More businesses set to open Friday, COVID-19 cases surge in Dallas County

A boarded-up business in Deep Ellum spray-painted messages on plywood. On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that more businesses, such as nail, hair and tanning salons could open Friday. Photo by Baylie Tucker/The Et Cetera
HARRIET RAMOS
@HarrietRamosETC

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday hair, nail and tanning salons and barbershops can open for business May 8.

He said stylists can only work on one customer at a time and for them to keep 6-feet of social distance between each other. Abbott also recommended that stylists and customers wear face coverings when visiting one of these businesses.

“No one is being required to open up,” he said. “Every owner of every salon should use their own best judgment about when is it going to be best for them to safely open, whether it’s May 8 or sometime after.”

Abbott’s announcements came as Dallas County reported 253 new cases of COVID-19, its highest single-day increase thus far. There have been 15 COVID-19 related deaths in Dallas County since Friday, with seven of those occurring Tuesday.

“Every day this week so far has broken a record for the most new cases,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a news conference Tuesday. “Our highest three days have all come this week.”

Jenkins said there hasn’t been a significant increase of COVID-19 testing in the county and only 64 of the new cases have been in nursing homes. This indicates the majority of COVID-19 cases are coming from the general population.

[READ MORE: Abbott announces some businesses can open Friday]

Malls, restaurants, movie theaters and retail stores opened at 25 percent capacity May 1 as the first part of Abbott’s plan to open Texas.

At a Tuesday press conference, Abbott said he realizes the reopening of businesses might cause a flareup of COVID-19 cases in certain areas, but Texas is ready to deal with those.

Abbott has appointed surge response teams composed of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas National Guard.

Abbott said they will make more personal protective equipment and testing available while working to enhance healthcare capabilities in affected areas. They will also cooperate with local officials to put health and social distancing standards in place to contain outbreaks, he said.

[READ MORE: Dallas County extends ‘Safer at Home’ orders to May 15]

Jenkins said that Monday he filed a supplemental order requiring restaurants, theaters and other reopened businesses in Dallas County to follow Abbott’s guidelines for safe operating practices.

Jenkins also said on Tuesday the Commissioners Court issued a resolution calling on Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton to give voters the choice to vote by mail if they do not feel safe voting in person during the pandemic.

“This is not a partisan issue,” Jenkins said. “The majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents want the choice to be able to vote by mail or to be able to vote in person.”

Jenkins said the shelter-in-place order for Dallas County will continue in effect until May 15.

“I think we’ve got a lot of people in the public that are asking ‘OK, I know now when I can go to the movies … but what would be the safest thing for me and my family to do?” he said.

[READ MORE: Abbott closes schools for rest of the academic year, makes plans to reopen economy]

Jenkins said instead of relying on the number of positive cases, they will begin tracking the number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths. A two-week decline in those numbers will indicate it is safe to get back to doing things.

“We’re not seeking to challenge the governor’s order of what day he said you can do something,” Jenkins said. “What our group is going to try to do, what we’ve asked the medical community to try to do is provide me and the business community with their best information about when it is safe to do things.”

The Commissioners Court also approved three programs to help qualifying Dallas County residents with rent/mortgage, childcare and small businesses. Jenkins said the programs will operate on the lottery system.

The Dallas County Emergency Housing Assistance Program will help qualifying residents of the county with up to $1,500 per month for the next three months on rent, mortgage or utilities.

Child care groups can apply to receive up to $3,000 in microgrants to help them deal with the influx of children that could come with the reopening of area businesses.

The Emergency Business Assistance Program is for businesses with less than 100 employees and will consist of forgivable loans of up to $15,000. This is only for businesses that have not already received government assistance.

“We’re going to get through this,” Jenkins said. “But the goal is to get through it with as little disease and as little death as possible, and to get through it in a way that is sustainable.”

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