Settle In: Officials Fear Shelter-in-Place Could Last Much Longer

News is moving fast and furious right now, and a lot happens throughout the day. Here are some quick bullet points on what has happened recently.

“It’s Not Complicated Math”

Dallas County officials did some math for the public Monday evening, and showed some rather alarming work – if the county can’t get a handle on COVID-19.

“It’s not complicated math,” county Health and Human Services director Philip Huang said. If 40% of the county’s residents test positive for the novel coronavirus, Huang predicts more than 7.3% would need to be hospitalized without a shelter-in-place order – with a shortage of 71,189 hospital beds.

Even with the current shelter-in-place order,  epidemiology models forecast about 6,800 deaths in the county.

And with a little more than 4,000 hospital beds available, the math doesn’t look good. If those numbers hold true, more than 13,000 could die, including more than 300 children younger than 10.

With the shelter in place order, there would actually be an excess of beds, Huang said – 562 beds.

As Huang showed the county’s work on the math, County Judge Clay Jenkins said that if the hospitals became overwhelmed and first responders and medical personnel began seeing higher infection rates, if “you go to the hospital for other lifesaving treatment, there will be no bed for you if we don’t act as a region immediately.”

Shelter-in-place, Huang said, could keep the infection rate to as little as two percent, and deaths would be fewer than  700.

Dallas County Medical Society president Dr. Mark Casanova reiterated what Huang and Jenkins said – that the order, while arduous, was going to save lives.

“Right now we are waging battle with sticks at best, and we need swords,” said Dr. Mark Casanova, president of the Dallas County Medical Society. “If we change nothing, many hospitals run the risk of exhausting appropriate protective equipment by mid-April.

“The dominoes are falling behind us, and I’m hearing them over our left shoulder.”

Jenkins warned that the restrictions will likely last past April 3, when the current order expires.

“The estimate from the medical community is, you know, not two weeks, it’s months, unfortunately,” he said. “I hope that turns out to be wrong. There’s so much that’s unknown.”

Jenkins spent time going through some clarifications on the shelter-in-place order, which you can read here.

Abbott Asks for Federal Disaster Declaration

Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that he sent a letter to President Trump requesting a presidential disaster declaration based on the continued impact to the state from the novel coronavirus.

“Filed in accordance with the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, the request is based in part on Gov. Abbott’s conclusion that the ongoing COVID-19 incident is of such severity and magnitude that supplementary federal assistance is necessary to save lives, to protect property, public health, and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a larger disaster,” a press release from the governor’s office said.

“Texas is all-in on our response to COVID-19, and we need Washington’s financial assistance as provided for under the law to support our efforts to limit the spread of this virus,” said Gov. Abbott. “COVID-19-related expenses and obligations are already exceeding $50 million and that will only rise as our efforts continue. Additional federal funding is essential for us to maintain our aggressive course of action to protect our state.”

Abbott’s letter also detailed the state’s efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, including executing the state’s emergency management plan and issuing multiple executive orders, in accordance with guidelines from President Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These include:

  • mandatory avoidance of social gatherings of more than 10 people;
  • mandatory avoidance of dine-in eating and drinking at bars or restaurants, and of gyms or massage establishments;
  • prohibition on non-critical visits to nursing homes, retirement or long-term care facilities; and
  • the temporary closure of in-person school operations.

The Governor has also issued multiple waivers of state law to remove barriers limiting the response to this pandemic and activated the Texas National Guard to be prepared to assist with response efforts for COVID-19. To date, more than 466 Texas jurisdictions have submitted local disaster declarations, a number that is expected to rise.

If approved, the federal aid that comes with the declaration would be used to deal with the shortage of personal protective equipment, medical equipment and testing supplies, as well as help with the potential shortage of hospital beds.

IRS Announces Extension of Filing Deadline

The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced Saturday that the federal income tax filing due date is automatically extended from April 15  to July 15.

Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax.

Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the IRS to qualify for this automatic federal tax filing and payment relief. Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 15 deadline, can request a filing extension by filing Form 4868. Businesses who need additional time must file Form 7004.


Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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