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Chronicling COVID-19: how the virus has impacted Denton and UNT

Chronicling COVID-19: how the virus has impacted Denton and UNT

Chronicling COVID-19: how the virus has impacted Denton and UNT
March 26
08:00 2020

As of 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, there are 50,206 coronavirus cases in the United States — putting the U.S. third in countries with the most cases. In Texas, there are currently 827 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

The first case in the United States appeared in Washington state in January and since then, all fifty states have active coronavirus cases. New York leads with 25,665 cases, followed by New Jersey and California at 2,844 and 2,267 cases, respectively. 

Restaurants have closed or transitioned to takeout and delivery services, schools across the country have transitioned to online classes and people are urged to stay inside and social distance in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. 

To protect oneself from the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also urging people to wash their hands frequently, avoid touching their face and to avoid close contact with people. 

NBA, MLB and NHL seasons suspended, March Madness canceled

One of the earliest actions taken in response to COVID-19 was the suspension of the NBA, NHL and MLB seasons. 

In college sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association also canceled the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments — aka March Madness. UNT was scheduled to compete in their first NCAA appearance since 2010 before the cancellation. 

Conference USA also announced the suspension of all spring sport competitions on March 12. 

UNT transitions to online classes, cancels commencement ceremonies

Amid other schools announcing the transition to online classes, UNT made their announcement on March 12. 

“Our campus health teams and executive leadership have been continuously following the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), with a focus on safeguarding the well-being of our students, staff, faculty and community,” President Neal Smatresk said in the press release announcing the decision. 

Classes resumed online on March 23 and will remain online through the rest of the semester, according to an email from UNT Chancellor Lesa Roe. 

The administration also made the decision on March 20 to postpone spring commencement ceremonies. Smatresk said “many people across campus are currently reviewing ways to still allow commencement to happen later in the year for any graduate wishing to participate,” in an email to students announcing the postponement. 

Residence and dining halls remain open, refunds available

While classes have moved online for the rest of the semester, residence halls and dining halls remain open to students who need them. 

And while UNT Housing originally said they were not going to offer refunds on housing and dining to students who choose to move out, they reversed course on March 20. 

“Students who choose to leave university housing and complete their coursework elsewhere will be given a prorated housing refund based on their move-out date,” Housing said in an email to students. “Any remaining dining credits will be applied to a dining plan of choice for the 2020-2021 academic year.”

SGA pushes elections back a week, no in-person election events

Following the extension of spring break by UNT and the transition to online classes, the Student Government Association also announced changes to the student government election schedule.

Pushed back by a week, election applications closed on March 23. The week of March 23 is when election code meetings will happen through Zoom and campaigning will officially begin on March 30.

Students can hear from presidential and senatorial candidates via livestream on March 30 at 5 p.m. and March 31 at 5 p.m., respectively.

A presidential town hall is scheduled for April 1 at 6 p.m. on NtTV and following a second session where students can meet senatorial candidates on April 2, voting will open on April 6 and close on April 9.

Election results will be shared in a final general election report released at 5 p.m. on April 10.

Disaster declarations signed for city of Denton, Denton County

Beyond UNT, city and county leaders have also responded to the virus. On March 13, both Denton County Judge Andy Eads and Denton Mayor Chris Watts issued disaster declarations for the city and the county. 

Eads also issued new restrictions for Denton County on March 19, ordering bars, clubs, gyms, entertainment venues and theaters to close. 

Restaurants were also limited to to-go, drive-thru and curb-side orders only, and any nursing homes, retirement homes, long and short-term care facilities were instructed to prohibit all non-essential visitors from visiting unless providing “critical assistance or for end-of-life visitation,” according to a Denton County press release.

Temporary halt announced on federal student loan payments

As for the national response to COVID-19, President Donald Trump announced a 60-day temporary halt on federal student loan payments during a White House press briefing on March 20. 

“Today, Secretary [of Education] DeVos has directed federal lenders to allow borrowers to suspend their student loans and loan payments without penalty for at least the next 60 days, and if we need more we will extend that period of time,” Trump said.

Municipal elections postponed to November 3 

Due to coronavirus, the May municipal elections were postponed to November following the approval of a motion by Denton City Council. 

The postponement of May elections followed state suggestions. 

Denton County, city of Denton issue stay at home order

Both the city of Denton and Denton County issued stay at home orders on Tuesday which went into effect on March 25 at 11:59 p.m. and is in effect until March 31 unless extended.

“Sometimes you have to decide between two bad choices and I am erring on the side of saving lives,” said Denton County Judge Andy Eads in a press release. “Each individual has the responsibility to stay at home and limit their actions to the necessities of getting supplies, handling medical issues and, for some, going to work to keep essential businesses in operation.”

The orders were issued during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

“Nothing is more important than protecting the safety and well-being of our community,” said Denton Mayor Chris Watts in a press release. “During this unprecedented time, it is on all of us to do what is necessary to flatten the curve and minimize the spread of this virus.”

Cases in Denton County reach 51, with nine in the city of Denton

As of the evening of March 24, Denton County Public Health has confirmed 51 cases of coronavirus in the county. 11 of these cases are located in the city of Denton and six cases were confirmed at Denton State Supported Living Center. 

DCPH has been working to identify and contact individuals who may have been exposed.

Do you have questions about the coronavirus? Has COVID-19 affected your income, housing or other facets of your life? Share your story with us at the North Texas Daily by emailing elizabeth.spangler@unt.edu or zachary.cottam@unt.edu

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Lizzy Spangler

Lizzy Spangler

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