[COVID-19] Stay Home! And other Updates

First off, I hope you and your family are healthy, safe and staying at home as much as possible.

These are difficult and uncertain times, with information changing at what seems like a lightning-fast pace. Over the course of the past few weeks, my staff and I have been in daily communication with state and local officials about the COVID-19 crisis and doing all we can to keep the residents of District 101 updated.

To follow is some key information regarding the state and local response, as well as resources for those in need of help and for those willing to help. This is not an exhaustive list, and more COVID-19 information and resources may be found on my website by clicking here.

On Tuesday, Tarrant County and the cities of Arlington and Fort Worth instituted stay-at-home orders. As the strain on our medical facilities and health care providers increases, this was a critical step to slow the spread of the virus. I commend Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price for their leadership and for making this hard, but prudent decision that will save lives. I also thank my mayor, Ron Jensen of Grand Prairie, for his leadership and working with both Dallas and Tarrant Counties on these orders.

The orders require residents to remain at their homes unless they are engaging in “essential activities,” such as shopping for groceries, getting gas, visiting a pharmacy or picking up food or merchandise from a business. Businesses deemed “non-essential” are closed to the public or must operate on a pick-up/take-out only model. To view the entire order, click here.

Employees who work in “essential businesses” or government are permitted to travel to their work location, if necessary.

Additionally, gatherings outside of a single household are prohibited. Everyone is allowed — and encouraged — to go outdoors for exercise and fresh air; just maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.

These rules, which cover all of District 101, are in effect through at least April 7th.

To ensure that children in our community have access to nutritious meals, local school districts, including Arlington and Mansfield ISDs are providing food for any child 18 years old or younger. There is no requirement that the child attend an AISD or MISD school. For more information and locations, click here.

The same day Tarrant County, Arlington, Fort Worth, and several other communities across Texas implemented stay-at-home orders, I spearheaded the effort to have the House Democratic Caucus, which I chair, call on Governor Greg Abbott to issue a statewide stay-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed in a matter of weeks. Doing so would also provide consistency across the state. To read the letter, click here.

Additionally, the Dallas Morning News has a good summary of our efforts here. Unfortunately, Gov. Abbott has so far declined to use his authority to take this action, but I remain hopeful that he will do so soon.

The state has taken steps to help address medical care and personnel needs related to COVID-19. By the end of the week, Texas will begin receiving more personal protective equipment (PPE), including 100,000 masks per week.

To help add to the pool of medical providers, the state has fast-tracked the temporary licensing of out-of-state physicians and physician assistants, as well as certain retired physicians and nurses. Hospitals are also being allowed to increase their capacity without the customary application or fees. To allow patients to consult their doctors without contributing to the spread of COVID-19, telemedicine visits will be covered like in-office visits for any individuals covered by state-regulated insurance plans.

For those who have lost their employment or whose hours have been reduced as a result of the virus, certain regulations related to applying for unemployment insurance have been lifted, including no longer having to wait to apply or be actively searching for employment to be eligible. If you think you may be eligible, but are unsure, visit the Texas Workforce Commission website or contact my office by calling 817-459-2800.

For a full list of regulatory changes to address COVID-19 emergency needs, click here.

If you need guidance about state services related to Medicaid, drivers licenses, car registration, and more, visit Texas.gov.

Organizations across our community are working to provide assistance with food, clothing, housing, and counseling. If you are in need of services or are looking for organizations that need your help, a list of local community resources may be found here.

If you are a medical or dental professional with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available for donation, please consider gifting them to your local hospital or use the State of Texas Portal for COVID-19 donations.

Right now, one of the most important things you can do is to donate blood. The social distancing necessitated by COVID-19 has left blood banks and hospitals at critically low levels. COVID-19 is not blood transmissible, so please consider contacting Carter BloodCare or the American Red Cross to donate today.

Small business owners in need of help may apply to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program from the U.S. Small Business Administration for a loan of up to $2 million.

The easiest and most important thing we can do to help slow the spread of COVID-19 is to follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  3. Avoid shaking hands and having unnecessary physical contact with others.
  4. Disinfect high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, remotes, phones and light switches.
  5. Do not overbuy when shopping at the grocery store.
  6. Stay at home as much as possible, especially if you are feeling ill.

By staying home, we will keep ourselves and our families healthy.

If there is anything we can do to assist during this difficult time, please call my office at 817-459-2800 or email chris.turner@house.texas.gov. This is one of the most challenging times any of us have ever lived through, but I am fully confident in the strength and resilience of our nation, of Texas and of our North Texas community.

Stay safe.