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Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins Asks Governor Greg Abbott To Consider Scaling Back Openings

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins asked Governor Greg Abbott to consider scaling back openings as the number of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continues to rise in North Texas.

Judge Jenkins made the request in a letter he sent the Governor on Friday, Nov. 13.

He said the numbers are increasing at an alarming rate.

"The rate of community spread has our local health authority and our regional hospital administrators concerned that we are quickly approaching caseloads that will be unbearable for our facilities and personally catastrophic for our families."

Jenkins also forwarded the Governor a letter he received from the county's public health committee, which made a number of recommendations they believe would help slow the spread of the virus.

He said, "Please consider implementing the recommendations of our local health experts or confirming that local county judges have the legal authority to take such action."

The county committee's recommendations include: putting in place a stronger and more expansive mask order for Dallas County, maintaining current bar closures in the county, and closing "loopholes" allowing bars to open if they serve food, a policy created by the TABC.

Committee members also want the Governor to close all dining inside restaurants, and permitting only drive-through, take-out, and curbside pick-up, and allow outside dining only when six feet of separation between parties is possible.

They made six other recommendations.

The state is having to surge resources to Lubbock and El Paso because of rising cases and hospitalizations there.

At a news conference Thursday, Nov. 12, Judge Jenkins said, "Let me point out that time is of the essence. We cannot afford to wait until we're in a situation that El Paso got into."

Last month, the Governor updated his executive order, which lays out when openings have to be scaled back. It's when a region reaches a high hospitalization rate, and our region hasn't gotten to that point.

That happens when a region's hospital capacity consists of more than 15% Covid-19 patients for seven days in a row.

Businesses operating at a 75% occupancy must drop down to 50%.

That would remain in effect until the number of Covid patients compared to total hospital capacity in the region drops to 15% or below for seven consecutive days.

Under the Governor's order, bars with alcohol sales of 51% or more of gross revenue can't offer services on-premises with high Covid-19 hospitalizations.

Restaurants with alcohol sales that are less than 51% of gross revenue can continue operating at up to 50% occupancy indoors.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services website late Friday afternoon, the percentage of Covid-19 patients compared to total hospital capacity is 11.9% in the North Texas region.

The previous high in the North Texas region according to the state came on July 26, when the rate was 14.2%.

Macy Moore of the Hop Fusion Aleworks, a brewery and tap room in Fort Worth, said Friday he and other establishments aren't taking advantage of a state loophole. "

We had to pass the criteria, we had to submit affidavits, we had to build out restaurant equipment, and follow and sign affidavits that we would follow the rules."

Moore said he works with a nearby restaurant to serve food, but said he's still lost 80% of his business from last year. "Don't close out bars and just leave restaurants open and think to solve some kind of problem. All you do is amplify a problem."

Michael Klein, President of the Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance said in an email, "Half our members will likely never reopen their doors. Shutting down businesses, ending owners' livelihoods, and punishing employees isn't the right path for anyone."

Earlier this week, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said the problem with bars is that they're not complying with the state's rules. "They are stuffing them in. they are not taking care of social distancing. They are not taking care wearing the masks."

Moore said he has seen that in some other bars, but that he and his staff have done what they can. "We take it very seriously. It's very, very difficult, I can't tell you how difficult it really is to try to enforce these mandates, it puts our staff in danger."

Klein said, "The bar economy has been singled out from the very beginning. There is a safe way to keep doors open, and bars across the state have done just that. Owners and their employees have been working tirelessly for months to implement new safety guidelines to safely reopen."

In an email to CBS 11, a spokeswoman for Governor Abbott said, "Local officials have full authority to enforce these existing protcols to help mitigate this virus, including occupancy limits and mask requirements. The protocols are proven to work, but only if they are enforced."

By The Numbers:

On Friday, Dallas County reported 767 new positive Covid-19 cases.

The state estimates there are 12,671 active cases of the virus in Dallas County.

The state also reports 1,992 people with Covid-19 are admitted to hospitals in the North Texas region.

In all, there are 14,000 people hospitalized in the region.

There are 16,684 total staffed beds in the region.

As of late Friday afternoon, the state said there are 1,573 available hospital beds, 171 available ICU beds, and 1,930 available ventilators in the region's hospitals.

The state also reported Friday it has had a total of 1,004,983 positive cases since the pandemic began.

There have been 10,136,547 total tests for the virus statewide.




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