These weekly updates will provide the latest news and information on what our community, the state, and the federal government are doing as we face an unprecedented pandemic.

Reopening Texas Update

On October 7, Governor Abbott  issued an Executive Order to open bars and similar establishments at up to 50% capacity in conjunction with county officials. For Trauma Service Areas where COVID-19 hospitalizations are less than 15% of hospital capacity, County Judges will be able to authorize the opening of bars and similar in their county beginning October 14th, provided they assist in enforcing health protocols. The order also states that all counties where COVID-19 hospitalizations are less than 15% of hospital capacity can open all businesses other than bars to 75% capacity. The full order can be read here.

Early Voting for November Election Begins Oct 13

Early Voting for the upcoming November 3rd general election will begin on Tuesday, October 13 and will continue through October 30. Voters are encouraged to follow social distancing guidelines while at the polls. DART will be offering free rides for voters on all DART bus, light rail, Dallas Streetcar, GoLink and Paratransit service, and on the Trinity Railway Express between EBJ Union Station and CentrePort/DFW Airport Station on October 17, October 24, and on November 3. For those voting by mail, there is the option to hand deliver ballots at your County Elections Department. Each county is offering different drop-off hours, so visit your county’s elections website for more information. You can find more information about how to vote in Texas here.

State-Run COVID-19 Mobile Testing Sites

The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), in partnership with the Texas Military Department, is continuing to run COVID-19 testing locations across the state. Texans can find a testing site near them by visiting the COVID-19 Test Collection Site map

Approaching Flu Season and Illness Prevention

With cold and flu season beginning and COVID-19 still spreading in Texas, now is a perfect time to get a flu shot. While the flu shot won’t prevent COVID-19, it will slow the circulation of flu in Texas and keep people out of the hospital, conserving medical resources needed to care for COVID-19 patients. DSHS encourages people to seek treatment promptly if they are experiencing flu symptoms. Antiviral drugs may help shorten the duration or lessen the severity of the flu if started within 48 hours of when symptoms begin.

Nursing Facility Safety Projects Funding

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) announced $3.5 million in federal funding for nursing facilities to purchase plexiglass barriers and tents to allow for safe visitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nursing facilities that complete an application and are approved by Texas HHSC can receive up to $3,000 per facility to purchase the plexiglass barriers and tents to help facilitate in-person visits for residents. People can have in-person visitation with their loved ones under the agency’s new expanded visitation rules, which apply statewide. Nursing facilities may apply for this funding through HHSC beginning October 5, 2020. More information about the application can be found here.

DSHS Immunization Program Information

Governor Greg Abbott is encouraging Texas health care providers to enroll in the Texas Department of State Health Services’ (DSHS) Immunization Program to be eligible to administer COVID-19 vaccines once they are available. Hospitals, medical practices, pharmacies, and long-term care facilities that want to participate are required to enroll as vaccine providers to administer COVID-19 immunizations in Texas. While vaccine production ramps up, the supply will be limited and provided to critical populations such as health care workers or people at a higher risk of severe disease. As more doses become available, more of the enrolled providers will begin to receive vaccine for the people they serve. Any vaccine must be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration before it can be distributed in the United States. More information about the immunization program can be found here.

DART Increases Services Starting Oct 19

Starting on October 19, DART will be expanding bus, rail, and GoLink services to almost 90% of the pre-pandemic hours and miles. Seven higher volume bus routes and light rail service will offer 20-minute frequency weekdays until 7 p.m., and 30-minute frequency thereafter. Weekend service will remain unchanged. A Western Carrollton GoLink service, which has been operating on a trial basis since May 11, will also become permanent, and low ridership routes 27, 42, 155, 210, 211, 385, 585, 840 and 887 will be discontinued, modified or replaced. More details about the changing schedules and routes can be found here.

Staying Safe While Having Fun this Halloween

With fall fun and Halloween fast approaching, the Dallas County Public Health Committee has issued guidance for how to have socially distanced fun during the coronavirus pandemic. Given the current “orange” COVID-19 risk level in Dallas County, officials do not advise participating in traditional Halloween activities. Instead, the committee recommends online costume or pumpkin carving parties and contests, car parades where individuals can show off their costumes, home or drive-in movie nights, scavenger hunt style candy searches with household members, and more. More information about the guidelines can be found here.

TCA State Artist Nominations Open Until Oct 15

The Texas Commission on the Arts is currently accepting nominations for the 2021 and 2022 Texas State Artists. Nominations are accepted for Texas State Musician, Texas Poet Laureate, Texas State Two-Dimensional Artist (visual arts), and Texas State Three-Dimensional Artist (visual arts). Any Texas citizen is able to nominate a living artist in any of the four categories and self-nominations are welcome. Nominees must be native Texans or have resided in the state for at least five years. They must have attained the highest levels of excellence and success in their respective disciplines and earned a statewide, regional or national reputation for their high caliber work. Nominations will be accepted online through October 15, 2020. You can learn more about the nomination process or nominate an artist here.

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