[COVID-19] TELE-TOWN HALL & YOUR QUESTIONS

On Monday, March 16, state Representative Chris Turner hosted a tele-town hall for residents of District 101. He was joined by Tarrant County Commissioner Devan Allen, Tarrant County Public Health Director Dr. Vinny Taneja, Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson, Andrew Fortune with the City of Grand Prairie, AISD Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos, and MISD Superintendent Kimberley Cantu.

Listen to the recording:

The following are questions and corresponding questions asked prior to and during the tele-town hall event. Please note: due to the rapidly changing nature of this situation, the answers to many of these questions may change over time. These answers are current as of Wednesday, March 25. 2020; Noon

Q: WILL TARRANT COUNTY CITIES FOLLOW DALLAS’ LEAD AND CLOSE SOME BUSINESSES, E.G. DINE-IN RESTAURANTS, GYMS, BARS, THEATERS? – MARI V
A: On Tuesday, March 24, the Tarrant County Commissioners Court and the cities of Arlington and Fort Worth announced stay-at-home orders for our community to go into effect at 11:59 PM. These orders, which have been adopted in many of state’s counties, are aimed at limiting the amount of contact among individuals or order to reduce the strain on hospitals and other medical providers. To read the order, visit:
https://www.tarrantcounty.com/content/dam/main/global/Covid-19/covid-19-EO-stay-at-home-amended-signed03-24-20.pdf

On March 19, Governor Abbott announced a new executive order with provisions mirroring those adopted in several cities and counties. These directives were  implemented statewide beginning March 20:

  • Restaurants will be limited to to-go and drive-thru only
  • Gyms and bars closed
  • No gatherings of more than 10 people
  • No visitors at nursing/retirement homes, unless there for medical aid
  • Schools will be closed until at least April 3rd
  • Only essential employees should go into work

Q: WILL ARLINGTON’S VOTE COMING UP EARLY MAY ABOUT SALES TAX INCREASE BE SUSPENDED? – DAVID A.
A: On March 18, Governor Abbott issued a proclamation that would allow political subdivisions to move the May 2, 2020 elections to November 3, 2020. “I strongly encourage local election officials to take advantage of these waivers and postpone their elections until November,” said Governor Abbott. “Right now, the state’s focus is responding to COVID-19 — including social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. By delaying this election, our local election officials can assist in that effort.” The decision regarding when the election will take place and when this specific item will be considered will be made by the City of Arlington. https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-issues-proclamation-allowing-for-postponement-of-local-elections-set-for-may-2nd

Q: IN MOVING TOWARDS BEING MORE PROACTIVE – HOW ARE WE GOING TO HANDLE SITUATION AT GROCERY STORES. THEY SEE A TREND. IS THERE ANY MOVEMENT TOWARDS SHIFT SHOPPING? THIS AGE GROUP NOW AND ANOTHER LATER. – ISAAC
A: Many grocery stores have reduced their hours and have been limiting the number of people within the store at one time. There are also a number of stores that are designating certain hours for older adults as well as people in at-risk groups, including Target, Tom Thumb, Albertsons, Dollar General, and others. Continue to monitor local news sources for stores with special hours. https://dfw.cbslocal.com/2020/03/18/target-whole-foods-dollar-general-designate-shopping-time-for-seniors/


Q: DAY CARE FACILITIES ARE STILL OPEN. WILL THERE BE A MANDATE TO CLOSE THEM? – AUDREY
A: At this time, there is no plan to close daycare facilities. State Health and Human Services regulates these daycare centers. 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

Q: WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITH GRADUATION? – ANNA T.
A: From Mansfield ISD — Current graduation dates and times have not changed. MISD will continue to monitor this situation and communicate with the community if the guidance from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) changes.

We will post information from Arlington ISD once available. 

Q: WILL THE SCHOOL DISTRICTS BE EXTENDING THE CLOSURE LONGER NOW AFTER WHAT DALLAS COUNTY JUST ANNOUNCED? — MARI V.
A: As a result of the Governor’s March 19th Executive Order all Texas schools will be closed until at least April 3, 2020.

Q: WHAT ARE THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO STUDENTS WHO DO NOT HAVE INTERNET ACCESS OR OTHER DIGITAL EQUIPMENT? – MARVA D.
A: Both Arlington ISD and Mansfield ISD are looking into partnerships with internet service providers that deliver internet service at a discounted rate to low-income residents. Spectrum and AT&T recently announced that they will offer 60 days of internet access to families with children attending schools impacted by COVID-19.

Q: DR. CANTU [MANSFIELD ISD], IF WE HAVE TEENAGE KIDS WHO ARE ABLE TO DRIVE CAN THEY BRING THEIR YOUNGER SIBLINGS WITHOUT PARENTS? WHEN WILL WE HAVE AN UPDATE REGARDING THE REMAINDER OF THE SCHOOL YEAR?
A: Yes. Teenage children may drive younger siblings to designated food delivery sites.

Q: 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

Q: WHAT IS THE PROBABILITY OF HEALTH DEPARTMENT SHUTTING DOWN THE SCHOOLS FOR MORE THAN TWO WEEKS?  — JASON R.
A: As a result of the Governor’s March 19th Executive order all Texas schools will be closed until at least April 3, 2020.

Q: 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/)

Q: WHAT ABOUT DAYCARE FACILITIES WHO ARE REQUIRING PARENTS TO PAY EVEN THOUGH THE CHILDREN AREN’T ALLOWED AT DAYCARE? – MEAGAN K.
A: Situations such as this may come down to the contractual relationship between the parent and childcare facility. However, if the facility has an agreement for subsidized care through the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), they may be able to intervene.

Q: CHILDCARE PROVIDERS IN ARLINGTON AND SURROUNDING AREAS ARE STILL OPERATING, BUT WE HAVE A LOT MORE KIDS BECAUSE SCHOOLS ARE SHUT DOWN. THEY ARE GETTING PHONE CALLS LOOKING FOR OPEN DAYCARE SLOTS. IF THEY ARE TO REMAIN OPEN, CAN HEALTH DEPARTMENT CONDUCT A WEBINAR? – JERLETHA M.
A: Because this situation is rapidly evolving, childcare providers are highly encouraged to contact the Child Care Licensing (CCL) team at MSC@hhsc.state.tx.us. CCL is prepared to answer questions, provide technical assistance, and grant regulatory flexibility to operations when needed to protect children in care. Additionally, the currently published guidance may be found at: https://hhs.texas.gov/about-hhs/communications-events/news/2020/03/hhs-monitors-covid-19-provides-new-guidance-child-care-facilities

Additional direction/information from HHSC (added 3/25): COVID-19 House Advisory_Childcare Center Launch Guidance TO LEAs (1)

Q: 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

Q: REGARD TO DRIVE UP TESTING, WILL THE SITES IN TEXAS BE OPEN TO TARRANT AND DALLAS COUNTY RESIDENTS? HOW WILL YOU KNOW YOU’RE ELIGIBLE FOR TESTING AT ONE OF THESE DRIVE THRUS?
A: There are no drive-thru testing locations in Tarrant County at this time. In order to be tested, one must have a doctor’s order. Those without a PCP or insurance should call a JPS Community Based Clinic.

Q: WILL THE DOCTOR PLEASE TALK ABOUT PEOPLE AT A HIGHER RISK? IS SOMEONE WITH AUTISM, DIABETES, OBESITY AT INCREASED RISK? – CHRISTINE P.
A: The CDC currently identifies anyone 65 years of age and older as well as people of any age with the following conditions: blood disorders, kidney disease, liver disease, compromised immune system including those taking high doses of corticosteroids or other immunosuppressant medications, current or recent pregnancy, endocrine disorders including diabetes, metabolic disorders, heart, lung disease neurological and neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions [including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability, moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community-mitigation-strategy.pdf 

Q: I FEEL THAT MY MOTHER HAS THE CORONAVIRUS AND THE HOSPITALS IN TARRANT COUNTY ARE REFUSING TO TEST HER? WHAT IS THEIR RESPONSE TO HOSPITALS REFUSING TO TEST HER EVEN THOUGH SHE MEETS THE REQUIREMENTS LIKE HER FEVER? – KELSEY
A: Anyone requesting a test would need an order from a doctor to be eligible to be tested. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/testing.html 

Q: WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19? HOW MANY PEOPLE IN THE ARLINGTON AREA HAVE BEEN AFFECTED? — LOYD
A: Fever, cough, and shortness of breath may occur 2-14 days following exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Emergency warning signs that you need immediate medical attention include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest; new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face. More information, click here.

On March 25 (11:15 AM), the Tarrant County Public Health Department reported 90 confirmed cases and one death. The person who passed away was an Arlington resident. http://www.tarrantcounty.com/en/public-health/disease-control—prevention/coronaviruas.html?link location=home carousel linkname=COVID-19

Q: HER DOG GOES INTO THE YARD. CAN AN ANIMAL CONTRACT COVID 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

Q: 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

Q: 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.

Q: 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/

Q: THE CDC RECOMMENDED THAT NO MORE THAN 50 PEOPLE GATHER, BUT TRUMP RECOMMENDED NO MORE THAN 10 SO WILL THE CDC CHANGE THEIR GUIDELINES? – ALLEN B.
A: The CDC recommends mitigation strategies including avoiding crowds. These recommendations are based on many factors including how widely the virus is spreading in your community as well as risk factors for specific individuals. On March 19, the Governor signed an executive order, which among other things, prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people.


Q: 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.

Q: 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.


Q: HOW ARE THE CONDITIONS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM (E.G. PRISONS, JAILS) TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF THE VIRUS? – LISA S.
A: The Federal Bureau of Prisons has implemented a COVID-19 action plan to mitigate the spread of the virus and ensure the health and safety of those involved with the prison system.

There are current inquiries (on a statewide basis) to learn about procedures that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is taking to safeguard the prison population. When more information becomes available, the public will be informed.

County jails are following CDC guidelines on how to maintain sanitary conditions in the jails. Jails have long standing plans on how to deal with this situation. County jail facilities have isolation cells that can be used to separate those who have come down with symptoms of the illness. From the homeless standpoint, this is a growing issue in every metropolitan area.

Update: On March 25, the chair of the House Committee on Corrections released the following information/guidance from TDCJ: TDCJ – COVID-19 Mitigation Efforts – Signed


Q: IF A PERSON LOSES THEIR JOB OR THEIR HOURS ARE REDUCED, HOW WHERE CAN THEY FIND INFORMATION ABOUT UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS?
A: All employees whose employment has been impacted by the COVID-19 virus to file an unemployment claim online according to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).  Each claim will be considered based on the specifics of the individual’s situation and may take into account the changing nature of the pandemic. TWC will be temporarily waiving work search requirements for all claimants and the benefits waiting period. Apply for benefits either online at any time at https://twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/unemployment-benefits-services  or by calling TWC’s Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Monday through Friday.


Q: 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 

Q: 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/


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: WHAT CAN THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE DO TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES?
A: On March 20, 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued an Economic Injury Disaster Declaration for all 254 Texas Counties following a request from the Governor. Under the SBA declaration, small businesses, most nonprofits and small agriculture co-ops impacted by COVID-19 may apply for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). For more information, please visit https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Information/EIDLLoans or call the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail disastercustomerservice@sba.gov and https://tdem.texas.gov/covid-19/#1584551794550-8cefdca0-1039 

Q: HOW ARE WE GOING TO CURB FINANCIAL IMPACT FOR PARENTS WHO ARE OUT OF WORK DUE TO CLOSED BUSINESSES/SCHOOLS? – MEAGAN K.
A: All employees whose employment has been impacted by the COVID-19 virus to file an unemployment claim online according to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).  Each claim will be considered based on the specifics of the individual’s situation and may take into account the changing nature of the pandemic. TWC will be temporarily waiving work search requirements for all claimants and the benefits waiting period. Apply for benefits either online at any time at https://twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/unemployment-benefits-services  or by calling TWC’s Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Monday through Friday.

Q: WHEN AND WHAT CONDITIONS DO WE CALL IN FEMA TO HELP US SET UP MEDICAL FACILITIES TO SEPARATE INDIVIDUALS? — SHIRLEY A.
A: We do not have information at this time regarding FEMA’s response. 

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: 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: 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 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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