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Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson wants to up access to novel coronavirus testing in Dallas.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson wants to up access to novel coronavirus testing in Dallas.
Brian Maschino

Dallas Mayor Hires New Coronavirus Czar

There's reopening and then there's reopening, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson told reporters Tuesday afternoon. It's one thing for businesses and other public facilities to be open. It's another for Dallas residents to have the confidence to use them. Dallas' economy, in traction thanks to COVID-19, won't get going again until the city's residents make it so.

"The economy will not be reopened by legislative fiat," Johnson said. "(No politician) can, by simply saying the economy is open, make people feel comfortable enough to actually go back into that economy and participate in it."

One of the biggest things the city can do to inspire that confidence, Johnson says, is providing better access to COVID-19 testing and related healthcare throughout the city. The city is not doing enough to test its residents, the mayor said, alluding to the failure of the federal government to get tests to Texas' cities.

"We are where we are, and we know we aren't where we need to be," Johnson said. "Regardless, we've been grateful for the federal and state support we've received so far, and we appreciate the support of Dallas County, our contracted health authority."

In order to expand testing to those who might not be able to get to one of the city's two major drive-thru sites, the city is providing 300 tests per day to Parkland Hospital's mobile clinic to perform tests at sites the city deems high-risk locations, like nursing homes.

Johnson also announced Tuesday that's he's appointing a citywide coronavirus czar to make sure the virus is dealt with equitably throughout the city and improve healthcare access.

"Anything that shows a disparity in the impact of the disease we want to get out there and in front of so we can address it," the mayor said.

The czar, Dr. Kelvin Baggett, previously practiced medicine but is now the managing director of Posterity Capital Group, a private equity firm focused on healthcare. Baggett is expected to help the city collect and analyze data related to COVID-19 and recommend ways for the city to mitigate the effects of the virus.

“I am honored that Mayor Johnson has asked me to fill this vital role, and I am gratified that I have this opportunity to use my skills and background to serve my community during this difficult time,” Baggett said. “This integrated and collaborative approach to how we deliver care and services will help Dallas rebound quicker economically and maintain our public health for the future.”

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