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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Coronavirus

Dallas’ COVID Hospitalizations Nearing the Trigger for a Rollback

| 9 hours ago

The White House believes Texas “must intensify” its efforts in controlling the coronavirus and has highlighted Dallas-Fort Worth as the state’s largest metropolitan area in the worst shape. And a recent, sustained increase in hospitalizations appear to back up its fears.

The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit journalism outfit based in D.C., again obtained reports the White House’s coronavirus task force sends to each state’s governor every week.

Just as in July near the previous peak of the pandemic, the White House advised the state to dial it back. The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington MSA is among 50 in Texas that are listed as being in the “red zone.” States fall into that zone when they record more than 100 new infections per 100,000 residents in the prior week. Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, and Denton counties are all considered to be hot spots. Tarrant and Dallas trailed only El Paso County for the most new cases over the last three weeks.

The verbiage in the report is strong: “The silent community spread that precedes and continues to drive these surges can only be identified and interrupted through proactive, focused testing for both the identification of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals. This must be combined with significant behavior change of all Americans.”

“Stop going into restaurants, certainly stop going to any bar, bar-slash-restaurant-turned-bar, sure as heck stop gathering for those family gatherings,” said Dr. Mark Casanova, the president of the Dallas County Medical Society. “I think that’s where we’ve had our knees taken out from under us is those family gatherings and friend gatherings. Enough of those people do that on enough of a scale and you see exactly what we’re seeing in viral transmission.”

At Tuesday’s Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting, County Judge Clay Jenkins said that Parkland Hospital is seeing a surprising increase in asymptomatic positivity among patients seeking care for non-COVID related procedures. About 12 percent of that population—one in eight—are testing positive without showing symptoms. It highlights the importance of wearing masks and avoiding crowds, which will help avoid exposure.

“The number was so high that (Parkland CEO) Fred Cerise asked them to run it again, he couldn’t believe it,” Jenkins said.

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Media

Watch: Great Story on WFAA About Banks Screwing Southern Dallas

| 14 hours ago

ABC Channel 8 aired a fantastic piece of journalism about a week ago that you should take the time to watch. I’m afraid this thing may have gotten lost in the shuffle a bit over the holiday break. Only about 1,000 people have viewed the YouTube video of the segment.

It’s called “Banking Below 30,” and it’s about redlining, a racist banking policy that keeps people of color in certain parts of town from getting loans. In this case, “below 30” refers to Interstate 30. Redlining is a complicated topic, but it is cogently explained in this 10-minute report. Ten minutes! When I saw this air on TV, I was shocked that they gave it that much time. The photography and graphics are top notch. The reporting is solid. David Schechter and his cohorts dug up data from 105 banks that do business locally. As I said, what they found is worth your time:

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Local News

Leading Off (12/1/20)

| 19 hours ago

COVID Update. Yesterday Dallas County reported 702 additional cases and five deaths. But don’t take comfort from that relatively low cases number, because testing and reporting slowed during the Thanksgiving break. Today’s stats will give us a more accurate picture. Tarrant County reported 3,356 coronavirus cases yesterday. Collin did 408.

Twerking Controversy in Downtown Restaurant. I have not yet been to True Kitchen + Kocktails, on Elm Street, but as soon as there’s a vaccine, I’d like to kruise over there + check it out. Sounds like an interesting place. Owner Kevin Kelley went viral on social media when he lectured diners about twerking in his restaurant, saying he invested a lot of money so Black folks can have someplace nice to go (Kelley is Black). A tweet of his harangue has been viewed 3.6 million times. Some have pointed out that the twerking was inspired by the song playing in the restaurant at the time, Lil Ronny’s “Throw Dat Ass in a Circle.” I just listened to the song on YouTube and can report that I was able to remain seated on my couch, but it should be noted that this morning I haven’t yet begun drinking.

Mountain Lion in Rowlett! Wildlife experts confirm the sighting. Keep your head on a swivel.

Cowboys Game Pushed to Tuesday. That’s the word for now, as COVID has thrown a wrench in the contest with Baltimore.

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Transportation

Dallas Loses Its First-Ever Transportation Director

| 1 day ago

Michael Rogers, the first-ever transportation director for the city of Dallas, is leaving to become a deputy city manager in the southern suburb of Glenn Heights. Rogers was hired from Raleigh, North Carolina in 2017 and charged with creating the city’s first comprehensive mobility plan. According to a memo from City Manager T.C.  Broadnax, that plan is being finalized. Broadnax describes it as “a five-year mobility roadmap that will enhance the region’s implementation plans for transportation, economic development, housing, and job creation.”

It will do so by judging transportation investments on not just their ability to move people from one place to another, but their impact on land use, climate, and equitable development. It will also include a path forward for making Vision Zero operational, the city’s initiative to reduce pedestrian deaths to zero. Rogers wanted the transit plan to help inform how our streets, freeways, trails, and sidewalks all influence how the city develops. His department oversaw a citywide survey that helped chart its priorities.

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Cooking

Cyber Monday Deal: Get Our Hand Made Cookbook on Sale Right Now

| 2 days ago

December is almost upon us, so let the scramble for gifts commence! This year especially, as we’re mailing present parcels to loved ones far away, checking one more person off our list feels good. Let us help you with that.

We have a hot Cyber Monday deal for you: Get our Hand Made cookbook (normally just shy of $20) for $15.95. But, wait, there’s more. We’ll throw in 12 months of D Magazine. (This combo is usually $29.95.)

Hand Made includes 47 recipes, all of which feel like love letters to Dallas. This isn’t merely a road map to delicious entertainment—though, yes, do cook something for just you, a date night for two, or a spread for a socially distanced picnic—but a book for locavores who want to know where to get the freshest ingredients from farms and markets near you. Baking a tart or a batch of margaritas can also mean supporting small businesses who need us more than ever right now. While dining and getting together look a lot different right now, how we share and show up for those in our community remains impactful.

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Shopping

The Day My Wife Nearly Killed a Kid at Home Depot: A Christmas Story

| 2 days ago

Sunday afternoon, Team Rogers made its annual Yuletide sortie to Home Depot for a Christmas tree. We went to the location on Garland Road, over the objections of my wife, who wanted to go to the location on Skillman because a co-worker of hers had told her the selection there was better. As I explained, though, we’d have to transport the tree farther, which would mean —

Never mind. Let’s not bog down in that whole debate. We went to the location on Garland.

So we are in the tree tent. Me personally, I’m feeling a bit claustrophobic, what with the mask and the close quarters and the other tree shoppers disregarding the one-way signage. The missus grabs an approximately 9-foot noble fir, stands it up, and asks for my opinion.

“Too tall,” I say. “We do this every year.”

I am 6 feet tall. We live in a midcentury modern with a sloping ceiling. At its lowest point, where we put the tree, I can reach up and nearly touch the ceiling. So every year I stand next to the first four or five trees she selects, and I raise my hand as high as it will go, and I say, “Too tall.”

This is what I’m doing Sunday — standing next to the tree with my hand raised like I’ve got a pressing question and am eager to be called upon — when the missus lets go of the tree. The tree falls into the aisle where a 4-year-old boy is innocently walking, unaware of the dangers that surround him. He’s probably thinking about Oreos. Bam. The noble fir scores a direct hit, takes him cleanly off his feet.

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Local News

Leading Off (11/30/2020)

| 2 days ago

COVID. Dallas County reported 3,303 additional cases and six deaths on Sunday. But that number comes with an asterisk: it includes numbers from Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, because of the Thanksgiving holiday, and also reflects fewer people getting tested. “We’ll have more accurate numbers again on Tuesday and Wednesday and begin to see any effects from the Thanksgiving holiday by next Friday and into the weekend with a full realization of any uptick manifesting itself by the following weekend,” says County Judge Clay Jenkins. (If you did gather for Thanksgiving, here is what you should do.) If you prefer to look at it in a different way, COVID-19 patients took up more than 15 percent of North Texas hospital beds for the third straight day. Should those numbers hold for a week, then bars will close and restaurants and retail will go back to 50 percent capacity.

Freeze! Sub-freezing temps are coming soon, maybe Tuesday morning. But if you go outside right now, you’ll see it’s close enough. Anyway, I’m just happy we have 100 percent entered my favorite time of year: jacket season. I have so little to look forward to. Let me just enjoy this.

Mavs Start Training Camp Tomorrow. OK, I also have this to look forward to. I can’t believe the NBA is already almost back. Here are a few questions to start with.

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Local News

Leading Off (11/26/20)

| 6 days ago

Thanks for Not Traveling to Mexico. The CDC doesn’t want you to go, and you might not be allowed back in.

Thanks to Our First Responders, Nurses, Doctors, and Teachers. We’re talking to you, and you, and you.

Thanks to CBS 11 Meteorologist Scott Padgett for the Best Tornado Coverage on Tuesday Night From His Festive Christmas-Decorated Home. Thanks to you, we had our shoes, flashlights, and iPhone charger ready. And snacks–we made sure to grab snacks.

Thanks to Texas Ale Project for a Beer Dedicated to Pantera. We didn’t know we needed it, but we do.

And Thanks for Buying My Cookbook. You’re the best. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. I hope the tonic syrup worked out for you. I made an extra batch for myself just so I’d be fully stocked for today. If you need more copies for holiday gifts, you can order it here.

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Sports & Leisure

Wylie Soccer Star Might Be First Female to Play Football in Power Five

| 7 days ago

Props to the alert FrontBurnervian who pointed us to this story in the Vanderbilt Hustler, the dangerously named student newspaper at that fine institution. The starting goalkeeper for Vandy’s women’s soccer team, Sarah Fuller of Wylie, has been spotted in football pads at a Commodores practice. She might be called into duty because COVID is taking its toll on the team. If she kicks it Saturday against Missouri, she’ll become the first woman to take a snap for a Power Five school.

Let’s do this.

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Local News

Like Father, Like Son: Two Parks Saved, 20 Years Apart

| 7 days ago

This is a story about the apple not falling far from the tree, and it’s a good thing. Good tree, good apple.

Going on 20 years ago, Dallas businessman Jesse Moreno Sr. led a heroic successful campaign to rescue and restore Randall Park, an ugly ill-used needle park across the street from Woodrow Wilson High School in East Dallas, later renamed Willis Winters Park.

Now Moreno’s son, Jesse Moreno Jr., who was a member of the Dallas Park Board up until two months ago, has spearheaded an equally successful campaign to rescue one of the city’s most historic parks, Reverchon, a mile north of downtown.

The two efforts might look very different at first. Randall was threatened by neglect. Reverchon was threatened by money — a scheme to turn it into a commercial entertainment center. But in both instances, the public faced losing the same thing — access to a place intended to be solace and beauty for the public, meaning everybody.

When Jesse Senior was fighting for Randall Park, my kid was at Woodrow with “Young Jesse,” as he will always be known in East Dallas. He’s 35. I remember his father then as a relentless bundle of energy and good cheer who never got mad, never stopped, and never took no for an answer.

Jesse Senior is, in his son’s word, a baseball “fanatic.” He played at North Dallas High School and went on to be a founder of the Dallas Mexican American Baseball League, which still exists. But to Jesse Senior’s great frustration, Young Jesse didn’t like baseball.

The father did not give in easily. “My dad tried to force baseball on me by tying a glove on my left hand in order for me to become a leftie,” Young Jesse recalls. “That didn’t work.” He laughs about it now, which is a good sign. (I have been informed that lefties wear their gloves on the right hand, so that tells you how much Moreno and I know about baseball.)

All Young Jesse wanted to play was soccer. Randall Park across the street from Woodrow, the soccer team’s main practice field, was littered with drug needles and broken glass. When the weather got hot and dry, the dirt cracked open deep enough to break a kid’s ankle.

So Jesse Senior made one of those decisions fathers sometimes must make. If his son was going to insist on soccer, at least Jesse Senior would see to it that the kid had a safe field to practice on.

“My dad and other parents saw that there were substantial differences between Randall Park and fields up north,” Young Jesse says. “My parents put pressure on the Park Department and asked them, ‘Why do we have lush green fields up in North Dallas, yet in East Dallas we have dirt patches?’ He was told, ‘Well, it’s drought.’ And so my dad would push back and say, ‘So you’re telling me the rain clouds discriminate between North Dallas and East Dallas?’

“They would joke around, but they said, ‘Well, no. They have irrigation up in North Dallas.’ So my dad took it upon himself to get a shovel, go to Randall Park, and dig up the irrigation lines that were there but had disappeared because of lack of use. He dug them out and said, ‘Well, look, there are irrigation lines in Randall Park.’ He kept pushing. He kept pushing.”

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Coronavirus

Dallas COVID-19 Czar Is ‘Deeply Concerned’ About the Next Few Weeks

| 7 days ago

One day away from Thanksgiving, the city of Dallas’ COVID-19 czar says he is “deeply concerned” about patient demand pushing the region’s hospitals beyond their capacities. Dallas County incurred several days in a row of more than 1,800 new COVID infections. With hospitals filling up, healthcare leaders are nervous about having enough staff to handle the coming surge of COVID patients in addition to standard seasonal demands. Dallas County is joining many others across the country in anticipating what appears to be a harsh winter.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the trauma service area that includes Dallas-Fort Worth has only 9 percent of its total hospital beds available and just 6 percent of its intensive care unit beds. Under normal circumstances, one in three beds is empty at this time of year. “We are deeply concerned about overwhelming healthcare capacity,” says Dr. Kelvin Baggett, the COVID-19 czar who is keeping his eye on the data. “They are overburdened and have combated this for over eight months now.”

While hospitals can expand and convert space for additional beds, the limiting factor becomes the staff. While he didn’t have a total number, Baggett says he’s receiving reports from area hospitals that caregivers are catching the virus in the community and having to call in. Unlike earlier in the year when only certain areas of the country were experiencing surges, the entire U.S. is setting records for new cases. That means no traveling nurses or physicians can act as a release valve for the hospitalizations stacking up in Dallas and elsewhere.

“Nationally, the strain put on the healthcare capacity is creating a staffing demand that has escalated tremendously,” Baggett says. “We have to consider the burden we are placing on our healthcare heroes and not do anything avoidable to put them more at risk.”

Unfortunately for public health advocates, the city and county have little power over shutting down sectors of the economy to slow the spread of the virus. In El Paso, an appeals court struck down the county judge’s order to shutter non-essential businesses despite case numbers overwhelming its hospitals. Texas National Guard troops are there helping move bodies after the morgue overflowed. 

New York shut down schools last week after the city reached a 3 percent test positivity rate. In Texas, the positivity rate is hovering between 10 and 12 percent, but some Dallas providers are reporting as high as 30 percent positivity at their testing locations. Over the past week, Dallas County’s positivity rate is 16.8 percent, which is up from 15.3 percent the week prior. The seven day rolling average for daily, new infections is now 1,321, an increase of about 22 percent over last week’s 1,078. It is up 125 percent in the past month; the 588 recorded before Halloween was the highest seven day average since July.

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Local News

Leading Off (11/25/20)

| 7 days ago

Covid Cases Spike. Yesterday’s sharp decline in new cases was, indeed, a fluke. New testing brought the daily numbers back up to the 1,700-1,800 range with seven additional deaths. Among the victims, a 70-year-old nurse named Iris Meda who came out of retirement to teach nursing students during the pandemic. And yet, despite the sacrifice of our healthcare workers, one Highland Park parent group is calling contract tracing efforts a “witch hunt,” and local high school football coaches warn that spread of the disease during playoff season could be “catastrophic.” Meanwhile, hotels are predictably suffering, the CDC wants you to cancel your Mexican getaway, and our local daily is deploying its depressingly limited reporting resources to cover deep questions like why pickles are sold at movie theaters — at a time when no one should be going to movies.

Community Calls for Removal of State Troopers. After Gov. Greg Abbott, at the request of the Dallas Police Department, sent state troopers to Dallas to assist in the city’s response to the increase in violent crime, a coalition of faith and community leaders pushed back yesterday, calling on the mayor and the governor to remove the troopers and instead deploy new resources to support the underserved communities that are the loci of much of the recent crime. The faith leaders and activist coalition are part of a political movement that has risen out of the George Floyd protests over the summer.

Police Arrest Suspect in Beating Death. This is an odd one: a 57-year-old man was arrested for beating to death 60-year-old Daniel Slusser, who was found last Friday morning in a strip mall in Oak Cliff, near Stevens Park. No word on motive. Slusser’s death is one of the year’s 220 homicides.

Dallas Experiences Home Price Boom. The residential real estate market grew at its fastest rate since 2014, following a nationwide trend that has seen buyers seeking out new and larger homes during the pandemic. On the commercial real estate side, things are less rosy.

After Tornado Warnings, Storm Damage Limited. For about 10 minutes last night, as the sirens blared and the local news warned of possible tornados touching down in my neighborhood, I was ready to drag the mattresses off the beds and hide in the bathtub. Then it rained and got chilly.

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