Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price spoke strongly against the May 20 extension of the COVID-19 Disaster Declaration approved by a vote of the commissioner's court Friday morning.
Price said the long extension of the disaster declaration is an unreasonable blow to small businesses that are shuttered by the social distancing requirements.
“We’re going to just kill off an entire community in the next 60 days.” Price said. “Pick our poison. We either go with COVID-19 and die or we just economically die.”
The extension of the county's Disaster Declaration also allows County Judge Clay Jenkins to keep his separate Safer-at-Home order in place until the declaration expires on May 20; Friday afternoon, Jenkins tweeted that the Safer-at-Home order, a separate document from the disaster declaration, would remain in place until April 30 but that he could extend it to May 20 if needed.
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Price, the lone opponent to the extension, mentioned the irony of veterinary offices that may offer pet grooming still open but barber shops closed.
“A dog can get a haircut, but people in my community can’t get a haircut,” Price said.
Barbers and some other small business people may not be eligible for unemployment assistance, Price said.
“I can see crowding and no distancing and everything else with regard to liquor stores, but they have been deemed essential,” Price said.
County Judge Clay Jenkins, who first issued the disaster declaration, said liquor stores are allowed to remain open to save room in hospitals.
“We can ill afford to have our alcoholics, which are unfortunately are a significant population in our community, go into detox,” Jenkins said.
Chiropractors are also allowed to keep offices open to treat patients who might also go to a hospital instead.
Price accused Jenkins of being insensitive to the financial situation of small businesses and people who live from paycheck to paycheck.
“I know in your life, you haven’t had to be there,” Price said.
Other commissioners approved the extension in a 4 to 1 vote but instructed Jenkins to look for ways to ease the burden for small businesses and their employees.
“What’s the next step? What can we be doing to speed up SBA loans, to use the resources we have available, to address some of these immediate, immediate needs,” Commissioner Theresa Daniel said.
Commissioners saw an updated display from Dr. Philip Huang, the County Health Director, with the alarming curve that shows how quickly coronavirus cases could overwhelm hospital capacity without social distancing measures to reduce the number of cases.
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Commissioner Elba Garcia is a practicing dentist.
“We don’t want to be more strict than what the Governor has said. But at the same time we want to follow the medical community’s advice here in the Metroplex,” she said.
Commissioners also heard details about operating the temporary hospital that is being set up at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
It is now intended to serve as a recovery transition for coronavirus patients who no longer need critical hospital care.
The U.S. Navy will provide medical staff for the hospital but wrap around services like security, meals and sanitation may cost up to $4 million a week.
Dallas County taxpayers could be asked to pay a quarter of that cost.
“We want to be prepared, thinking that the worst can happen, but hoping that it won’t,” Garcia said.
The temporary hospital will open when and if existing hospitals become too crowded. It could be ready next week.
In a press release announcing another 90 confirmed coronavirus tests Friday, Jenkins said the next two weeks will be critical to flatten the curve.
As of Friday afternoon a total of 921 COVID-19 cases were reported in Dallas County with 17 deaths.