed since early March — and has laid off thousands of hourly workers and furloughed half of its corporate team.

Texans Could Receive Up To A Year Of Unemployment Benefits Under Second Extension Of Aid

Texans receiving unemployment could be eligible for a total of 52 weeks of benefits — double the typical amount of time aid is available — as the state triggered an extended benefits period, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

UnemployedTexans have historically received up to 26 weeks of benefits. The U.S. Department of Labor notified the Texas Workforce Commission on Monday that the state triggered what's called State Extended Benefits, which provides 13 additional weeks of unemployment aid. That comes after a federal coronavirus relief bill previously extended some unemployment benefits for 13 weeks under what's called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

The first week Texans could start receiving these newest extended benefits is the week ending July 4, which is 13 weeks after the PEUC extension took effect in the state. People must first exhaust the standard 26 weeks, plus the additional 13 weeks under PEUC, before receiving the additional 13 weeks of extended benefits, said Cisco Gamez, spokesperson for the commission.

PEUC is also what allows Texans to receive an additional $600 in benefits per week for up to 13 weeks. It isavailable until July 25.

Read the full story by The Texas Tribune. 

North Texas Food Bank Relies On Staff As National Guard Members Are Redeployed To Help With Protests

Gov. Greg Abbott redeployed Guardsmen on Saturday as protests over repeated instances of police brutality have swept the country, according to The Dallas Morning News

As a result, more than 250 National Guard members were pulled from their work helping the North Texas Food Bank.

The food bank has relied on National Guard assistance since April, as the pandemic caused a sharp increase in those needing food assistance.

Now, the food bank will have to rely on about 25 employees to take over roles the National Guard helped fill.

Depending on how long the redeployment lasts, they may use ShiftSmart - a company that employs workers who lost their income amid coronavirus-related closures. 

Tuesday, June 2

257 New Cases And 16 Deaths In Dallas County; Both New Single-Day Records

Dallas County health officials are reporting 257 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total case count in county to 10,719, including 245 deaths.

Officials said the weekly numbers of new hospital admissions for COVID‐19 have not declined significantly over the past seven weeks. Of the 1,681 cases requiring hospitalization to date, over two‐thirds (69%) were under 65 years of age, and about half did not have any chronic health conditions.

Of the deaths in the county, 38% have been associated with long‐term care facilities. 

89 New Cases In Tarrant County 

Tarrant County Public Health reported 89 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the total case count in the county to 5,623. 

There have been 167 deaths related to COVID-19 in the county. 

Denton County Reports 18 New Cases

Denton County is reporting 18 new cases of COVID-19. This increases the cumulative, countywide total to 1,416 confirmed cases,including 32 deaths. 

County health officials report 684 people have recovered from the disease.

Denton County Public Health is offering free drive-through COVID-19 testing Friday at Sanger Sports Park at 2101 I-35 Frontage Road from 8 a.m. to noon. Any community member can get tested if they have symptoms of COVID-19, or have been symptomatic within the past seven days. All essential employees are also eligible for free testing. Community members must call to pre-register for testing at 940-349-2585.

More Than A Third Of Texans Speak A Language Other Than English. That Means Key Coronavirus Updates Aren't Accessible To Them. 

Days after Hidalgo County’s stay-at-home orders went into effect in late March, some of the area’s mostly Latino residents learned about the new rules not from the government officials charged with their protection, but from police officers at checkpoints writing them citations for unknowingly violating the rules. While action around the COVID-19 pandemic was rapidly changing, news wasn’t reaching people in their native languages in real time.

Hidalgo County, where some of the checkpoints were set up, is 92% Latino. Carlos Sanchez, a county spokesperson, said police officers didn’t immediately issue tickets. The first week of the executive order, officers were in “education mode,” explaining to some residents who were hearing for the first time how the county and state were adapting to the pandemic.

More than a third of Texans speak a language other than English at home, according to census data. Spanish is largely the most spoken language, with Vietnamese, Chinese languages and Tagalog — spoken in the Philippines — holding the other top spots. But news broadcasts and articles, changing government mandates and the latest health safety guidance are mostly being communicated in English.

Local and state leaders need to make greater strides to get critical, life-saving information out to the masses in as many languages as possible, nonprofit leaders and state residents said.

Read the full Texas Tribune Story. 

Southwest Airlines Offers Employees Buyout Package

Southwest Airlines is offering employees what it calls the -quote- “most generous buyout package in history” to avoid layoffs or furloughs.

The Dallas Morning News reports employees with more than ten years at the Dallas-based carrier cantake early retirement. If they do, the company will give them a year’s pay plus four years of flight privileges.

Early retirees would also get a year of company-paid health insurance.

The announcement comes as many airlines are scrambling to cut costs before September 30th. That's when obligations under payroll protection grants from the federal stimulus package end.

Southwest employees have until July 15th to apply for the programs.

Monday, June 1

21 New Cases In Tarrant County 

Tarrant County Public Health announced 21 additional cases of COVID-19 in the county, raising the case count to 5,534. 

There have been 165 deaths related to COVID-19 in the county and 2,324 people have recovered from the virus.

Denton County Reports 1 Additional Death, 26 New Cases

Denton County Public Health announced one additional patient who died in the county due to COVID-19, bringing the total deaths to 32. 

The death reported today was of a previously reported hospitalized female in her 50s. She was a resident of Denton. 

The county also reported 26 new cases of COVID-19, raising the total case count in the county to 1,398. 

228 Additional Cases In Dallas County 

Dallas County Health and Human Services reported 228 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total case count in the county to 10,462. 

There have been a total of 229 deaths related to COVID-19 in the county. 

60-Year-Old Woman With COVID-19 Dies In Collin County

A 60-year-old woman from Wylie with COVID-19 and underlying health conditions died Sunday morning at a Plano hospital, according to a report received by Collin County Health Care Services. 

This is the 35th death of a Collin County resident known to have COVID-19. 

On Monday morning, Collin County Health Care Services reported 1,312 cases of COVID-19. Currently, 922 of those individuals have recovered and 16 are currently hospitalized.

Texas Reports Steepest Year-To-Year Drop In State Sales Tax Revenue In A Decade

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced the state sales tax revenue totaled $2.61 billion in May - a 13.2% drop from last May. The downturn is the steepest year-over-year decline since January 2010.

The majority of May sales tax revenue is based on sales made in April and remitted to the agency in May. Throughout April, widespread social distancing requirements were in place around the state.

“Significant declines in sales tax receipts were evident in all major economic sectors, with the exception of telecommunications services,” Hegar said. “The steepest decline was in collections from oil and gas mining, as energy companies cut well drilling and completion spending following the crash in oil prices.” 

Hegar said the stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns due to COVID-19 led to “deep drops” from restaurants, amusement and recreation services and physical retail stores. However, he said the declines were partly offset by increases from big box retailers, grocery stores, online retailers and restaurants that turned to takeout and delivery service. 

Online Housing Applications Available For Collin County Residents 

Collin County residents impacted by COVID-19 can now apply online for housing and living assistance grants. The assistance is part of the Collin CARES recovery plan that provides up to $2,500 a month in financial support for each qualifying household. 

The CARES plan provides direct financial assistance for housing, utilities and groceries, for up to four months. Funding comes from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which sent more than $171 million in federal aid to Collin County in relief for family and government COVID-19 related costs. 

Learn more about the county’s Collin CARES program at www.collincountytx.gov

As Texas Businesses Reopen, A Short-Lived Coronavirus Safety Net Is Dismantled

This spring, as a global pandemic promised historic suffering and economic ruin, Texas officials reached for unfamiliar tools. They wove together some protections for the vulnerable, expanding unemployment benefits and child care subsidies, limiting evictions, utility shutoffs and debt collections.

As summer approaches with no cure for the virus and Texas businesses reopen to diminished profits, many of the threads in that makeshift safety net are being snipped.

The dead top 1,600; the jobless exceed 2 million. The state craves a return to normal.

But the ongoing human and economic trauma has touched off a debate between those who believe the pandemic is disrupting a sustainable economic order and those who think it clarifies the fault lines in the system.

Read the full Texas Tribune story here. 

Read More: A Timeline Of COVID-19's Spread In North Texas 

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