COVID-19 One Year Later - 03/14/21 - Segment 1
BROOKE KATZ: Hello. I'm Brooke Katz, and this is "To The Point." It is hard to believe it has been one year since the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic. And in Texas, it has been a year filled with pain of death from the virus, uncertainty about reopening, and questions about the future. We start first with a look back. Here's Karen Borta.
KAREN BORTA: March 13, 2020, before any of us knew just how much this pandemic would change the world as we knew it, Governor Greg Abbott declared a statewide disaster. On that day, there were 50 confirmed cases in Texas.
GREG ABBOTT: During this time, we need all Texans to do their part to help the state respond to this situation.
KAREN BORTA: Just three days later on March 16, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson made the decision to close almost everything.
- I can't imagine not being able to go out for the next, what, four weeks, eight weeks indefinitely.
- I just wish everybody would calm down and just chill.
KAREN BORTA: Bars, gyms, theaters, restaurants could stay open, but only for drive-through, takeout, and delivery. Fort Worth enacted occupancy limits at businesses to try to limit the spread. Then another three days later, the closures in Dallas went statewide under an executive order from Governor Abbott. On March 22, the governor made a move to expand hospital capacity, which had happened in Dallas just the day before. Surgeries that were not medically necessary were postponed.
- We have a lot going on, folks. We're about to see a wave of first responders as we go out to help people go down and be quarantined.
KAREN BORTA: And while Dallas County issued a shelter-in-place order that day, the governor declined to do it statewide. On the 31st, he tells Texans to stay home unless absolutely necessary, but he won't call it a shelter-in-place order, arguing that it gives the wrong impression. City leaders continued to urge people to do their part to stop the spread.
- I think some people still don't really understand what's going on and how serious this is. Well, seeing daily numbers in terms of hospital capacity might help.
KAREN BORTA: On April 17, the governor announced initial steps to reopening Texas.
GREG ABBOTT: We're now beginning to see glimmers that the worst of COVID-19 may soon be behind us.
KAREN BORTA: On May 1, restaurants, stores, and movie theaters were allowed to reopen at 25% occupancy, and more would come in the month ahead, including an increase in capacity for restaurants to 75%.
- My eyes were getting really, really watery. It's a feeling that I took for granted before. It's like butterflies of like, oh, my gosh, people are coming. People are coming.
KAREN BORTA: But that would come to a pause in late June in the thick of the summer surge.
- A bit surreal to be right back in it. Yeah, it's a sacrifice. This will be a pretty massive-- massive hit.
KAREN BORTA: On June 26, bars were shuttered and restaurants scaled back again to 50%. We hover here for a while as cases and hospitalizations continue to surge. But the governor affirms on July 16 that a shutdown is not looming for Texas.
GREG ABBOTT: People are panicking thinking I'm about to shut down Texas again. The answer is no. That is not the goal. I've been abundantly clear. I've been saying exactly what the head of CDC said today. What the head of CDC said today, and that is if everyone can adopt the practice of wearing a face mask for the next four weeks, we will be able to get COVID-19 under control.
KAREN BORTA: It wouldn't be until two months later that restrictions were once again loosened and many businesses opened at 75% capacity. By October 7, bars were allowed to welcome back customers, but only if their county judge gave the green light and only at 50% capacity. Even amid the rampant cases in El Paso, on November 19, the governor reiterates that Texas will not shut down again.
GREG ABBOTT: Statewide, we're not going to have another shutdown.
KAREN BORTA: And now here we are just three days short of one year since the state of emergency was declared and all restrictions are being lifted.
GREG ABBOTT: And during that time, too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100%.
BROOKE KATZ: North Texas has surpassed 7,000 COVID deaths since the first reported infection more than a year ago. And a local mother has faced a level of loss that we've rarely seen. Steve Pickett with her story and her call to action.
CHARLOTTE CRAWFORD: My husband and my children love God.
STEVE PICKETT: On this blustery, breezy day, Charlotte Crawford wants to turn unimaginable personal pain into life and death protection for others.
CHARLOTTE CRAWFORD: I hope my story will help them to understand and know that this will kill you. My son died first. My husband died second. And then my daughter died after that.
STEVE PICKETT: Among the now 7,000-plus deaths from COVID-19 infection in North Texas, husband Henry Royce Crawford, son Royce Jr., and daughter Natalia all belong to this Parkland Hospital specialist. Royce Jr., a 33-year-old public school teaching assistant was the first to get sick. He died in February.
CHARLOTTE CRAWFORD: It was my son first. And he came-- he couldn't breathe. My husband brought him to the emergency room at Parkland. By Thursday, my daughter couldn't breathe. My daughter died on Saturday. We were preparing to have my husband's funeral on Saturday.
STEVE PICKETT: When COVID vaccinations started for health workers last December, Charlotte Crawford didn't hesitate. She's been a Parkland employee for 40 years. January 21, Charlotte Crawford was here at Parkland receiving her second vaccination, but seven days later, COVID infected everyone else in her household. Her message now.
CHARLOTTE CRAWFORD: I would like for everyone to hear it, but especially the Black community, Hispanic community. And the only reason I'm sitting here is because I've had-- I've got my shots. They need to know about it now. They need to move now.
STEVE PICKETT: With two adult children and her husband now dead from this disease, she's certain vaccine shots saved her and can save you.
CHARLOTTE CRAWFORD: I lost three of my family members that I love dearly. And if I could help someone else at this point to save themselves and their family member, the hurt that I'm going through now, I want to do it.
STEVE PICKETT: In Dallas, Steve Pickett, CBS 11 News.
BROOKE KATZ: Last Wednesday, Texas reopened at 100% and the mask mandate statewide was lifted. There is division among Texans over the governor's order-- too soon to lift the order or not soon enough? Our Ken Molestina takes a look back.
KEN MOLESTINA: It sure looks like just another Wednesday in downtown Fort Worth, except for the fact that businesses here are once again open 100% and face masks can come off per the governor's order.
- It should have been done a long time ago, a long time ago.
- To each his own. With me, I'm going to keep mine.
KEN MOLESTINA: And therein is the debate that ignited the moment Governor Greg Abbott announced this change was coming. Businesses are also adjusting. At the Virgin Olive Oiler in Sundance Square, you're welcome to check your mask at the door.
PHILLIP ANTHONY: We wanted everybody to know that they were not required to wear masks anymore in the store. At the same time, we wanted to let them know that if they wanted to wear masks, they could certainly do that. The staff at the store's still masking up.
KEN MOLESTINA: For this shop, it's about having options and not being told what one must do.
PHILLIP ANTHONY: It's not that we're trying to take a political side one way or the other. We're just trying to be respectful of everybody's opinion with regards to the issue.
KEN MOLESTINA: You know, quite frankly, this is all playing out the way many people anticipated that it would. The vibe on the mask wearing policies really just depends person-to-person, business-to-business. You take FunkyTown Donuts and Drafts, for example, here in Fort Worth, they're offering their customers discounts just to keep their masks on.
BRANDON MOORS: We're not putting money over people's lives or anything of that nature. We want to make money, however, we also want to incentivize we will do the right thing.
KEN MOLESTINA: Brandon Moors says while COVID is still around--
BRANDON MOORS: It's going to be a challenge, and we just need to take a slow and steady approach and kind of get through it.
KEN MOLESTINA: --a real return to normalcy is still fleeting. In Fort Worth, Ken Molestina, CBS 11 News.
BROOKE KATZ: Over the next few weeks, school districts in North Texas will revisit whether to modify their mask policies for students and teachers. Peaster ISD in Parker County will not be one of the districts making a new plan, because it never required masks in schools in the first place. There has been no distancing either or mandatory quarantines. Jason Allen asks, how have they done it?
JASON ALLEN: At Peaster Schools Monday, high school athletes were working out on the track, elementary students had recess together on the playground with no masks required. And it's been that way since school started last summer.
LANCE JOHNSON: And the kids in Peaster, Texas, have thrived.
JASON ALLEN: Superintendent Lance Johnson told us Peaster students have had a 100% normal school experience this year, nothing canceled, no one quarantined, going back to a decision last summer that virtual schooling would not be successful.
LANCE JOHNSON: Our teachers, and our school board, and our community just stood in solidarity to say, you know what? We're going to do what's best for kids. You know, and what's best for kids is having them in school in front of that teacher learning in a traditional school model. I don't think that anybody can argue that.
JASON ALLEN: In a district of more than 1,400, there are just eight students still learning online. The daily attendance was higher Monday than at the same time last year. There were about a dozen more teacher absences in the fall and a few cases of COVID-19, but none this year.
LANCE JOHNSON: Through personal responsibility, they stayed home. They were never in school with symptoms. They got well, and then they came back to school.
JASON ALLEN: The rural setting of Peaster, north of Weatherford, may have helped, Johnson acknowledged, but families still travel to the Metroplex. And as far as the district size, he says it's relative. They don't have any more space to spread kids out than a larger school would.
LANCE JOHNSON: It's real simple. We've just done it. You know, it's-- it's not that difficult if you really put the needs of kids first.
JASON ALLEN: Johnson believes other school districts could replicate this. He also told us data shows that they are on track to close the learning gaps that were created when schools shut down in the spring and have most students back on grade level by the end of this school year. In Peaster, Jason Allen, CBS 11 News.
BROOKE KATZ: After lifting the mask mandate and opening Texas at 100%, the focus turns to vaccinating Texans. Who will soon be eligible for a shot and who isn't happy about the plan next on "To The Point."