Dallas County

Dallas County Commissioners Hear Doctors' COVID Concerns

Push to relax some restrictions was delayed

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A push to relax some coronavirus restrictions on Dallas County was turned away Tuesday as County Commissioners heard from doctors who said the number of cases is increasing.

The county posted a record 253 new case Tuesday for a total of 4,623.  It was the fourth time in the last five days that Dallas County set new records for the number of additional cases in a string of triple-digit increases.

Dr. Philip Huang, the Dallas County Health Director, has said in the past that relaxing stay at home restrictions should only come after a two-week decline in cases. 

But Governor Greg Abbott announced plans to reopen barber shops and hair salons Friday, adding to businesses he already allowed to reopen in Texas.

Dr. Huang showed commissioners new charts that show rises in Dallas County hospitalization and intensive care bed usage.

“We are currently not seeing a 13-day decline. And it is confirming that we are seeing increases at this time,” Huang said.

A resolution from Commission John Wiley Price to relax some of the county’s own restrictions was delayed two weeks after Price spoke strongly in favor of it.

“Most want to comply, but you can’t just keep beating them with fear and say you can’t peep out your door,” Price said.

Price and Commissioner J.J. Koch claim hospital use projections Huang originally presented to justify harsh stay at home orders have not been as bad as predicted.

“Are we moving the goalposts here? And what metrics are we going to be held accountable for,” Koch asked.

Two more experts countered that hospital space and equipment is only available because of the social distancing and face-covering rules that should be continued.

“If you overwhelm the ventilators, all those people the Parkland ICU is saving right now? They’re going to die,” said UTSW Epidemiology expert, Dr. Robert Haley.

Dallas County Medical Society President Dr. Mark Casanova said studies show that coronavirus is more menacing than other infections.

“This virus is viscous in terms of its transmissibility, and we can’t let up on the social distancing,” he said.

Dallas County Judge issued an order Monday making the Governors recommended orders mandatory in Dallas County, although enforcement will remain as a result of complaints.

The Dallas County Disaster Declaration that empowers Jenkins’ orders currently expires May 20 and the county’s “Safer at Home” order expires May 15. Price’s resolutions seeking changes in the orders was delayed until the next commissioners meeting May 19.

Also Tuesday, commissioners created a committee to devise a spending plan for $239 million in Federal CARES money Dallas County has received.  Small business, housing, and child care assistance programs are possible uses in the county plan for the money. Extreme demand for similar programs at the City of Dallas demonstrates the need.

Dallas County Commissioners also passed a resolution Tuesday supporting mail-in ballots as an election alternative for voters concerned about exposure to coronavirus at polling places. The vote was 4-1 with Koch opposing the resolutions. He argued coronavirus is not an acceptable disability under state law as a reason for obtaining a mail-in ballot.

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