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Live COVID-19 updates: Dallas County residents will be required to wear 'cloth coverings'

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins will require residents to wear cloth coverings beginning Saturday.
Jenkins tweeted the new requirement Thursday afternoon, along with the latest COVID-19 data in Dallas County.
Dallas County is one of the largest counties in Texas to require facial protections; others with similar mandates include Travis, Bastrop, Hidalgo counties.

“To better protect you and our frontline heroes, we are requiring all visitors to essential businesses, essential business employees and riders of public transportation to wear a cloth covering beginning Saturday,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins also stressed residents must limit unnecessary trips.

Dallas County health officials confirmed Thursday afternoon that 80 more people have tested positive for the new coronavirus, bringing the total case count to 2,066.
There were also seven additional deaths reported in Dallas County, bringing the toll to 50. 

The following information about the victims was released by county health officials:
  • Two men in their 60s, a man in his 70s, and a woman in her 70s, all who had been critically ill at local hospitals. The three men lived in Dallas and the woman lived in Garland.
  • Three residents at Dallas long-term care facilities who had been ill at local hospitals also died, officials announced. The victims include a man in his 70s, a man in his 80s and a woman in her 80s.
Local health officials believe the state will reach its peak in cases in late April or early May. 

Top updates for Thursday, April 16:
  • The mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth are asking community members to participate in a public ovation at 7 p.m. Thursday for frontline workers in the COVID-19 crisis. 
  • Testing capacity for the new coronavirus in Dallas County will double in the coming days, according to Judge Clay Jenkins. U.S. Health and Human Services have given Dallas County permission to up the number of tests at each of its drive-thru sites from 250 to 500.
  • City of Dallas officials announced Wednesday the COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at the Ellis Davis Field House will begin using self-swab kits.

Cinemark eyeing July re-opening date

Plano-based Cinemark Theatres told WFAA Thursday it is eyeing a July re-opening date, set to coincide with two of the summer blockbuster season's biggest films: the new Christopher Nolan film "Tenet" and Disney's live-action version of "Mulan." The date is subject to change, but this would be the first theater chain to re-open in the wake of movie theater closures because of coronavirus. 
"The date discussed on a public liquidity strategy call with investors is subject to change, as there are many factors that will dictate when theatres can once again open. Cinemark’s projected mid-summer open-date is based on the current studio movie release schedule," Cinemark said to WFAA in a statement.
Currently, "Tenet" is scheduled to release on July 17, with "Mulan," previously slated for a March 27 release and now scheduled for July 24.
"It is important to note that the theatrical exhibition’s return to ‘normalcy’ may span multiple months, driven by staggered theatre openings due to government limits, reduced operating hours, lingering social distancing and a ramp up of consumer comfort with public gatherings," Cinemark said.
The company recently laid off 17,500 hourly workers and furloughed half of its corporate employees.

After many theaters closed and multiple cities instituted shelter-in-place rules, North American box office numbers plunged to their lowest levels in at least 20 years the weekend of March 13 — generating roughly $55.3 million between that Friday and Sunday, the lowest box office revenue since September 2000.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins: 'Don't think of [wearing face coverings] as an abridgment of your freedoms'

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told county residents during a Thursday news conference that they shouldn't look at the new face-covering guidelines that will go into effect Saturday as an infringement of their rights.

"We asked our healthcare officials, 'What can we do to speed this thing up and open businesses back up and get back to life faster?' And one of the biggest requirements is to get everyone wearing some sort of face covering...Don't look at this as an abridgment of your freedoms. You still have the freedom to do everything you could do yesterday, you’re going to do it a little bit more safely for you and your family and the public and the front line workers at the grocery store," Jenkins said.

Police will not be ticketing people who do not wear masks, and masks are not required while driving a car or while walking, jogging or walking a pet outside (while maintaining a safe distance).
Jenkins then proceeded to show what could be used as a face covering — everything from scarves (he used a Dallas Cowboys one) to towels to pillowcases to bandanas would be considered a safe face covering.
Jenkins said the guideline specifically does not use the word "mask" because he does not want people to make a run on buying medical-grade masks, which should be used for healthcare workers. 
Dr. Philip Huang also spoke at the news conference, saying that the changing position on wearing masks evolved because of a new recognition of the asymptomatic spread of the virus. 
"We're learning more and more about the way it's transmitted," Huang said.
"I'm listening to the science," Jenkins said. "If the science says tomorrow, 'Hey, try something different, we'll try something different because our best way out of this is to listen to the science. This is not the time for a group of elected officials to sit around a table and decide how much or how little of science they don't want to listen to."
Jenkins told a reporter at the news conference that he would be wearing a mask if he goes to any grocery stores or big-box stores.

More Dallas County inmates test positive

There are now a total of 51 inmates in Dallas County who have tested positive for COVID-19 and eight additional jail employees have tested positive, said Dr. Philip Huang, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.

A group of Dallas County inmates filed a federal lawsuit against Sheriff Marian Brown, alleging they are not being protected enough. The suit calls for the immediate release or inmates who are over 50 and considered “medically high-risk” for the coronavirus. 

Collin County woman dies 

Collin County health official announced Wednesday afternoon that a 93-year-old woman with underlying health issues died from COVID-19. The death brings the county's total to 11. 
There have been 494 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases reported among Collin County residents, with 284 recoveries and 21 hospitalizations. 

Tarrant County reports four more deaths

Four more people have died from COVID-19 in Tarrant County, health officials announced Thursday. All of them were men and each had underlying health conditions. Two were from Fort Worth, one in his 60s, the other in his 40s. A Mansfield man in his 40s and a man in his 60s from an incorporated part of the county were the other two deaths, according to officials. 
The death toll in the county now stands at least 34 people. 157 people have recovered from the disease so far, with 990 cases confirmed. 
"These deaths continue to remind us that we are faced with a deadly disease," said Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja. “As we suffer these losses we also are mindful of how important it is for us to continue our efforts to control the spread of this deadly virus.”

Hospital capacity numbers in Dallas

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson's office reported Thursday that 25 hospitals gave an update on their ventilator and bed capacity.
Total beds: 5,710
Beds occupied: 2,981
Total ICU beds: 827
ICU beds occupied: 509
Total ventilators: 941
Ventilators in use: 308

Dallas Police Department welcomes back officer who had COVID-19

The police department tweeted that Officer Michael Lee returned to duty Thursday after a full recovery from COVID-19.

The department announced Wednesday that 11 officers in total have tested positive.
The department also has two civilians at the department who have tested positive for COVID-19. They work as a communications dispatcher and a public service officer.

"Please keep the officers and civilian employees in your thoughts and prayers for a full recovery," the department said in a statement.

Plano hosts town hall for children 

The City of Plano hosted a town hall for children at 10 a.m. Thursday.
During the town hall, Plano officials say their goal is to ease fears children might have during the COVID-19 crisis and answer questions their questions. 
Officials asked Plano ISD students from kindergarten to fifth grade to submit their questions in a video.
Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere will answer the questions. The town hall will be streamed live on Facebook and the City of Plano website.  

Hunt County reports its 25th case:

Thursday morning, Hunt County health officials confirmed its 25th case of the novel coronavirus. 
County health officials stated the latest patient is a woman who lives in the zip code of 75401 and is anywhere from 18 to 30 years old. 
Additional details regarding the victim were not released by officials in an effort to protect the woman's privacy. 

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