I live in the north central area of Texas, specifically in the northern sections of the city of Fort Worth. I am in private practice as a Family Therapist and my wife is a public school teacher, teaching 1st grade. We have a daughter in university in Texas and one in graduate school in Boston.

This interview was conducted in April 2021.

  • Schools – Returned Hybrid Fall 2020; No date for return to full in-person
  • Masks – No state mandate; still 90% or more mask wearing. We live on a park and 40-50% of people in park wear masks
  • Religious gatherings – mix of online and in-person. No restrictions on numbers; Some churches are self-imposing restrictions.
  • Restaurants / Bars – No restrictions for capacity; most eating establishments still strongly request masks for entry
  • Movie Theaters – Limited showings per screen per day; Screens open for private rental

Schools

When the pandemic started, local school districts went completely virtual and remained that way for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

For the fall of 2020 local school districts started with a hybrid model. Parents were allowed to choose between in-person and online. The split seemed to be one third online and two thirds in person. Each grading period parents were given the choice to change their instruction model. Over the year there has been as steady return to in-person instruction with classroom sizes growing. My wife’s current 1st grade room has 19 children (she started the year with 12) and her normal room each year would have 19-21.

Instruction has been mostly on a five day week. But mid-year the district adopted several “asynchronous” days of instruction. This meant about every other Friday for the remainder of the year kids stayed home and teachers offered online learning experiences. This has lead to several “long weekends’ for families. There are no asynchronous days in May due to state testing. Texas has chosen to keep standardized testing in place.

I am very familiar with elementary restrictions. Students and teachers are required to wear masks everyday. Though mid-year the district changed policy to allow kindergarten and 1st grade students to have exceptions and not wear masks if they are at their desk and at recess. They have to have a mask to move around the classroom and school. All desks are separated by six feet and have shields installed. Children are not allowed on playground equipment for recess. Any equipment such as balls or hula hoops that are used during recess cannot be shared and have to be cleaned each day. Children eat breakfast and lunch in their classrooms. Starting April 1st there will be limited use of playground equipment (small groups taking turns) during recess. They will still be able to play without masks.

Cases in elementary schools have been low with minimal spread being traced to on campus. Most cases in elementary have been readily traced to exposure through family members. My wife’s campus have not had any cases transmitted on campus. They are a K-4th campus with approximately 600 students. There are four high schools in the district. One high school shut down for an entire campus quarantine after a large outbreak among student athletes. That occurred in the first nine weeks of school. There have been far more cases, and quarantines at the older ages of students.

There has been a district dashboard that has been relatively accurate in reporting cases. There has been lots of engagement from the community at school board meetings. The pressure to fully open or have a 100% online school have been present at all meetings.

Religious Gatherings

We attend a large “mega-church” of over 5000 members. Our church shut down within the first weekend of the pandemic. Online services were the only option offered until September 2020. When in-person services were offered in September there were restrictions on seating, ushers kept spacing between rows and asked people to leave seats open between family groups. Masks were required to attend and online services continued to be offered. Attendance is currently at 40% normal levels and increasing each week. There are not plans to have a formal “Welcome back” weekend but to have a season of welcoming people back as they are ready to return. Social pressure to come back has been minimal to none.

Our leadership in church was adamant that wearing masks was a part of “loving our neighbor”. Though this was not likely the sentiment among some others in our church denominations. So mask wearing was a small issue among members, though I know leadership has received some pushback.

After our church had returned to limited in-person services there was a weekend that the pastor and his wife had tested positive for COVID. They had minimal to no symptoms but were home on quarantine. The decision was made for the production team to set up equipment in his garage and he stepped into the empty garage for three services and preached his sermon on a live-stream from an empty garage with the production team sitting outside during his quarantine.

The thing I observed was that the pivot to online services created some opportunity for new things. Before our daughter headed to Boston for graduate school she interned with our church in their audio-visual production department. She was intimately involved in the production of online services and any other productions. One thing that was offered was an online daily stream of a brief devotional (30 minutes or less) offered by any number of church staff and leaders. It became an encouragement early in the pandemic for many stuck at home to have connection with familiar faces and not have to wait until Sundays. This production was intensive and eventually was stopped in late summer but there is a large number of neat and encouraging spiritual videos out there on YouTube.

Interesting fact budget wise is that our church has not suffered due to the pandemic. I am not sure that is true across the board.

Movie Theaters

Theaters were allowed to open in August 2020 in the state of Texas. Locally there are two large theaters within a 15 minute drive of my house. One closed permanently and the other part of the Cinemark chain has survived. Looking at the schedule online it appears they have 1-2 showings per day/per screen. They are required to do a disinfecting of the entire theater between showings.

They rent private showings each day for up to 20 guests per screen and the rate is $149 per showing. This appears to match your GA and Seattle comparison. I made attempts to contact a manager several times with no luck currently.

Other observations

In public mask wearing is far above 98% compliance. Minimal times have I felt people were blatantly flaunting mask rules even after the governor has lifted mask restrictions in Texas. I have not seen a significant reduction in the amount of masks at grocery stores or other public places. We were at the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens last weekend (all outside obviously) and I did not see any non mask wearers.

Vaccines

As a healthcare worker I got may Moderna vaccine in January/Feb. Minimal symptoms.

Getting my wife vaccinated as a teacher has had more hoops. When teachers were included in early March getting her signed up seemed to have more hoop and there was a rush of reports on social media of so many people being vaccinated that it felt bad that we could not secure her an appointment. She eventually got her first Pfizer shot three weeks ago. Minimal reactions but she did get a return of bad arm soreness a week after the shot.

Youngest daughter in Lubbock heard they opened up shots for anyone over 18 last week. She signed up and had a first round Moderna shot the next day. Oldest daughter in Boston is on the registration but wait list in Boston. She is obviously very frustrated.

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