[COVID-19] QUESTIONS FROM THE COMMUNITY

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These answers are current as of Monday, April 6, 2020

Will there be a statewide shelter-in-place order? – Rudy M.
A: We usually hear the term “shelter-in-place” and it may remind us of tornado warnings or similar disasters. That’s not what this is. The Governor did not issue a shelter-in-place order, but it is essentially what others are calling a “stay-at-home” order: do not come in contact with others. The Governor’s message was somewhat confusing, but we all need to hold each other accountable and stay at home and avoid contact with others. I am counting on our community leaders to help spread that message.

Will there be a call to use the rainy day fund? – Rudy M.
A: With respect to the rainy day fund, there are two issues: the first is the impact that COVID-19 is having on our state economically. Everyone is hurting right now. Even our state and local governments are hurting. They’re not collecting sales tax, the state’s biggest revenue source. Second, because of Saudi Arabia and Vladimir Putin, the price of oil has dropped to $20 a barrel, and that’s a huge hit to the state’s general revenue — it negatively impacts the rainy day fund, because it’s in large part funded by the oil and gas industry. That said, the comptroller has said there should be billions of dollars in the rainy day fund, and we will likely use it to meet the state’s needs.

Can the state government preempt a county ordinance? – Lydia B.
A: The Governor has the authority to issue emergency orders and directives that can supersede local orders and directives. The decision with respect to houses of worship is confusing and problematic. Thankfully, several faith leaders have said they have no intention of congregating in person. I do know that the large counties and cities are trying to clarify how his order interacts with local orders.

I am concerned about COVID-19 testing availability in areas where minorities live. Because Grand Prairie has no public transit system, many cannot get to the testing location. Will Tarrant County get a drive-thru testing center? – Angela L.
A: To answer your question on transportation: that’s a huge problem in our community, whether we’re talking about people seeking healthcare or just trying to get to work — we have a shortage of transportation options. That said, if you’re sick and think you have COVID-19, we want you to avoid public transportation. If someone has COVID-19 symptoms and suspects they’ve been exposed, they should call their primary care physician, if they have one, and work with that office on transportation options.

Many Texans lack PCPs, however, for many reasons. If you are in Tarrant County and do not have a primary care physician, call a JPS health center.  In Dallas County, contact a Parkland health clinic. In Tarrant County, you may also call the Tarrant County COVID-19 Hotline: 817-248-6299.

On testing: there will not be any mobile or drive thru testing in this area – at least not in the immediate future. There are no Tarrant county testing sites, nor are there plans for one, as a result of a general lack of testing ability around the United States.

What is the total count of COVID Cases in the Grand Prairie, Texas area? How many cases are on the Tarrant County side of Grand Prairie and how many cases are on the Dallas County side?  – Linda E.
A: As of April 3, 2020, there are 43 cases of COVID-19 in Grand Prairie. There are 17 cases in the Tarrant County side of Grand Prairie, and 26 cases in the Dallas County side. Click here for Tarrant County cases / Click here for Dallas County cases 

What efforts are being taken to ensure our construction trades people are only being utilized for truly essential projects in Tarrant and surrounding communities? Currently I see workers (without representation) still working on schools, apartments, aesthetic roofing, sit work and the like although we have a formal shelter in place recommendation and these are not essential projects. These workers are without proper PPE and that is in direct violation of OSHA Federal standards. – Steve R.
A: Following Governor Abbott’s executive order regarding essential workers, Texas is required to follow the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) guidelines regarding the definition of the essential workforce. Although CISA states clearly that the list is advisory and not to be taken as a federal standard, this is what the state is now following. The CISA document lists those working construction as members of the essential workforce and does not make any exclusions or provide any more specific standards. The CISA document can be found here.

Will people on Social Security receive a $1200 check? What if these Social Security recipients do not file a tax return? – Roy M.
A: Yes, Social Security recipients will receive the money stemming from the CARES Act, even if they are not required to file a tax return. If they receive their Social Security payments via direct deposit, this payment will also be direct deposited.

As a small business owner, if I let one employee go, I will no longer be eligible for our health insurance plan, because I will no longer have the minimum number of employees required to have the plan. What can I do? – Marty M.
A: My office is in contact with the insurance provider regarding this specific situation. If you have a similar issue, please contact my office at 817-459-2800.

To aid small businesses (those with 500 or fewer employees) retain employees, the Small Business Administration
is offering the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This program offers borrowers a loan of up to $10M to cover 8 weeks of payroll expenses. The loan has a 2-year term at 1.0% interest. Prospective borrowers can receive up to 2.5 times their average payroll, from the previous year, to use over the next eight weeks following receipt of the loan. The loan can be used for payroll costs, costs related to providing health care benefits, rent, mortgage interest, and utilities. The loan will be fully forgiven if 100% of the loan is used for the costs above, and the borrower maintains or rehires employees, while also maintaining salary levels. The level of forgiveness will decrease as the borrower’s ability to reach those goals decreases.

For parents of high school students, what will be done to address AP testing and other testing if students cannot return to school?Stephanie S.
A: Testing is an issue on a lot of students’ and parents’ minds. There will be no STAAR test this year — that is one less thing students need to worry about. With respect to college AP tests, there will be online on-demand AP instruction provided by the College Board, which administers the test. The AP tests will be done online. Regarding school-specific finals and other tests, teachers and school districts will make those important decisions.

For students, is the legislature able to do anything regarding college costs and COVID-19? For example, submitting an enrollment fee for a university in May but then not being able to get there, or having to pay full tuition for a school that has moved online. Can the Legislature help protect students and families from these potential issues? – Steven C.
A: Representative Turner serves as the chair of the House Committee on Higher Education and we are closely following this issue. The Legislature does not have the ability to pass legislation outside of a legislative session, however, the governor can waive some regulations related to college students. Also, colleges/universities and corresponding systems have decision-making ability regarding how to proceed in light of the current situation. To aid students with questions such as these, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has compiled FAQs as well as a compilation of what institutions are doing in response to COVID-19. The list may be found here: http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/misc/coronavirus-update-for-higher-education/

If the school continues to be closed, what plan do they have for the kids to do their work? Are they planning on assignments or classes online? What’re we going to do? – Rachel A.
A: MISD spent the week of March 16th preparing teachers and principals for distance learning. Students and parents will be contacted by March 23rd. (https://www.mansfieldisd.org/parents-students/covid-19/distance-learning)

AISD has created an at-home learning hub, sectioned by grade level, with resources for students and parents to use so that students are able to continue their academic growth. (https://www.aisd.net/students/at-home-learning/)

If we have teenage kids who are able to drive can they bring their younger siblings without parents to pick up food at MISD locations?
A: Yes. Teenage children may drive younger siblings to designated food delivery sites.

How are school districts going to provide instructions to children with more significant special needs and who are going to be placed in more contained settings? – Debbie W.
A: Schools are required to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to all students in the district or school who receive special education and related services. Schools that close campuses and establish virtual learning environments or other alternative educational delivery methods, must ensure that planning addresses the provision of all services required in each student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), including both instructional and related services. TEA will provide further guidance as it becomes available. TEA Link Here

Where can someone be tested if they do not have a PCP/insurance? – Melissa D.
A: Please call a JPS Community Based Clinic. JPS has requested those seeking tests do not go directly to the JPS emergency room. https://www.jpshealthnet.org/locations

I am concerned about COVID-19 testing availability in areas where minorities live. Because Grand Prairie has no public transit system, many cannot get to the testing location. Will Tarrant County get a drive-thru testing center?
– Angela L.
A: To answer your question on transportation: that’s a huge problem in our community, whether we’re talking about people seeking healthcare or just trying to get to work — we have a shortage of transportation options. That said, if you’re sick and think you have COVID-19, we want you to avoid public transportation. If someone has COVID-19 symptoms and suspects they’ve been exposed, they should call their primary care physician, if they have one, and work with that office on transportation options.

Many Texans lack PCPs, however, for many reasons. If you are in Tarrant County and do not have a primary care physician, call a JPS health center.  In Dallas County, contact a Parkland health clinic. In Tarrant County, you may also call the Tarrant County COVID-19 Hotline: 817-248-6299.

On testing: there will not be any mobile or drive thru testing in this area – at least not in the immediate future. There are no Tarrant county testing sites, nor are there plans for one, as a result of a general lack of testing ability around the United States.

I am concerned about trying to re-enter into “normal” daily life. How will we prevent re-infection? Do we have anyone looking into that process? – Patricia L.
A: We need to carefully follow the advice of public health experts. Frankly, it took too long to listen to epidemiologists and that is why it is hitting the US worse than other countries. Cases may abate well into the summer, but may come back again, so we just do not know. This virus will recur; it is not the flu. Public experts seem to agree that the COVID-19 vaccine won’t be available until about a year from now. It may be a long time before it’s available.

Can someone contract COVID-19 more than once?Jarrette H.
A: I have read reports about people who’ve had COVID-19, recovered and then got it again, but these are isolated reports. That said, some doctors have speculated that once one gets COVID-19 and recovers, they do build up some immunity. But experts that study this say that they really do not know yet because it is so new and behaves so differently from influenza and other viruses that public health experts are more familiar with. We will continue to learn about this in the months ahead. 

What is the total count of COVID Cases in the Grand Prairie, Texas area? How many cases are on the Tarrant County side of Grand Prairie and how many cases are on the Dallas County side?  – Linda E.
A: As of April 3, 2020, there are 43 cases of COVID-19 in Grand Prairie. There are 17 cases in the Tarrant County side of Grand Prairie, and 26 cases in the Dallas County side. Click here for Tarrant County cases / Click here for Dallas County cases 

I have a question concerning the face mask If it is true that droplets can stay in the air for even five minutes after a cough, would it be prudent that Texans use face masks when they go to the grocery stores, to flatten the curve? – Ann O.
A: The most up-to-date info regarding transmission will be found on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. Recently, they added the following recommendation:
Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others: 

  • You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.
    • Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.
    • Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
    • The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
    • Do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker.
    • Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.

Can an animal contract the virus and transmit it to the person? – Shirley C.
A: There have been no reports of pets or livestock becoming ill or spreading the coronavirus in the U.S. Likewise, the World Health Organization has stated that there is no evidence that dogs or cats have become ill with this particular virus. https://www.aspca.org/news/coronavirus-keeping-your-pets-safe-during-covid-19-crisis

Is there a vaccine available? How soon would it come to the U.S. and be available widely? – Azul R.
A: There is not a vaccine available yet. Most estimates predict it will be at least a year before there’s a vaccine that could potentially be used. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html

What are details about children carrying the disease without being sick? Does this change with asthma or other pre-existing condition? Are there any symptoms to be aware of if a child has just gotten back from a cruise? – Raquel S.
A: What has been noted is that children have had a milder form of the illness. They’re young, they’re healthy, their bodies are resilient, so it makes sense that we see that happen. The disease is not dormant, there are just often mild symptoms that are seen at this time of year anyway, like a cough or mild fever. Regardless, children need to take the same precautions as any other person, as they can still become seriously ill and/or transmit the virus to others.

Does the rain have an effect on the virus in any way? Is it safer to go out when it rains? – Michael B.
A: Rain does not appear to impact the Coronavirus. https://www.nbc4i.com/news/local-news/how-does-weather-affect-the-spread-of-coronavirus/

Day care facilities are still open. Will there be a mandate to close them? – Audrey
A: At this time, there is no plan to require the closure of daycare facilities. New state regulations mandate checking the temperature of each child at drop-off. Any child with a temperature over 100.4 will not be able to be cared for at the facility that day. https://hhs.texas.gov/about-hhs/communications-events/news/2020/03/hhs-monitors-covid-19-provides-new-guidance-child-care-facilities

There are many individuals in Tarrant county who would like to volunteer to assist healthcare professionals, where can they sign up to get training to be available to help out either with screening, testing or providing meals to those that are in quarantine? Janet M
A: Yes, visit Bealocalhero.org to learn more about how you can help.

Will retired combat medics be recalled to help with the influx of patients? I have CBRNE and experience with mass casualties as well as setting up field hospitals. – Susan M.
A: Yes, visit Bealocalhero.org to learn more about how you can help.

What efforts are being taken to ensure our construction trades people are only being utilized for truly essential projects in Tarrant and surrounding communities? Currently I see workers (without representation) still working on schools, apartments, aesthetic roofing, sit work and the like although we have a formal shelter in place recommendation and these are not essential projects. These workers are without proper PPE and that is in direct violation of OSHA Federal standards. – Steve R.
A: Following Governor Abbott’s executive order regarding essential workers, Texas is required to follow the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) guidelines regarding the definition of the essential workforce. Although CISA states clearly that the list is advisory and not to be taken as a federal standard, this is what the state is now following. The CISA document lists those working construction as members of the essential workforce and does not make any exclusions or provide any more specific standards. The CISA document can be found here.

ARE TENANT EVICTIONS SUSPENDED DURING CRISIS TO ENSURE LOW-INCOME FAMILIES THAT ARE LOSING INCOME ARE NOT MADE HOMELESS? – JANET M.
A: Following the Governor’s Emergency Order the Texas Supreme Court issued guidance that while courts will still accept eviction filings, all eviction proceedings, deadlines, issuance, and service of citation are temporarily suspended until April 19, 2020, except in cases where there is a threat of physical harm or criminal activity. https://www.txcourts.gov/media/1446203/209045.pdf and https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-issues-statement-on-texas-supreme-court-temporary-suspension-of-residential-eviction-proceedings 

WHAT ABOUT THE HOMELESS? – SHARON L.
A: There is a concerted effort with healthcare providers that serve the homeless community. There has been a coordinated effort through the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition to address the specific needs of the homeless including those who are in shelters, and those who are not. https://ahomewithhope.org/education/coronavirus-resources/


What is being done regarding mail-in ballots? We need to make sure everyone is able to vote. – Pam P.
A: We have a lot of work to do to protect our elections. I have a couple points, first, the run-off election scheduled for May 26th has been postponed until July 14th; this was a decision made by the Governor. Right now, the Texas Democratic Party has an active lawsuit to allow further access to vote-by-mail. Last week (April 3, 2020), the Secretary of State’s office released guidance regarding upcoming elections. It may be found here. We will update this site with more information once we better understand what this guidance entails.

On the national level, Speaker Pelosi is also talking about voting by mail, which would be safer and certainly ensure more access to voting. This country could develop a secure way to cast a ballot online — I hope this crisis forces a conversation on that. But for this year, I hope we move to a mail ballot. 

What is the best way to refocus on the Census? – Byron and Sharon T.
A: An accurate Census — ensuring that everyone is counted — is more important than ever. This count is used to determine billions of dollars in spending for education, healthcare, transportation and much more for the next ten years. Spreading that message to your family, friends and members of the community in ways that promote social distancing – phone, email, etc. – is essential. Our state is lagging behind many others in its Census response rate and with money not invested by the Legislature to promote the 2020 Census, we could lose significant future funding, estimated at $300 million lost each fiscal year for every 1% of Texans not counted. Visit 2020Census.org today.

What should we do if we suspect a local store is inflating their prices as a result of COVID-19?
A: Texans who believe they have encountered price gouging should call the Office of the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at (800) 621-0508 or file a complaint online. It is helpful to take a picture of the item, as well as the inflated price.

I am concerned about the treatment of the Asian community during this crisis. – Matthew L.
A: People are wrongly connecting COVID-19 to the Asian community — this is based on false information. This virus does not discriminate — it affects everyone. I am really saddened to see hate crimes being persecuted against the Asian community (not in HD101) right now. We all need to support one another.

Are day habilitation facilities that serve members of the IDD community, specifically adult day facilities, considered essential? Can they remain open?
A: At the state level, additional guidance to licensed service providers has been issued, but nothing requires these facilities to remain open. Those who qualify for adult day services may be eligible for other Medicaid services, such as home attendants. Please contact your caseworker regarding a temporary increase in hours. Impacted constituents are encouraged to reach out to our office as well. 

In addition, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, the federal government expanded paid sick leave protections and benefits. These protection and benefits may apply to family members in this circumstance who must stay home as a result of care facility closure. Contact your federal representative for details.

Q: WHAT ARE SANITATION REQUIREMENTS FOR GAS STATIONS/BATHROOMS? – LEATHA J.
A: DSHS regulates public restrooms. Any questions or concerns should be directed to: Public Sanitation and Retail Food Safety Unit at (512) 834-6788 or by email at PHSCPS@dshs.texas.gov. The link to additional information is as follows: https://www.dshs.texas.gov/phs/Public-Restrooms—Public-Health-Sanitation-Program.doc.

Q: ARE ENTITIES CREATING COMMUNICATIONS IN MULTIPLE LANGUAGES? – JOANNA C.
A: Rep. Turner’s website provides some information in Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese. See fact sheets at https://votechristurner.com/covid-19-local-resources/. We are currently in the process of compiling additional information in multiple languages to add to the resource page.

Q: TWO DOCTORS IN ARLINGTON WILL NOT BE TAKING ANY MORE APPOINTMENTS, WILL BE 3-4 WEEKS. WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO FOR HEALTHCARE NEEDS FOR NORMAL MEDICAL NEEDS? – CHARLES W.
A: If you are in acute need, contact your primary care physician and ask for guidance. If you do not have a PCP, contact a JPS Community Based Clinic.

Q: WILL MAIL CARRIERS ARE BEING PROTECTED IN ANY WAY? – AUDREY B.
A: Mail carriers are being asked to press on in the face of this virus but are also to be taking sick leave liberally. https://link.usps.com/2020/03/09/coronavirus-update-2/  https://about.usps.com/newsroom/statements/usps-statement-on-coronavirus.htm

Q: WILL THERE BE COUNSELING SERVICES PROVIDED? – CHERYL S.
A: This is a very stressful time for many in our community. If you need to speak with someone, contact Tarrant County MHMR at 817-335-3022 or 1-800-866-2465. They are available to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

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