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Coronavirus live updates April 17: Here’s what to know in the Dallas-Fort Worth area

“My hope would be by the end of the first or second week of May, we might be able to lessen restrictions and let some” businesses reopen.

Locally, all businesses won’t open at once. And those that might reopen first could be limited on how many customers are allowed in stores — and how they are allowed to shop.

Abbott announced that schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year and state parks will reopen Monday with social distancing and mask requirements in place. Restrictions on surgeries will be loosened next week. Stores may operate “retail to go” starting April 24. And the governor plans to announce additional changes on April 27.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said it may be too early Fort Worth News to think of specific dates when businesses could reopen in the city, with the continuing rise in coronavirus cases, because officials have to take both public health and the economy into consideration.

But she said she’s glad the governor acknowledged that hospitals have the capacity to handle coronavirus cases, enough to let them also handle some other medical procedures. And she’s glad he’s incorporating President Donald Trump’s guidelines and taking suggestions from local officials.

“I’m thrilled to see the dialogues happening, positive dialogues, about how can we get there, how do we decide what matrix it is and what data will give us the key to getting” to whatever the new normal is, Price said.

ABBOTT UNVEILS GUIDELINES TO REOPEN TEXAS BUSINESSES; SCHOOLS CLOSED FOR ACADEMIC YEAR
Gov. Greg Abbott unveiled guidelines Friday for when businesses may begin to reopen their doors in the face of the novel coronavirus’ spread and announced Texas schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

“We’re now beginning to see glimmers that the worst of COVID-19 may soon be behind us,” Abbott said Friday from the Texas Capitol, flanked by state leaders.

Abbott issued three executive orders and announced a slew of rolled back restrictions, including permitting additional surgeries, reopening state parks and allowing retail businesses to operate “to-go.”

In addition, Abbott established the “Strike Force to Open Texas” that will be a collaboration between state officials and advised by both public health experts and business leaders.

Beginning Friday, April 24, retail businesses that are not deemed “essential” by the state may allow for pickup or home delivery. They must abide by guidance issued by the Texas Department of State Health Services, which requires payments be done over the phone or online, that employees be screened and have their temperature taken before entering the premises, that they wear face masks, maintain 6-feet of separation and more.

Abbott said revised guidance would be issued April 27 based on the strike force’s recommendations and how well-contained the spread of COVID-19 is in Texas.

5 FORT WORTH BUSINESSES CITED, ACCUSED OF VIOLATING CORONAVIRUS EMERGENCY DECLARATION
Five businesses and three residents have been issued citations and accused of violating the city’s coronavirus emergency declaration order issued in March.

A Fort Worth restaurant/bar has been issued two citations, according to city records.

Since March, along with the restaurant, two gaming businesses, a car wash and a discount furniture store have been issued citations.

Three residents who attempted to feed the homeless on city streets also were issued citations for violating the emergency declaration, according to city records.

The city and county regulations are enforceable through a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail, but officials have said law and code enforcement officers are focused on education, not ticketing.

In all cases, authorities first have talked to a business or resident, and given them a verbal warning. After several verbal warnings, a citation is issued. The citations are heard in municipal court.

City officials did not identify the businesses that were cited.

“We don’t want to further advertise or cause harm to these small businesses,” said city spokeswoman Diane Covey in a Friday email. “Our intent is to enforce the city’s emergency declaration to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

TARRANT COUNTY REPORTS 35TH CORONAVIRUS DEATH, 20TH IN FORT WORTH; 82 NEW CASES
Tarrant County reported its 35th coronavirus-related death and 82 new cases on Friday.

The man was in his 80s and had underlying health conditions. He’s the 20th Fort Worth resident to die from the pandemic.

The county has confirmed 1,175 COVID-19 cases, including 35 deaths and 187 recoveries.

Among the coronavirus deaths, 15 have been white, 13 have been black, five have been Hispanic and two have been Asian/Pacific Islander. Twenty have been 65 or older, 12 have been between 45 and 65, and three have been between 25 and 44.

DALLAS COUNTY REPORTS FIVE MORE CORONAVIRUS DEATHS, SPIKE OF 124 NEW CASES
Dallas County reported five more coronavirus deaths and 124 new cases on Friday.

Four of the deceased were residents of Dallas and one was a resident of Farmers Branch. Two of the five patients were residents of Dallas-area long-term care facilities. There have been 55 pandemic-related deaths in Dallas County.

The ages of the latest deaths include two in their 60s, two in their 70s and one in their 80s.

The county has confirmed 2,190 COVID-19 patients, including recovered patients. The county hasn’t released patient recovery totals.

DALLAS COUNTY COMMISSION SCALES BACK JUDGE’S MASK ORDER, REOPENS CRAFT STORES AS ESSENTIAL
Dallas County commissioners voted Friday to scale back County Judge Clay Jenkins’ order requiring residents to wear masks in public amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Jenkins added the face covering Press Release Distribution Service In Fort Worth requirement for all residents at essential businesses or on public transportation, including workers, Thursday. It’s set to go in effect at midnight Friday.

The commissioners voted to change the order to “explicitly say that residents not in compliance won’t be fined or incur any issues with law enforcement,” according to the Dallas Morning News.

Under the order, businesses can refuse entry to people who aren’t wearing face coverings.

Commissioners also voted 3-2 to reopen craft stores such as Hobby Lobby so residents could fashion their own masks out of materials sold at those types of stores.

According to Jenkins’ amended order, Dallas County residents over the age of 2 must wear some form of covering — such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandanna or handkerchief — over their nose and mouth. The order requires residents using public transportation or visiting an essential business to wear face coverings “to the greatest extent possible.”

All non-medical employees working at essential businesses must also wear face coverings while working. Owners and operators of essential businesses “may refuse admission or service to any individual who fails to wear a face covering.”

The order does not apply to people riding in personal vehicles, engaging in outdoor activities, while eating, or in cases in which wearing a face covering would pose a greater health or safety risk.

COULD CORONAVIRUS PUT YOUR DOCTOR OUT OF BUSINESS? SOME IN TEXAS CUT PAY, STAFF
North Texas hospitals are readying themselves for a potential surge in novel coronavirus patients expected by June, but private practice physicians and specialists are facing a different challenge — a steep drop in patients and a decline in revenue that may force them to make hard decisions.

Fort Worth area doctors say they’re seeing as little as half as many patients as they did before the coronavirus, but Dr. David Fleeger, president of the Texas Medical Association, said the decline could be as high as 80% for some doctors. Fear of catching the virus has kept patients from visiting their primary care physician, and local and state mandates have shuttered many specialized practices.

Across the country as many as 60,000 family practices will close or reduce business by June, according to a HealthLandscape and American Academy of Family Physicians report. That would leave roughly 800,000 of their employees without work or on reduced hours and create doctor shortages in at least 750 counties. Tarrant County wouldn’t face a shortage, according to the report, but Parker and Johnson counties would.

That’s bad news for patients, said Fleeger, as the loss of private practice doctors now jeopardizes care in the long term.

“The question will become access,” he said. “Private practice doctors spread care out over a larger geography.”

While most health care workers may be able to find jobs with large hospital networks, that care is centered in major metros, typically at hospital hubs. Rural and suburban patients may find it hard to get to the doctor. About 10% of Texas doctors work for a hospital while 34% are self-employed, according to a recent Texas Medical Association survey.

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