Newly-established Office of the Police Oversight Monitor stands ready to assist residents
Whether residents have concerns regarding alleged misconduct by Fort Worth Police Department personnel or want to share accolades about officers, the city's Office of the Police Oversight Monitor is open and ready to hear from them.
Earlier this year, Kim Neal was named the City of Fort Worth's police monitor and is responsible for leading the effort to finalize the model to be used for independent review of the Fort Worth Police Department. The office's establishment stemmed from a recommendation made by Fort Worth's Task Force on Race and Culture.
Key components of the Office of the Police Oversight Monitor will include:
- Complaint/commendation intake, review, audit and mediation.
- FWPD policies/procedures/practices review and analysis.
- Community engagement/information dissemination regarding the office and its components.
- Public affairs including participating in speaking engagements and responding to requests.
- Periodic reporting providing statistics, noting patterns and other noteworthy items as well as summarizing activities for previous year as a part of annual reporting.
- Collaborated problem-solving efforts.
Some key activities that the office has performed in its three months of existence include:
- Reviewing and benchmarking the creation, structure and naming of the office.
- Collaborating with community members, FWPD and city officials regarding their outlook surrounding civilian oversight and its impact on improving community/police relationship.
- Hired both a deputy police oversight monitor and an office administrator who will serve as the gatekeeper.
- Commenced reviewing allegations of police misconduct.
- Created an intake form that will be provided shortly for community members to address FWPD concerns.
- Reviewing relevant FWPD policies, procedures and practices as well as benchmarking analyses across the country. So far this has included reviews of community policing and engagement; Internal Affairs and chain of command intakes, reviews and investigations; training; use of force reviews; FWPD policy management and community interactions.
- Establishing protocols with FWPD to access information related to resident contacts, complaints, uses of force, critical incidents, etc.
- Working to create an internal intake management system to track key intake elements like demographic data, complaint allegations and circumstances in order to identify trends and patterns in order to collaborate on addressing root causes and recommend next steps including problem-solving measures.
- Collaborating with the Independent Expert Panel, hired by the City in November 2019 to review police policies and practices and provide recommendations on changes the FWPD should implement to improve and retain public trust and confidence.
Contact the office by email or call 817-392-6535.
FWISD Panel To Discuss Racial Equity Thursday
'Doing Our Part: Moving From Ally to Co-Conspirator'
Protests for racial equality following the recent deaths of black men and women across the United States have left many white Americans wondering what role they might play in calls for change.
The Fort Worth ISD is offering a virtual discussion that may offer some insight. The District's Division of Equity and Excellence will moderate a panel on discussion Thursday, June 4, with white employees and community leaders about racial consciousness and joining people of color in efforts to end racism in the schools and community. The discussion, "Doing Our Part: Moving From Ally to Co-Conspirator" will take place live at 1 p.m. Thursday on the Fort Worth ISD and FWISD Equity and Excellence Facebook pages.
The discussion explores topics such as social justice, racial equity in schools and the community and joining the fight to end racism.
Panelists will include Cissy Mattingly, coordinator for FWISD's Business and Finance Division; Joseph Niedziela, FWISD's Director of Social Studies; Dr. Paige Tooley, a local education consultant on interdisciplinary approaches to diversity, equity and inclusion; Dr. Anthony Walker, Tarrant County College Assistant Director of Academic Initiatives, and Jackie Walker Ross, director of Communications and Engagement for Leadership ISD.
Sherry Breed, Equity and Excellence chief, said several white colleagues and others reached out to her division staffers with questions of how they could offer support after the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd made national headlines and protests for justice emerged nationwide. Thursday's event offers a place for that discussion, she said.
The assembled panelists are all individuals who've previously engaged in racial equity and social justice work, she said. They will discuss where they are in their racial equity journey and what they're doing to support the work, Mrs. Breed added.
"We want to keep it as authentic as it can be," she said. "We don't want them to be guarded in the conversation. "We're going into some uncharted waters."
In a first for the division – an all-white panel – Mrs. Breed said she's hopeful the discussion gives white viewers an understanding that it's okay to be an ally and take action in eliminating racial inequities while reminding people of color viewing the discussion that there are white people who not only want to stand with them in the fight against racism but speak up.
Specialists with the Equity and Excellence division will serve as moderators and are expected to take viewer comments throughout the discussion.
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and the Fort Worth ISD Mobile App for the latest information
Blue Angels Salute to Healthcare Workers
Fort Worth's population put at 909,585, ranking 13th nationwide
Fort Worth has seen 22% growth since 2010.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released population estimates as of July 1, 2019. According to these estimates, Fort Worth's population is 909,585 and the city is ranked 13th nationwide, with 11,032 more people than 14th-ranked Columbus, Ohio, and 1,922 fewer than 12th-ranked Jacksonville, Fla.
Fort Worth's population has surpassed three cities since 2017, first moving up from 16th in 2017, then to 15th in 2018 and 13th in 2019.
Fort Worth added 164,761 residents since the 2010 Census base estimate, equating to 22% growth since 2010.
Seattle has been the fastest growing large city (more than 500,000 population) since 2010, with 24% growth between 2010 and 2019, while Fort Worth and Austin are tied for second-fastest-growing large city.
Fort Worth is estimated to have added 16,369 people between July of 2018 and July of 2019, equating to 45 people per day.
The draft estimate of Fort Worth's population by the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) is 873,130 as of Jan. 1, 2020. NCTCOG and the U.S. Census Bureau use different data sources, methodologies and timeframes for producing annual estimates, and both revise past annual estimates when producing new estimates.
What's permitted under retail-to-go?
Under orders by Gov. Greg Abbott, select activities and services that pose minimal to no threat of spreading COVID-19 are allowed to reopen beginning April 24.
The executive order
establishes a temporary "retail-to-go" model that allows retail outlets in Texas to reopen, but requires establishments to deliver items to customers' cars, homes or other locations to minimize contact.
The Texas Department of State Health Services provided these guidelines:
What should employees do to keep themselves and customers safe?
- All employees must be trained on environmental cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
- All employees must be screened before coming into the business for:
- new or worsening cough;
- shortness of breath;
- sore throat;
- loss of taste or smell;
- feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100 degrees Fahrenheit;
- or known close contact with a person who is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19.
- Any employee who meets any of these criteria should be sent home.
- Upon entering the business, employees must wash or sanitize hands.
- All employees must wear face coverings.
- Employees must maintain at least 6 feet separation from one another.
How do customers purchase and obtain goods from a retail store that has just reopened?
Customers may purchase items from a retail location for pickup, delivery by mail or delivery to the customer's doorstep, but may not enter the premises.
All payments should be done over the phone or internet if possible, and contact should be minimized if remote payment is not available.
Purchased items should be delivered by the employee to the backseat or trunk of the customer's vehicle whenever possible to minimize physical contact with the customer.
Employees must wash or sanitize their hands after each interaction with a customer, and whenever possible, must disinfect any item that came into contact with the customer.
Delivery to customer's doorstep:
All payments should be done over the phone or internet if possible, and contact should be minimized if remote payment is not available.
Purchased items should be delivered by an employee or third-party carrier and delivered to the customer's doorstep.
The employee or third-party carrier may not enter the customer's house or business.
Retail delivery by mail:
All payments must be done over the phone or internet.
Purchased items should be delivered by mail without customer contact.
The customer should wash or sanitize their hands after the transaction.
Task force updates child care guidance
The Tarrant County Child Care Task Force has updated its Guidance to Child Care Providers during COVID-19 document to reflect updates made by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services - Child Care Licensing and emerging best practices nationally and in the state.
- Recommended use of masks by adult child care teachers in facilities; cloth or homemade masks are recommended; clarification on not requiring mask use by children and forbidding mask use by children 2 and under.
- If dealing with a COVID-19-positive case, programs should contact child care licensing and Child Care Management Services (CCM). CCMS is contacted to arrange a no-cost deep cleaning for the facility. Programs should expect to be closed between two and five days.
- Instead of quarantining all staff and children for 14 days, the recommendation takes into account the required separation between classrooms and only the classroom with the COVID-19-positive case is recommended for self-quarantine for 14 days.
View the updated guidelines in
Fort Worth awarded $35 million Choice Neighborhood Grant!
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded Fort Worth Housing Solutions (FWHS) and the City of Fort Worth with a coveted $35 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Implementation Grant to fund transformational revitalization projects in the Stop Six Neighborhood.
The $35 million federal investment is anticipated to generate nearly $345 million in development and improvements in the Stop Six Neighborhood. For eight years, Stop Six residents, FWHS and the city have worked together to methodically plan the large-scale revitalization of the Stop Six Choice Neighborhood. The resulting Transformation Plan captures a shared vision for the area: to create a vibrant, sustainable community with the attributes – education, health care, safety, services and amenities – of a "neighborhood of choice."
"I'm thrilled to receive this wonderful news, because Stop Six is such a special neighborhood, located right in the heart of our city, with a distinctive and vibrant history worth preserving," said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. "Over the years, we've had hundreds of residents and stakeholders share their dreams for Stop Six, and with this grant from HUD, our coalition of partners can start the work to begin to realize those dreams. This proves, once again, that when Fort Worth works together, we will accomplish great things."
"Winning the Choice Neighborhood Initiative grant is a game-changer that will transform the face of Stop Six and the entire Southeast Fort Worth area," said Councilwoman Gyna Bivens. "This grant allows Fort Worth Housing Solutions and the City of Fort Worth to jointly focus beyond simply replacing housing units after Cavile is demolished, to also focus on those things that provide a sense of neighborhood, such as schools, community policing, faith institutions and commercial development like a grocery store."
"Today's award would not have been possible without the hard work and contributions of the residents, the community and our more than 40 public and private sector partners," added Mary-Margaret Lemons, FWHS President. "These funds will further our collective vision to transform Stop Six into a mixed-income, mixed-use, sustainable neighborhood that will provide quality affordable housing for all income levels."
The Stop Six Transformation Plan features: the replacement of 300 existing public housing units at Cavile Place with 990 mixed-income rental units in six phases of housing development; the construction of a Neighborhood Hub with co-located recreational, educational, health and safety services; and the provision of case management and educational, health and economic mobility supportive services for Cavile residents.
The Stop Six Transformation Initiative includes an experienced and committed team that consists of FWHS and co-applicant, the City of Fort Worth, along with McCormack Baron Salazar (MBS), Urban Strategies and the Fort Worth ISD. CVR Associates provided Choice Neighborhood consulting services, and community partners for the Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant application included: AB Christian Learning Center, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Tarrant County, Brighter Outlook, Camp Fire First Texas, Catholic Charities Fort Worth, the Center for Transforming Lives, Childcare Associates, Chua Huong Dao, Clayton Youth Services, Cook Children's Healthcare System, Early Learning Alliance, EnVision Center, Fort Worth Bike Sharing, Fort Worth ISD, Goodwill Industries of Fort Worth, Healthy Tarrant County Collaborative, IDEA Public Schools, John Peter Smith Clinic, MBS Urban Initiatives CDE, Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County, The Morris Foundation, My Health My Resources of Tarrant County, One Safe Place, Pathfinders, Paul Quinn College, Read Fort Worth, Reading Partners, Tarrant County College, Texas Wesleyan College, U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp., United Way of Tarrant County, University of North Texas - Center for Health Sciences, Urban Theory, Urban Village Family Services, Workforce Solutions of Tarrant County and the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth.
HUD's Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is a landmark program that promotes a comprehensive approach to support locally driven strategies for neighborhood revitalization. The program helps communities transform neighborhoods by revitalizing severely distressed public housing and catalyzing critical improvements in the neighborhood, including vacant property, housing, businesses, services and schools.
Only three other communities received a Choice Neighborhoods Implementation award this year, including Los Angeles ($35 million), Winston-Salem, N.C. ($30 million) and Philadelphia ($30 million).
Walgreens opens free drive-through COVID-19 testing site in Fort Worth
Walgreens will operate a free drive-through COVID-19 testing location in Fort Worth beginning Friday, April 24.
Testing will be conducted outdoors on the property at 8600 Camp Bowie West Blvd., where Walgreens pharmacists will oversee patients' self-administration of the COVID-19 test, using Abbott's ID NOW COVID-19 test.
"Testing plays a critical role in evaluating our reopening strategy, and I am grateful Walgreens has stepped up to help us test more residents and ultimately help our community move forward," Mayor Betsy Price said.
Testing is available by appointment only seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to individuals who meet eligibility criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.PDF File
To schedule an appointment, individuals must first visit the Walgreens website to complete an online health assessment to determine eligibility.
These testing sites are part of Walgreens' ongoing effort to provide greater access to COVID-19 testing and community resources; the company has also opened testing sites in Houston and Pasadena.
A list of additional private facilities offering COVID-19 testing in the Fort Worth area can be found on the city website.
When patients can be tested, identified and isolated, the viral spread can be better contained. Testing is an important next step in this emergency response; however, it does not alleviate the need to follow public health recommendations like social distancing, washing hands and wearing face masks when appropriate.
Fort Worth to participate in Thank You Thursdays
a group of people outside Harris ER
Fort Worth Fire personnel joined others to stop by local hospitals last week to thank medical personnel for their work.
In collaboration with the City of Dallas and following the success of last week's #DFWOvation, Fort Worth will participate in a weekly display of appreciation for frontline workers. Thank You Thursdays begin this week across North Texas at 7 p.m.
Mayor Betsy Price and Mayor Eric Johnson of Dallas encourage residents in both cities to continue their ovations each Thursday evening as a way to show continued support and gratitude for the frontline workers in the battle against COVID-19.
Fort Worth will illuminate downtown buildings in blue lights. Residents throughout the Metroplex are asked to step outside their homes at 7 p.m. and give ovations to those working to protect others. Neighborhoods are encouraged to join to participate in this effort. Of course, everyone should wear a face mask and practice social distancing while participating.
"Last week's outpouring of support for our frontline workers was incredibly successful and inspiring," Price said. "These weekly ovations are a great way for our community to rally together, safely, and show our appreciation for those working tirelessly to battle COVID-19 and keep our community healthy and safe."
The hashtag #ThankYouThursday will be used to follow all of the displays of gratitude shown on social media. Share acts of gratitude on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
To learn more about COVID-19 and the actions being taken by the City of Fort Worth, visit the city's website or call the hotline at 817-392-8478.
Curfew in place in Fort Worth beginning at 8 p.m. June 1
Mayor Betsy Price declared a state of emergency and an 8 p.m. curfew in the interest of public health and safety. The nighttime curfew is established for all of Fort Worth, including public places and streets, beginning June 1. The nightly curfew will begin at 8 p.m. and will end at 6 a.m. the following morning.
View the declaration.
View Frequently Asked Questions.
Spanish FAQs - Preguntas frecuentes sobre el toque de queda.
"First, I want to acknowledge the injustice and tragic death of George Floyd and the mourning we are experiencing as a community and nation. I also want to commend those individuals who have assembled over the past couple of days to peacefully exercise their first amendment rights," said Mayor Betsy Price. "It is important that we remain respectful of each other and our community. Unfortunately, there were individuals who displayed blatant disregard for the welfare of others – which is why we are enacting an 8 p.m. curfew."
During the hours of curfew, travel on public streets or in any public place is prohibited. However, first responders and news media personnel are exempt. People traveling to and from work or school or seeking medical attention are also exempt.
Violating the curfew is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine up to $500.
The declaration of emergency is in place for up to 72 hours unless it is continued by the Fort Worth City Council.
The City Council's Tuesday, June 2 meeting is rescheduled for Thursday, June 4 at 3 p.m. to accommodate the curfew and allow for residents to speak before Council. Residents can register to speak online or by phone during the resident comment portion of the meeting. Due to COVID-19 and the public health precautions in place, residents are encouraged to participate virtually for public comment. The City Council work session will still take place Tuesday, June 2 at 3 p.m. For questions about the declaration and curfew, residents and businesses can call 817-392-8478.
COVID-19 testing options continue to expand throughout Fort Worth area
Every week, the list of COVID-19 testing sites open across Fort Worth continues to grow. In addition to a variety of testing locations, the City of Fort Worth and its partners continue to roll out different options for testing, such as community-based testing, free testing and fee-for-service testing.
When individuals can be tested and then isolated as necessary, the viral spread can be limited. Ensuring COVID-19 testing is available and accessible for any resident who needs it is a critical part of the strategy to reopen and stay open.
View more information about each of the types of testing facilities.
Free community-based testing
The city, in partnership with the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, UT Southwestern Medical Center and Tarrant County, continues to open community-based testing facilities that are completely free – with or without insurance.
Community-based facilities offer free drive-through tests at several locations for individuals who have set an appointment through the online assessment tool. A doctor's referral is not needed for these appointments; however, individuals must meet medical criteria to get an appointment. Phone support is available to individuals without access to the internet to make an appointment or ask questions at 817-248-6299.
Certain private partners are operating free testing sites, including a Walgreens drive-through location in Fort Worth. Testing is by appointment for individuals who meet medical criteria; a doctor's referral is not required prior to the self-administered test.
Individuals experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual, please consider the following testing options. Please note that each testing facility has different requirements and you need to contact the facility before you go to determine availability.
Free COVID-19 Testing Sites
View options below for private companies that offer free COVID-19 tests.
You must be screened and schedule an appointment online.
Testing centers that are freePDF File
Although there is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, the best way to prevent infection is to take these precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
$ Pay-for-service testing
The city is also working with the medical community to identify COVID-19 private testing facilities offered on a fee-for-service basis and maintain an online list of these sites and their contact information.
Most of the fee-for-service COVID-19 testing sites will require a medical doctor's referral prior to testing; some locations will allow patients an opportunity to use tele-doctor services onsite to obtain the needed referral.
Fort Worth ISD Joins Other Urban Districts in Asking Congress for Support to Offset COVID-19 Costs
The Council of the Great City Schools, the nation's primary coalition of large urban public-school districts, is urging lawmakers to approve new funding for local school systems in the next coronavirus supplemental appropriations bill.
Fort Worth's Dr. Kent P. Scribner was one of the 62 urban district superintendents who signed the letter. [see attached.]
The letter asks for support to help offset the unexpected costs districts are incurring in providing meal services to students and transforming from school-based to home-based learning in the wake of school closures. It also asks for aid in providing instruction at a distance, including resources to provide electronic learning devices and internet connections to every child.
In the letter, the Council of Great City Schools calls on an additional federal allocation of $175 billion in Educational Stabilization Funds to be distributed to the local level through the Title I formula. The group also urges Congress to provide an additional $13 billion for the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), $12 billion in additional Title I program funding, $2.0 billion for E-Rate, and emergency infrastructure funds that include public schools.
See the full news release from the Council of Great City Schools, also attached
Superintendent Kent Scribner Congratulates District Teachers of the Year in Video Message
Eastside Teachers are on this list! Congratulations to:
Sixth Grade Health, Meadowbrook Middle School
AVID Teacher, Polytechnic High School
Head Director of Bands, Eastern Hills High School
Each spring the Fort Worth ISD celebrates the best of the best teachers at the District's Teachers of the Year Awards Dinner, sponsored by Central Market.
This year, however, is by necessity much different. But what this year's recognitions lack in glamour, it makes up for in even more excitement and appreciation.
Instead of choosing just two top District Teachers of the Year – one for elementary and one for secondary, this year Fort Worth ISD named all ten finalists our District Teachers of the Year!
Each teacher got the word in one of 10 separate Zoom meetings on April 20th, with campus principals and colleagues announcing their winning teacher, surprising her or him with signs, balloons, and cheers.
Watch Dr. Scribner's special Video message to the teachers congratulating them as Fort Worth ISD District Teachers of the Year!
2019-2020 FWISD District Teachers of the Year
Sixth Grade Health, Meadowbrook Middle School
Second Grade DLE English Language Arts Teacher, Cesar Chavez Elementary
Dyslexia Interventionist, Carter Park Elementary
Fifth Grade ELAR and Social Studies, DeZavala Elementary
Ninth Grade Biology, Ninth Grade College Transitions, Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences
Geometry and Algebra I, TCC South- Fort Worth ISD Collegiate
Fifth Grade Science and Social Studies, Sam Rosen Elementary
AVID Teacher, Polytechnic High School
Third Grade Math and Reading, Western Hills Elementary
Head Director of Bands, Eastern Hills High School
Now more than ever, it's important to utilize proper handwashing techniques. Washing your hands regularly helps avoid the spread of germs and the risk of infection. Follow our handwashing guide to stay healthy.
Texas Counties Improve Election Websites --
Upgrades Still Needed for Safe and Secure Elections
Austin, TX - The League of Women Voters of Texas conducted its fifth survey of Texas county websites in late February and early March 2020. The League celebrates a tripling of outstanding websites in the Texas Primaries when compared to the Nov. 2019 review! The League reviewers found 58 "outstanding" and 37 "very good" county election websites out of 254 counties in Texas.
Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas said, "We are thrilled that so many counties have improved the voter education provided on county websites. With the impact of the coronavirus on voting and elections, it is vital that Texas voters find accurate and up to date information on secure and verified county websites. We encourage counties that haven't yet made the necessary changes to their websites to take steps now to become a trusted resource for voters in their communities."
Summary of Texas Counties Election Website Review Findings:
- Texas Primary review found overall improvements in county election websites with a tripling of the number of outstanding and very good websites. 58 counties were rated with outstanding websites and 37 with very good websites. However, the majority of county websites (159) were rated good to inadequate.
- Only 165 Counties (65%) provided any information or link to Vote by Mail information. Vote by Mail is an important option for voters during the health crisis we are all facing.
- Ease of finding voting information has improved from 2016 where only 74 counties had an identifiable word like voting or election to 207 counties in the Texas primary election review.
- Our website security review found only 13 counties (up from 11 in 2019) provide a government verified ".gov" domain site URL where voters will feel confident they are at the right website.
- Most counties need to update their websites to be in compliance with new election laws. Voting and election information are critical to allow citizens to participate in our democracy. Only 65% or 165 counties provide information on voting by mail.
- We found that 129 counties provided voting and election information for voters with disabilities, 96 for voters in the military or overseas and only 31 for students or first time voters.
- Only 61% or 155 counties provided any information in Spanish. "State and federal laws require all voting materials to be translated into Spanish statewide" according to SOS Election Advisory No. 2015-05.
- Only 69% or 174 counties provided a direct link to the Texas Secretary of State voting web site,
Summary of Recommendations to Texas County Election Officials:
The 2020 election season is here. With the impact of the coronavirus on voting and elections, it is vital that Texas voters find accurate and up to date information on secure and verified county websites. Texas voters will be inundated with campaign messaging. Many counties need to take steps now to become a trusted resource for voters. The League of Women Voters encourages counties to inspire the trust of voters in their community by:
- ensuring website security,
- avoiding election jargon and using plain language voters can understand,
- following best practices listed above, from sources such as U.S. General Services Administration and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and
- taking advantage of the cyber security resources provided by the Texas Secretary of State.
In addition to the ongoing work to review county election websites and provide local county elections officials with best practice guidance, the League recently sent Secretary of State. Hughs and Governor Abbott recommendations on steps to ensure public safety and the integrity of Texas elections during the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Senator Beverly Powell has created a site just to keep up with all the Covid-19 closings, state & local health orders, community & state resources, testing info, etc. Learn more here:
Five Steps For Dealing With Social Isolation
In downtown Austin, a hopeful message can be seen on a movie theater marquee. It reads: "IN ORDER FOR US TO BE ALL TOGETHER, FOR NOW WE MUST REMAIN APART."
By now, you've gotten the message: Voluntary social distancing is key to mitigating the spread of COVID-19. And for most of us, lying low for a while should be a small sacrifice to make for the greater good of everyone. Still, separating ourselves from one another is not without its challenges. And it's useful to remember that chronic social isolation, particularly among older adults, can be unhealthy.
"Being socially isolated can be unhealthy," said Amanda Fredriksen, an associate state director for advocacy and outreach at AARP Texas. "We know that people who are socially isolated, particularly older adults, have a significant risk of early death, as well as dementia and heart disease."
There are academic studies on the subject of socially isolated adults. AARP reports have stated that social isolation significantly increases the risk of death among older adults. In fact, one study has likened the detrimental health effects of isolation to those associated with smoking up to 15 cigarettes every day.
Social isolation is more common among older folks. They are more likely to live alone. They may have experienced the loss of a spouse or friend, and they are more likely to have chronic health issues that limit mobility to inside their house.
Combating isolation is essential during this time, but being physically surrounded by others isn't necessarily the only answer. Here are some ways that can help everyone contend with isolation in their own homes.
1. Make use of what you have.
We live in a world interconnected by technology. "Making use of video technology with smart phones and computers is a great way to connect with family and friends," said Fredriksen. There are also other ways to stay busy online. Many websites offer free subscriptions to watch movies, or you can rent a book online. If you feel comfortable using the Internet, digital applications like social media, or video phone calls with friends and loved ones may help.
2. Pick up the phone and call a friend.
For those who don't have internet access, a phone call can be an alternative to using social media. "Everybody seems to have a little more time right now. So why not take the time to connect with some folks you haven't had a chance to talk to lately?" Fredriksen encourages others to not feel shy about reaching out to people that you don't get to talk to on a regular basis.
3. Get up and move!
Social isolation doesn't mean you can't continue to be active. However, a lot depends on where you live and how vulnerable you are. "If you can safely get out and stretch your legs, walk to the mailbox, walk in your neighborhood… that's good," she said. "But for some people, that may just mean taking a walk around your yard." said Fredriksen. Just don't forget to keep a six-foot (or more) distance between you and others.
4. Find your creative outlet.
Find what nurtures your inner creativity and incorporate that into your daily routine. Whether you are passionate about adult coloring books, learning a new skill by watching online videos, completing jigsaw puzzles or writing a letter, take this time to focus on what best cultivates your creative expression.
5. Keep tabs on your mental health.
Social isolation can cause people to withdraw and become disconnected from family, friends and community. In 2018, this particular public health epidemic affected more than 8 million age 50-plus adults. Fredriksen recommends that those who are experiencing symptoms of isolation to "talk to their doctor, to their healthcare professional, to a counselor." And the good news is that for many people in some places, they can have those conversations remotely via telehealth services.
If you're self-monitoring yourself or a loved one, it is important to spot symptoms of social isolation in ourselves and others and to take steps to combat it early, because it can become a serious hazard not only to mental health but physical health, too.
Signs that a person might be isolated:
- Deep boredom, general lack of interest and withdrawal
- Losing interest in personal hygiene
- Poor eating and nutrition
- Significant disrepair, clutter and hoarding in the home
Fredriksen, who leads AARP Texas' advocacy work in the area of long-term care services and supports, also offers advice for caregivers who are looking after those who may be socially isolated.
"It's important for caregivers to remember that as they may be taking a little bit more risk in support of helping their loved ones," she said. "They need to be careful about their own health and be careful that they're not exposing their loved ones to potential health risks." It can be difficult to remember to care for yourself. But it in the long run, it can save a life.
Did you know that after the 2020 census, Fort Worth will need to redraw the city council maps to create 10 council districts, up from the current 8 districts. Who should redraw these maps? Citizens or the current City Council? Citizens for Independent Redistricting is advocating for citizens drawn maps to keep our neighborhood representation cohesive.
FORT WORTH CITY COUNCIL REDISTRICTING NEWS
Contact: Fernando Florez, 817.239.0578 firstname.lastname@example.org
Fort Worth is at a crossroads. As we mentioned in our recent email (which you may access below), the city's population has increased from 393,476 in the 1980 Census to an estimated 895,008 in 2018 and it's now majority-minority. Although it's hardly mentioned today, Fort Worth is not the same city it used to be. The city council today does not accurately represent the population. The main reason for that can be attributed to the way and by whom city council districts are drawn.
Many people feel that the lack of fair representation on the city council is the root cause of much of the unrest we've seen in the city recently and for turmoil at the city council itself. (We've said it before: The current mayor and the city council members are not to be blamed for the city not having a fair system of drawing city council district maps. They inherited the system we now have.)
We are at a crossroads because the city now has a great opportunity to change the method of drawing city council districts, which will result in less gerrymandering and possibly more diversity and better representation for all segments of the population on the city council. Change is never easy, but the city must seize this opportunity. We recognize that and that's the reason we are advocating for citizen independent redistricting. Citizen independent redistricting was also one of the recommendations made by the Race and Culture Task Force.
We are all volunteers in this group trying to do what's best for our city. We've had good response to our recent email; we've had some outstanding letters to the mayor, the city manager and council members and appreciate that very much. But we need more of them. We need more people to summon their energy and courage (Yes, courage, because it's hard to be a risk-taker, speak truth to power and possibly suffer some consequences).
Learn more about redistricting at CitizensMapFW.org
Many, many thanks.
Complete your 2020 census
For the first time, residents will be able to respond to the census online, by phone or by mail.
Every decade, technology plays a greater role in the way the census is conducted. But in 2020, the first time anyone who wants to respond to the census online has that option, the greatest change may come from the way all of us use technology.
For the first time during a decennial census, the majority of people in the United States are using digital and social media in their everyday lives.
"The rise of digital and social media use has exponentially increased the speed of how accurate and inaccurate information can spread," said Stephen Buckner, assistant director for communications at the U.S. Census Bureau. "We know that many people may not know what the census is because it happens only every 10 years, making it a likely target for misinformation and disinformation campaigns, which is why we've been actively preparing to defend against them."
- Reach out on verified social media accounts (@USCensusBureau) to ask questions and flag suspicious information.
- Call the Census Bureau Customer Service Hotline at 1-800-923-8282 to report suspicious activity.
The 2020 Census will have implications for years to come. It is everyone's responsibility to make sure there is an accurate count.