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Local News

Leading Off (7/3/2020)

| 10 hours ago

Economists Are Nervous About a Second Shutdown. With the rising cases of the coronavirus, there’s concern that closing some sectors of the economy again will be necessary to control its spread. If that happens, job losses would be “immediate” and it would be “devastating” but it would perhaps be “essential,” Waco economist Ray Perryman told The Dallas Morning News. We’ll find out in a couple of weeks whether the slim job gains the state made in May expanded in June.

State and Local COVID Numbers In Smaller Counties Ain’t Lining Up. Tiny counties like Erath don’t have health departments, so they hire doctors to take the lead. Now, the numbers they’re finding don’t jibe with what the state is providing. It seems that the local counties are finding many more cases than the state is publishing. The state says there’s a lag in announcing the numbers and the counties say that misleads the public.

Dallas Police Association Believes Chief’s New Video Rule Is Illegal. The city’s largest police union alleges that the chief’s vow to release video from “critical incidents”—which includes a caveat that she can withhold case-by-case based on her own judgment—violates officers’ civil rights. The DPA’s attorney says it is tantamount to “releasing evidence.”

Wear Your Mask, Today and Always. I’m just going to link to what I wrote yesterday, in case you missed it. At 12:01 p.m. today, it is now against the law for you to go out in public without a mask. Follow the rules. This is a critical time in controlling the spread of coronavirus. If we blow this, if we go to house parties and shoot fireworks and hug our buddies and everything we probably want to do, UT Southwestern anticipates a 50 percent increase in hospitalizations by July 13. That’s another 400 or so people flooding into Dallas and Tarrant County hospitals. You might be fine, but the person you come into contact with might not be. And we can all help disprove that model. I think the scientists would like nothing more than to say they were wrong about this. Help them. Have a safe holiday and please take this seriously.

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Coronavirus

Gov. Greg Abbott Is Finally Making You Wear a Mask

| 1 day ago

Today at noon, you are now bound by state law to cover your face in public places. Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order this afternoon mandating it in all Texas counties with at least 20 cases of COVID-19. The maximum fine is $250 after a verbal or written warning. This is what mayors and county judges have been calling for for weeks; before this, Abbott only allowed local governments to mandate that businesses require masks upon entry. He previously refused to order the general public to do so. His hand appears forced. The state added more than 8,000 cases yesterday, more than doubling the additions of two weeks ago. And July 4 is Saturday.

The order also gives local leaders permission to ban any outdoor gatherings of 10 or more people. Previously, anything up to 100 was allowed. On Thursday, Dallas County revealed a record high of 708 new cases of the coronavirus. On Friday, Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Phil Huang announced there will be at least 1,000 new cases.

In his announcement, County Judge Clay Jenkins added this: “increasing reports of cases are continuing to be associated with multiple large recreational and social gatherings since the beginning of June, including house parties.” We’re still seeing a lag in cases and hospitalizations from Memorial Day, Jenkins said.

“We cannot have another Memorial Day over this July 4 weekend,” Huang said. “If that happens, it will really be catastrophic.”

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Covid-19

5 Reasons Why the George Floyd Protests Did Not Increase COVID-19 Spread

| 1 day ago

On social media and in the comments of this blog, there has been an increase in the number of people blaming recent anti-police brutality protests for the surge in COVID-19 cases in Dallas and around Texas. However, early analysis suggests that the protests are not responsible for the pandemic’s second wave. In fact, not only has one new research paper suggested that the protests may have helped contain the spread in the broader population by increasing social distancing, the protests have taught us valuable lessons about how COVID-19 spreads.

Here are five reasons why people need to stop blaming protesters for spreading COVID-19:

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Coronavirus

Southern Dallas COVID-19 Testing Sites Are Facing an ‘Onslaught’

| 1 day ago

In southeastern Dallas County at Paul Quinn College on Tuesday afternoon, cars were stretched as far as the eye can see. Their drivers were waiting for a COVID-19 test, and hundreds would be turned away. Although the National Guard administered over 500 tests that day (which was twice as many as they were doing just a couple weeks ago), Paul Quinn President Michael Sorrell says that they could not test another 500 more individuals.

With confirmed cases at 500 to 600 per day through the end of June and early July, the disease is spreading at an unprecedented rate. Hospitals have paused some elective procedures. Bars opened then closed. Restaurants had their capacities dropped. It’s all in an effort to re-flatten the curve of cases, and testing is part and parcel to prevention. Southern Dallas is home to many of the city’s most vulnerable ZIP codes, but with many uninsured and essential workers in these communities, they face a number of challenges to healthcare access.

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Local News

Don Williams Swears the Oligarchy Is Down With BLM

| 1 day ago

Don Williams, one of the senior lions of the Dallas business oligarchy, tells me his peers at the top of the pyramid are open to radical change in policing, education, and the way they themselves do business, all of it aimed at post-George Floyd racial justice. Over the years, my own experience has been that Williams, former chairman of Trammell Crow Company, doesn’t say stuff that isn’t true. But I do have to admit I am struggling to keep up.

A pop-up memorial in University Park to Black lives lost at the hands of police? A North Dallas church projecting the names of George Floyd, Botham Jean, and Ahmaud Arbery onto the church façade? It’s as if a dam has cracked.

And now this. Williams says the old Dallas oligarchy is beginning to admit the need for radical change. I am hearing something I can’t believe from someone I can’t disbelieve.

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Local News

Leading Off (7/2/2020)

| 2 days ago

Yesterday’s Dallas County COVID-19 Deaths Include Otherwise Healthy 20-Year-Old. We had 544 new positive cases yesterday and seven deaths, confirming our spot as one of the top five metro areas with the highest positivity rate in the nation. Tarrant County had 606 new cases and 3 deaths. Collin County had 117 new cases. County Judge Clay Jenkins advises area residents to plan to spend the Fourth of July with people with whom they are already in close contact. Here are some great ideas for your grill. Another surge like we had in the two weeks following Memorial Day threatens to overrun hospitals.

DPD Orders Release of “Critical Incident” Videos Within 72 Hours to Increase Transparency. This will include use of force cases and officer-involved shootings. The officers involved, Dallas County district attorney, head of the office of community police oversight, and the injured or deceased person’s family will be able to review the recordings first. Previously, it could take months or even years for such videos to reach the public.

Arts Advocacy Groups Say Dallas Lost $33 Million in Arts Revenue in Less Than Three Months. The vast majority of the losses are attributed to lost admissions and related parking, retail, and concession revenue. Fifty-seven local venues and organizations were surveyed about the period from March 13 to May 31.

First Baptist Choir Members Tested Positive Prior to Pence’s Visit. After BuzzFeed News first reported the story, the church confirmed that at least five members tested positive last month. Meanwhile, FC Dallas had nine players and a coach test positive after arriving in Florida this week for a tournament.

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Covid-19

COVID Death of North Texas GOP Leader Casts Shadow on State Convention Plans

| 2 days ago

In a couple of weeks, the Texas Republican Party is set to hold its statewide convention in Houston, the city that has been worst hit by the state’s COVID-19 surge. In an editorial in the Austin-American Statesman today, the paper argues that’s a bad idea. Hospitalizations have quadrupled since Memorial Day in the Gulf Coast city, and the region’s intensive care unit beds are nearly full. As in Dallas, Houston officials “have implored residents to stay home.” And yet, on July 16, around 6,000 Texans are set to descend on the city for the Texas GOP convention.

The deadly consequences of such an event are not theoretical. A month ago, countywide Republican organizations began holding their own local conventions to prepare for the main event later this month. In Kaufman County on June 6, longtime GOP activist Bill Baker convened his local GOP convention. As Texas Monthly reports, the decision to hold the event would prove fateful:

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Coronavirus

During the Summer of Pandemic, Dallas Parks Weigh What’s Safe to Reopen

| 2 days ago

As the total number of COVID-19 cases in Dallas County since March surpasses 20,000, the city’s Park Board is weighing how to reopen amenities at the 397 public parks. The Parks Department has already delayed opening pools and beginning summer camps until July 20. But other things, like playgrounds and spraygrounds, have been open since June 19.

All playgrounds and spraygrounds were sanitized prior to reopening but have not been cleaned since. Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that chlorine in pools and water spraygrounds can kill the virus, but there remains concern about interactions outside the water. Dr. Kelvin Baggett, the city’s COVID-19 czar, warned against reopening these amenities during the Park Board’s June 4 meeting.

“We don’t know enough, and high-touch areas are the highest potential transmission sources,” Baggett said. “So, keep them closed is my recommendation.”

The Parks Department moved forward with opening. Other, closer-contact amenities like volleyball and basketball courts reopened June 5. It’s not uncommon to see groups of 20 to 30 clustered at basketball courts, maskless, at parks like Willis C. Winters Park in East Dallas. Park Board President Calvert Collins-Bratton says a key factor in distinguishing between what to reopen is the level of personal responsibility required. Park staff conduct summer camps and lifeguard at pools, whereas community members choosing to go to parks do so on their own without supervision.

“I don’t think we’ll ever all agree on the best approach to reopening,” Collins-Bratton said. “We want to be mindful and offer the public opportunities, but understanding that there is a level of personal responsibility in knowing where you’re going and how to protect yourself. And then still being able to offer those facilities and amenities that are open to the public and should be–(they’re) taxpayer-funded, after all.”

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Seafood

Big Mouth Billy Bass Inventor Says He’s No One-Hit Wonder

| 2 days ago

Mel Magazine is a little late to the Big Mouth Billy Bass 20th anniversary party. The Dallas-born animatronic singing fish that took Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” to new depths originally premiered on December 16, 1998, and Central Track rightfully celebrated the event in 2018. But what’s two years among friends? Mel published an oral history of the fish yesterday, apropos of pretty much nothing, but it is still an entertaining romp through the paneled dens and deer blinds of former Billy Bass owners, from George W. Bush to Tony Soprano.

As for the Southlake-based inventor, Joe Pellettieri, he told the article’s author that he doesn’t want people to get the wrong idea. Unlike his famous fish, he’s still relevant:

I guess I’m known for Big Mouth Billy Bass, but I always tell people that I’m not a one-hit wonder. I’ve had a lot of hits that you may or may not be familiar with over the years in toys, Halloween, Christmas and a lot of different categories. Do you remember the dancing hamsters, the ones that did “Kung Fu Fighting” and a bunch of different songs? That was me.

I work for a company called Occasions now, and they do a lot of holiday inflatables that I’ve worked on too. My start, though, was with the Dancing Flowers — those were my first hit with Gemmy, a novelty seasonal company where I was in product development. After the flowers, I did Big Mouth Billy Bass for them, so I started out with a bang, really — I guess I got lucky.

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Local News

In Oak Lawn, Black Lives Matter and Pride Join Together

| 2 days ago

Each of Dallas’ protests against systemic racism and police brutality chant the following call-and-response:

“All lives can’t matter till what?”

Black! Lives! Matter!

You will also hear, in response: “Black! Trans! Matter!” and “Black! Queers! Matter!” These answers are a reminder to remember Black LGBTQIA+ people, who disproportionately bear the brunt of hate crimes and violence. Just yesterday, a 22-year-old Black transgender woman was shot dead in East Oak Cliff. Between 2018 and 2019, Muhlaysia Booker, Brittany White, and Chynal Lyndsay were all found dead in Dallas.

This reminder was manifest, in a somber yet sanguine, colorful, and glorious display, this past Sunday. A crowd of about a thousand gathered at Turtle Creek Park for the Support Pride/BLM rally and march. Like in many large cities across the United States, where official Pride marches were canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, Dallas’ Pride event was organized through grassroots efforts. Held in support of Black lives, the chorus was “all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter, but Black lives can’t matter until Black trans and queer lives matter.” For many, that refrain—and the grassroots approach to the march—represented a return to Pride’s roots.

“Stonewall was a riot, and it was started by [Marsha P. Johnson,] a Black trans girl,” Jorge Gallegos said as we marched down Cedar Springs Road through Oak Lawn, Dallas’ traditional gayborhood. “This is the best way for us to honor the movement. And if all Black lives matter, we need to include all of them: queer lives, queer Blacks, trans people.”

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Sports Medicine

How SMU Is Getting Back to Sports Amid a Pandemic

| 2 days ago

SMU is one of many universities, colleges, and schools trying to safely bring athletes back on campus this summer and the unprecedented effort is expensive, complex, and risky. The program got off to a telling start: In mid-June, five student athletes at SMU tested positive for COVID-19 according to a Dallas Morning News report. All students signed liability waivers before returning, releasing the school of any responsibility should they contract the virus. But the program is a day-to-day learning process with huge stakes. The NCAA has resisted issuing national protocols, leaving each school to devise its own plan.

Dr. Matthew Davis is an internist and one of the SMU team physicians who works with athletes across all sports, even traveling with teams and working the sidelines. He’s a member of the committee that developed the protocols for SMU’s athletes to return to workouts this summer.

Summer for student athletes typically is a time to take classes, work and train with teammates. The athletes train on their own, and the individual sports coaches are not on campus.  The NCAA ruled that athletes could return in June to their respective campuses for voluntary workouts.

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Local News

Leading Off (7/1/20)

| 2 days ago

Dallas County Sets COVID-19 Death Record. The county reported 20 new deaths from the virus, and Texas set yet another high for new cases — 6,975 Tuesday, which is about 1,000 cases more than the previous high. Dallas County hospitalizations are also at an all-time high. Testing is running into problems across Texas, as demand leads to long waits and results can take weeks to process. Gov. Abbott’s reopening plans have backfired tremendously, which is evident in both the surge in COVID-19 cases at day care facilities, which forced the state to reinstate emergency requirements it had previously repealed, and in the bar industry’s lawsuit against the governor, which alleges that his “erratic” approach to the shutdowns unfairly decimated their industry. Rural counties are now seeing a surge in cases, but suburban politicians resist requiring masks.

UT Southwestern Researching New COVID-19 Treatment. Here’s some more hopeful news: doctors at UTSW are attempting to determine if a pneumonia drug called Atovaquone, which is sometimes used to treat HIV patients, can be used as a possible COVID-19 treatment. They hope to begin using the treatment on patients in the Dallas area soon.

Three Dallas Protesters Sue City. Three Dallas protesters who were arrested during the first weekend of demonstrations against police brutality have filed a lawsuit against the city of Dallas claiming that Texas’ 40-year-old anti-rioting law is unconstitutional. They say the statute is too broadly written and can be used to target peaceful demonstrators.

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