CORONAVIRUS DECLARATION EXTENDED
Tuesday, the Fort Worth City Council voted to adopt Mayor Betsy Price’s extended Declaration of Local and Public Health Emergency Disaster to April 30. It is the sixth such declaration since March 13 and extends the Stay Home – Work Safe restrictions designed to help combat the spread and impact of COVID-19 in the City of Fort Worth.
The new declaration is effective immediately and aligns with the Governor’s Order ending on April 30.
The order is also consistent with the declaration of the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Tarrant County mandates ordered by Judge Glen Whitley.
“Fort Worth continues to take every necessary action to combat COVID-19, reduce the spread of this virus and protect the health of our community,” Price said, adding the extension is in the best interest of residents and came at the advice of health experts.
“The hardships this terrible virus has put on our community are not lost on me, and I vow to continue to explore all opportunities to support and protect our resilient city,” she said.
The declaration, which can be found at http://fortworthtexas.gov/covid-19/, includes a descriptive chart and clarifying language to direct questions regarding whether a business is “essential” to the Texas Department of Emergency Services as suggested by the Governor. Other notable changes include the language related to church services and firearms, which again follow direction from the Governor and recommendations from the Center for Disease Control.
“Together, Fort Worth can win the battle against COVID-19,” Price said. “I have every confidence that our community will continue to meet the challenge and Fort Worth will come out stronger.”
To date, Fort Worth is reporting 196 total positive cases, with seven fatalities and 17 recovered cases. Fort Worth is experiencing substantial community spread, meaning the source of a majority of the positive cases is community transmission, per CDC guidelines.
The city council can repeal the order prior to April 30 at a special called meeting. City Council is slated to meet next at their regular meeting on May 5.
WEEKLY CORONAVIRUS UPDATE
In late March, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price announced her intent to appoint a set of four advisory committees to keep the city council and City Manager David Cooke advised about urgent issues associated with the COVID-19 public health emergency.
These advisory committees, each to be co-chaired by two council members, are to address issues relating to health, economics/business, education/childcare, and community services.
The Health Advisory Committee dissolved on March 23 after meeting twice and observing that committee members were already meeting regularly to coordinate pandemic-related activities. The other three committees, however, remain active.
Tuesday, the committees gave a brief update on their progress:
*Small Business/Economics Recovery Advisory Committee, co-chaired by District 4 Councilman Cary Moon and District 9 Councilwoman Ann Zadeh.
1. Financial Assistance: The committee discussed the Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan details, including the process and time it takes to access funds. Applicants were experiencing significant delays due to issues such as a complex application process, the website being down, long phone wait times, and processing turnaround.
The Tarrant County Small Business Development Center has conducted four WebEx sessions on the program, with three more planned. The committee recommended to continue offering assistance via video or additional webinars to help explain the process.
Hillwood offered office space for SBA-related activities and will coordinate with the Fort Worth Chamber. The committee also said the city should also encourage communication by tenants with landlords, and by landlords, with banks to work together and defer rent payments if possible.
2. Communication: In general this has been a challenge since there are several organizations posting resources to help business owners, but not everyone may be aware of them. The committee recommended a focus on a central and well-marketed resource page for all business-related updates, information, and financial assistance, along with better utilization of traditional press and press releases to inform the business community.
The committee also warned of some misinformation being spread about post-COVID reopening, specifically if a business will need a new health inspection and certificate of occupancy, and the time it will take to get these. City staff will work on explanation of codes and policies to dispel any confusion.
3. Unemployment: The committee noted that many firms, such as Amazon and Walmart, are hiring during the pandemic, and those should be promoted, along with the various resources for small business owners. Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County has a Jobs Now webpage (https://workforcesolutions.net/jobs-now2020-update-03-31-20-2/) for employers to post immediate job openings.
*Education/Childcare Advisory Committee, co-chaired by District 2 Councilman Carlos Flores and District 8 Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray.
1. Internet access: During the week of March 30 through April 3, the Fort Worth Independent School District helped students and parents transition to online learning, which includes distributing appropriate computer devices to elementary school families that lack such devices at home.
2. Childcare services for families of essential workers: On March 30, Child Care Associates announced the launch of FIND!, an online search tool by which essential workers can find licensed childcare providers near their homes and work sites throughout Tarrant County. This platform is available at http://find.bestplace4kids.com/families.
*Community Services Advisory Committee, co-chaired by District 5 Councilwoman Gyna Bivens and District 6 Councilman/Mayor Pro Tem Jungus Jordan.
1. Food security: On March 26, the city started distributing daily evening meals for children at community centers, partnering with the Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) and Food for Good. Meals have grown from 850 daily to 1,250 daily, and will grow incrementally with demand. This complements the meal distribution by Fort Worth ISD.
Meals on Wheels initially reported a need for volunteers to serve its 2,400 clients, and city communications was able to address the need with an appeal through NextDoor. Sixty and Better is reaching 500 seniors weekly with meal delivery, and City Neighborhood Services will be assisting them with required calls to seniors.
TAFB reports they have enough food for now, and are working on distribution with other agencies. Ben E. Keith is providing product to TAFB, given reduced restaurant demand. Albertsons/Tom Thumb reports that the supply chain is good and customer hoarding is calming down.
2. Communications: City communications is sending daily community bulletins to neighborhood organizations, including previously registered ones, and is sending regular bulletins to faith leaders. Communications has also called all registered neighborhood and faith organizations to check on community needs.
The city and United Way are encouraging the public to use 211 to find community services. City Communications is mailing a large postcard with resource information in
English and Spanish to all Fort Worth residents, providing fliers for grocery stores, sharing on NextDoor, etc. The City’s resource website is:
The City is also assisting Fort Worth ISD by sharing their information on NextDoor and by providing resource fliers with their meal distribution.