COVID-19 Live Updates: Big Bend National Park To Begin 'Phased Reopening' On June 1 | KERA News

COVID-19 Live Updates: Big Bend National Park To Begin 'Phased Reopening' On June 1

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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:

Friday, May 29

Plano Woman Dies From COVID-19

A 63-year-old woman from Plano with COVID-19 and serious underlying health conditions died Wednesday at a hospital in Plano, according to a report received by Collin County Health Care Services.

As of Friday morning, CCHCS reported 1,236 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Collin County residents, with 892 of those individuals reported to have recovered, and 21 currently hospitalized. This is the 34th fatality of a county resident known to have COVID-19.

Big Bend National Park To Begin “Phased Reopening” On June 1

After being closed for nearly eight weeks, Big Bend National Park will open to the public beginning June 1 at 9 a.m., according to the park’s superintendent.

The move comes as park officials have been drafting a document outlining when and how the public will be able to visit park facilities and trails. As it’s written, the plan calls for Big Bend National Park to open gradually and in varying stages.

While some national parks across the country have already begun reopening, Big Bend has been cautious. An important factor: the region’s limited access to healthcare. Park officials are concerned about the impact the coronavirus could have on a remote rural pocket of the state, where the nearest hospital is 3 hours away.

In an interview with Marfa Public Radio, park superintendent Bob Krumenaker says he’s taken the advice of regional, state and federal health authorities who cautioned him to “go slow, make sure it’s working.” — Houston Public Media

Chevron plans to lay off thousands, while Exxon Mobil says it has no such plans

Two top oil companies are taking different routes so far in dealing with the industry's downturn. Chevron said it would lay off 15% of its employees while Exxon Mobil has no plans for such cuts, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Chevron said in a statement that it was “streamlining our organizational structures to reflect the efficiencies and match projected activity levels. This is a difficult decision, and we do not make it lightly.”

The paper reported that the company employs about 7,000 people in the Houston area and about 45,000 people across the globe, but that Chevron did not provide details on where a reduction in its workforce would occur. — Brandon Formby, The Texas Tribune

Thursday, May 28

Dallas County Reports 202 New Cases

Dallas County Health and Human Services is reporting 202 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the county to 9,587. One death is reported today — a man in his 80s who was a resident of a Dallas long-term care facility.

Tarrant County Reports 104 New Cases, 3 Deaths

Tarrant County Public Health is reporting 104 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the county to 5,294.

The county is also reporting three COVID-19 deaths. The deceased include a man in his 80s and a woman in her 50s from Fort Worth and a woman in her 70s from Hurst. All had underlying health conditions.

Collin County Reports 19 New Cases

Collin County Public Health is reporting 19 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the county to 1,236.

Denton County Reports 33 New Cases

Denton County Public Health is reporting 33 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the county to 1,318.

American Airlines To Cut Workforce Amid Pandemic

American Airlines plans to cut its 17,000 management and support staff by 30%, or about 5,100 jobs. That could include layoffs in October if there aren’t enough takers for a buyout offer.

Executive Vice President Elise Eberwein said in a memo to employees Wednesday night that nearly 39,000 other employees have signed up for partially paid leave or early retirement, and the airline has extended a buyout offer to administrative staff. Laid-off workers will be paid through Sept. 30 to comply with a no-furloughs provision attached to $5.8 billion in federal aid that American is getting to help cover payroll costs.

Aviation has been hard hit by the virus, as governments shut down travel to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Airlines are cutting jobs, going bankrupt and seeking bailouts, including Germany’s Lufthansa, Latam Airlines and the major U.S. carriers. That is causing ripple effects throughout the industry, with planemaker Boeing and others slashing jobs as well.

128,000 More Texans File For Unemployment

Another 128,105 Texans filed for unemployment last week, just a slight dip from the roughly 134,000 claims filed the week ending May 16.

Since mid-March, about 2.2 million Texans have filed for unemployment, as state and local orders attempting to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus brought the economy to a standstill. Nationwide, just over 2.1 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total of Americans filing for unemployment in the past 10 weeks to more than 40 million.

The state has since moved into its plan to gradually reopen the economy. Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott permitted child care centers to reopen, as well as bars at 25% capacity, part of the second phase of reopening. And Tuesday, the governor issued a proclamation allowing mall food courts and water parks to resume operations. — Clare Proctor, The Texas Tribune

Shell Evacuates Employees After Outbreak On Rig In Gulf Of Mexico

Nine Shell employees were evacuated from an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico after five people tested positive for the new coronavirus, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The European oil and gas company, which has headquarters in Houston, did not specify at which offshore platform the outbreak happened but said it will reduce staffing there to minimal levels, according to the Chronicle.

Shell operates nine offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, and about 160 people work on the rig that was the site of coronavirus cases, KHOU-TV reported. — Sami Sparber, The Texas Tribune

Wednesday, May 27

Dallas County Reports 197 New Cases, 8 Deaths

Dallas County Health and Human Services is reporting 197 new cases of COVID-19. This brings the total number of cases countywide to 9,385. The county is also reporting 8 more deaths contributed to the virus.

The deceased include:

  • A Dallas man in his 30s found at home
  • A Dallas man in his 40s who had been critically ill in a hospital and had underlying health conditions
  • A Dallas man in his 50s who had been critically ill
  • A Dallas woman in her 70s who had been hospitalized and had underlying health conditions
  • A woman in her 70s who was a resident of a Dallas long-term care facility
  • A woman in her 80s who was a resident of a Mesquite long-term care facility and had underlying health conditions
  • A man in his 80s who was a resident of a Mesquite long-term care facility and had underlying health conditions
  • A woman in her 80s who was a resident of a Mesquite long-term care facility and had underlying health conditions

Tarrant County Reports 151 New Cases

Tarrant County Public Health is reporting 151 new cases and 11 COVID-19 deaths. The deceased include a man in his 80s, a man in his 60s, two women in their 70s, and two women in their 80s, all from Fort Worth; a man in his 80s from Arlington, a woman in her 80s and a man over 90, both from Keller, a man in his 70s from Mansfield and a woman in her 90s from White Settlement. All but one had underlying health conditions.

Collin County Reports 28 New Cases

Collin County Public Health is reporting 28 new cases of COVID-19. This brings the total number of cases countywide to 1,217.

Denton County Reports 30 New Cases

Denton County Public Health is reporting 30 new cases of COVID-19. This brings the county's total number of cases to 1,285.

Texas Supreme Court Bars Most Jury Trials Through Aug. 1

The Texas Supreme Court is barring most jury selection proceedings and jury trials through Aug. 1, according to a new order issued Wednesday.

Most jury trials had previously been on hold. Moving forward, if a judge wishes for a jury trial, both the prosecution and the defense have to agree to it, and health precautions will have to be followed.

The court is also allowing remote proceedings to continue in Texas and established that existing grand juries can meet remotely or in person as long as health precautions are taken.

As part of the same order, most deadlines for civil and criminal cases were extended to Sept. 30. — Juan Pablo Garnham, The Texas Tribune

Applications Open For Fort Worth Small Business Grant Program

The city of Fort Worth got $158 million from a federal coronavirus relief package, $10 million of that is going to help small businesses — and applications are now open.

The 'Preserve the Fort' grant program is open to businesses with up to 250 employees, as well as nonprofits and people who are self-employed.

The program’s also set aside $2.5 million for minority-owned businesses. Plus, another $2.5 million for businesses in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods that the city has slated for revitalization.

The size of the grant is based on the size of the business. Awards will range from $5,000 to $50,000.

The funds can be used to pay rent, employees and suppliers, or to buy personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies.

Businesses can apply for a grant until Monday, June 8.

AP-NORC Poll: Half Of Americans Would Get A COVID-19 Vaccine

Only about half of Americans say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if the scientists working furiously to create one succeed, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

That’s surprisingly low considering the effort going into the global race for a vaccine against the coronavirus that has sparked a pandemic since first emerging from China late last year. But more people might eventually roll up their sleeves: The poll, released Wednesday, found 31% simply weren’t sure if they’d get vaccinated. Another 1 in 5 said they’d refuse.

Southwest Airlines Launches Sale To Encourage Flying

Southwest Airlines has launched a fare sale and a double-points promotion for rewards members to encourage people to fly again.

On Facebook, executive VP Andrew Watterson said passenger traffic's too low.

"Booking flights to just two-thirds full is important to make feel people feel comfortable traveling again," Watterson said. "But we won't be prosperous until we're at load factors closer to what we saw earlier this year."

Watterson says the airline's encouraged by future booking numbers.

Half Of Employees At Amarillo Plant With COVID-19 Had No Symptoms

Officials in Amarillo estimate roughly half of the workers who tested positive for COVID-19 at a local Tyson meatpacking plant had no symptoms.

“Our staff hand counted and 45% of the employees who tested positive were asymptomatic,” Public Health Director Casie Stoughton told city council members yesterday.

As of yesterday, 60% of the total COVID-19 cases in the Amarillo area are related to the meatpacking industry. 

Stoughton added testing at the JBS Beef plant located north of Amarillo was expected to wrap up yesterday.

Both the Tyson and JBS facilities have roughly 3,000 employees.

Baylor Scott & White To Lay Off About 1,200 And Furlough Others

Baylor Scott and White Health System is laying off around 1,200 employees — about 3% of its workforce —- because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dallas Morning News reports Baylor also will furlough some workers, leave open positions empty and cut the pay of about 300 senior leaders.

The hospital system prepared for a surge in COVID-19 patients by spending $85 million to stockpile supplies, modifying facilities and by developing telehealth options, but Baylor lost revenue when officials suspended non-urgent surgeries and procedures. Patient volumes dropped by up to 90%.

Federal Aid Program To Help Texas Farmers

Texas farmers and ranchers struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic can begin applying for federal aid today.

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program makes $16 billion in direct payments available to U.S. agricultural producers.

Brant Wilbourn with the Texas Farm Bureau said funding could be especially crucial for the state's beef industry after recent significant losses. 

“We've definitely had a lot of folks impacted by decreased prices on the cattle market and reduced capacity at those packing plants that have occurred through COVID-19,” Wilbourn said.

To apply, agricultural producers must contact their local Farm Service Agency Center.

Contributed by KUT News.

Overnight Camping Reservations At Texas State Parks Begin Today

Beginning today, Texas State Park visitors can make overnight camping reservations between June 1 and September 7.

The parks will continue operating at limited capacity, and visitors must maintain social distancing, wear face coverings and limit non-family groups to five people or fewer.

In-person interpretive programs and all transactions at the parks are still suspended.

Nature and visitors centers will also remain closed for now.

Six Flags Releases Plan To Reopen

Six Flags released its plan to reopen its Texas theme parks for the summer — should they be allowed to by Gov. Greg Abbott. 

The company’s communication manager Sharon Parker released details on social media that include a reservation system to limit the number of people in the park, marked line spacing to maintain social distancing and masks.

“Everyone on the property, team members and guests, need to wear appropriate face-coverings over the nose and mouth,” Parker said. “The only exceptions will be children ages two years and younger, and individuals with breathing problems.”

The company will open its Oklahoma City park next week. 

Tourism and hospitality are among the biggest drivers of the Texas economy after oil and gas. It contributes more than $80 billion in direct spending in typical years.

Contributed by KUT News.

Tuesday, May 26

32 New Cases In Collin County

There are 32 additional cases of COVID-19 in the county, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. The total case count in the county is now 1,189.

No additional deaths were reported. 

62 Additional Cases In Tarrant County 

Tarrant County Public Health reported 62 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total case count in the county to 5,039. 

There have been 144 deaths in the county related to COVID-19.

Denton County Reports 22 New Cases

Denton County Public Health announced 22 additional cases of COVID-19 in the county, bringing the total case count in the county to 1,255. According to public health officials, there are 15 recovered cases of the virus.

190 New Cases In Dallas County 

Dallas County Health and Human Services announced 190 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the total case count in the county to 9,188. 

There have been 213 deaths related to COVID-19 in the county, including two deaths reported today: 

  • A man in his 60s who was a resident of the City of Garland and had expired in an area hospital ED. He had underlying high risk health conditions.
  • A man in his 70s who was a resident of a long-term care facility in the City of Mesquite and had underlying high risk health conditions.

Gov. Abbott Announces Water Parks, Recreational Sports And Mall Food Courts Set To Reopen 

Abbott announced water parks, recreational sport programs for adults, driver’s education programs and food-court dining areas in shopping malls will reopen with limited occupancy and regulations. 

Driver education programs and food-court dining areas in shopping malls can reopen immediately, but malls are encouraged to designate at least one person who ensures all health safety measures are being followed. Guidelines include: limiting tables to six people, maintaining six feet of distance between tables, cleaning tables in-between uses and removing items left on tables between uses. 

Water parks can reopen on Friday, May 29 at 25% occupancy; however, video arcades in the water parks must remain closed. 

On Sunday, May 31, recreational sports programs for adults can resume, but games and other competitions will not start until June 15. 

Tarrant County Jail Reports First Inmate Death 

Officials said the 67-year-old man who died Saturday had underlying health conditions. His name has not been released.

Tarrant County sheriff Bill Waybourn told commissioners the man was booked in at the end of February.

"Whether he was a carrier at that point we're not real sure,” Waybourn said. 

After booking, the man was quarantined away from others for two weeks, then moved to a one or two-person cell. Waybourn said movement inside the jail has been restricted to limit exposure of the virus.

"So he had little or no contact with other prisoners,” he said. “Then when he exhibited conditions from then, that's when he was moved to total isolation and then to JPS, which was pretty rapid."

The man officially tested positive for COVID-19 on April 28 and was transferred to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, where he died. Waybourn said testing in jails will be expanded soon.

"They've already done it with the prison systems, and they're moving this way within the next couple of weeks,” he said. “Jail standards will come in and test every prisoner that we have. And they will test all of our confinement personnel as well."

In the meantime, commissioner Roy Brooks has asked the county's public health department to begin contact tracing who the man encountered while in the jail.

At the Tarrant County Jail, 42 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. About 100 have been quarantined or isolated, and three are being treated at area hospitals.

Texas Driver License Offices Reopen Today

Driver license offices are partially reopening today. Customers will be able to book appointments up to six months ahead through an online system.

The Texas Department of Public Safety says the opening will happen in four phases and offer limited services.

Phase one reopens offices in Northwest and West Texas. Residents who don't have a Texas driver license, learner permit or ID card, and those needing to take a driving test, will be able to schedule appointments.

Phase 2 will allow offices in South and Central Texas regions to reopen May 29.

On June 3, offices in North and Southeast Texas regions will reopen under phase 3.

The final phase, beginning midsummer, will let customers book an appointment for all services at any driver license office. Those with an expired driver license get an extension until this last phase begins.

Texas DMV offices are also repoening today with new health and safety procedures in place. Offices will operate at 25% capacity and service counters will have plexiglass safety barriers in place. 

All in-person services like replacement titles and temporary permits will be available.

The temporary waiver of vehicle title and registration requirements remains in effect. TxDMV will notify the public when normal services have resumed, allowing 60 days from then to conduct any overdue title and registration transactions.

UT-Dallas Creates COVID-19 Dashboard

Researchers from four departments at the University of Texas at Dallas have collaborated on a COVID-19 dashboard.

The tool tracks current virus data and creates epidemiological models.

The information's open to the public, as well as government entities.

The City of Dallas, for example, plans to use the new tool to help make decisions regarding reopening facilities and informing first responders of hotspots.

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

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