Every day in North Texas now looks like a quiet Christmas morning.
Southwest Airlines jets don’t circle downtown Dallas’ skyline as much as they did a few months ago. Central Expressway and the Dallas North Tollway are devoid of the usual rush hour traffic jams. Downtown streets don’t hustle and bustle during the workweek the way they did before governments urged everyone to stay home.
Even police and ambulance sirens are less frequent.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the Dallas-Fort Worth region in extraordinary ways and transformed the lives of the 7.7 million people who live here.
The cadence of daily life that creates routine and stability has been disrupted. The region’s favorite pastime — dining out — has been replaced by drive-through lines.
People are staying up later and listening to louder music. They’re cutting their own hair and bingeing on reality shows about exotic animal keepers. But data shows they’re also worried about their health and livelihoods.
Here are 13 data points demonstrating how coronavirus has upended North Texas.
42%Decrease in traffic congestionTraffic on Dallas’ High Five interchange was light around 4:50 p.m. on March 24, the day after a shelter-in-place order went into effect.(Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer)
Often gridlocked during rush hours, major highways across North Texas have been flowing freely.
During peak times, traffic congestion in Dallas-Fort Worth has decreased by as much as 42% compared with 2019 averages, according to the location technology company TomTom’s traffic index.
1.5 million Number of Texans receiving unemployment pay
The Texas Workforce Commission has processed more than 1.5 million claims for unemployment pay since March 15, even as other displaced workers couldn’t get through in swamped online and phone systems. That means more than 10% of all Texas workers have filed for jobless benefits in the last month.
The biggest job losses occurred in the restaurant sector, which was hit hard by government travel and recreation restrictions. The health care and retail sectors have also seen massive job losses.
The state has paid out about $1.4 billion in unemployment benefits so far.
The job-posting site Indeed reported a 34% decrease in listings in March, compared with the same month in 2019. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday that there were 481,000 job openings in the state at companies such as Amazon, Lockheed Martin and Baylor Scott & White.
688,000Estimated number of Texas restaurant employees who’ve lost their jobsGoldrush Cafe owner George Sanchez waited for customers on March 16 in Dallas. Restaurants’ business has cratered during the coronavirus pandemic.(Juan Figueroa / Staff photographer)
Although restaurants in Texas are allowed to be open for delivery and takeout, there aren’t enough shifts to go around or, in some cases, isn’t enough business to pay the bills. As a result, an estimated 688,000 restaurant workers in Texas have been laid off or furloughed, according to the Texas Restaurant Association.
From April 1 to April 10, restaurant owners reported an average decline in sales of 70%, according to the association.
230,809Number of Texas SNAP applications received in March
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program received 230,809 applications from Texans in March. That was up from 114,008 in March 2019, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
In Dallas County, there were 141,910 eligible cases last month, representing 315,048 people and totaling more than $36 million in SNAP payments.
The statewide shelter-in-place order didn’t start until the end of March, so the number of SNAP applications is likely to be higher in April.
58%Spike in popularity of “buzz cut” as a Google search phrase in Dallas-Fort Worth
With beauty salons and barbershops deemed nonessential and ordered to close, North Texans have had to take matters into their own hands — literally. From the weeks of March 22 to April 5, the popularity of the search term “buzz cut” increased 58%.
Similarly, from the weeks of March 15 to March 29, the popularity of the search term “home manicure” increased 37%.
North Texans are looking for crucial information, too. D-FW searches for “shelter in place” are up 2,600%, according to Google Trends.
People are also looking for information about financial insecurity. Searches are up 2,200% for “stimulus” and up ninefold for “Texas Workforce Commission,” the agency that handles unemployment claims.
It isn’t all serious, though. There have been major spikes in searches for Animal Crossing, a new Nintendo Switch video game, and Joe Exotic, the charismatic and controversial focal point of the Netflix documentary Tiger King.
19%Drop in crime in DallasDallas ISD police Officers Mylon Taylor (left) and Gary Pierre pushed a car that ran out of gas while waiting in line for a weekly school meal handout April 9. (LM Otero / AP)
The Dallas Police Department’s dispatch unit has seen a 19% decrease in crime during the first three weeks of April compared with figures a year ago. Arrests are down more than 17% and violent crime is down nearly 14%, according to Dallas police data.
However, family violence is up, a possible sign that government movement restrictions are taking a mental toll.
46% to 71%Drop in DART ridership for week of March 22
With so many North Texans working from home or not able to work, DART ridership has dropped significantly. For the week of March 22 — compared with the same time period last year — weekday bus ridership decreased by 46%, light-rail ridership dropped 58% and Trinity Railway Express ridership declined 71%, according to Dallas Area Rapid Transit.
Because of the decrease in ridership, DART has changed some of its weekday transit schedules.
196Months since gas was this cheapAn inflatable Easter Bunny in a protective mask grabbed attention at the Fuel City gas station near downtown Dallas on April 10.(Tom Fox / Staff Photographer)
December 2003 was the last time gasoline in Dallas was cheaper than the current $1.38 a gallon, according to the fuel-tracking site GasBuddy.com. That was 196 months ago.
A month ago, a gallon of gas cost an average of $1.82 in Dallas, according to the American Automobile Association.
But few people are driving enough to get much benefit from the historically low fuel prices. American drivers are using less fuel during the pandemic than they have in 50 years, according to the Oil Price Information Service.
22,374Tons of trash
That’s how much garbage the city of Dallas’ residential trash collectors picked up in March, a 14% increase over March 2019.
It doesn’t necessarily mean residents are making more trash. Businesses and apartment complexes use private companies for their garbage service. More likely, people have shifted some of their throwaways from the workplace to home.
But having many businesses closed has helped. McCommas Bluff Landfill took in just 135,000 tons of trash in March from Dallas and surrounding communities, a 10% decrease from March 2019.
39,000Searches for help on the North Texas Food Bank siteVolunteers Boone Eck (left) and Kyle Oliver of Fielder Road Baptist Church helped with a food distribution outside AT&T Stadium in Arlington on March 28. Arlington Charities, Fielder Road Baptist Church and Tarrant Area Food Bank volunteers loaded vehicles with weekend meals for Arlington ISD families. (Tom Fox / Staff Photographer)
Almost 40,000 people have searched on the North Texas Food Bank website for how to get food assistance as the economic toll from the COVID-19 pandemic has set in.
So far, the food bank and its partners have handed out more than 6 million pounds of food, serving 12,000 families through the bank’s mobile pantry.
The Texas National Guard is helping, with 250 members dispatched to work with the food bank starting April 6.
It’s a massive increase for the food bank. About half of those asking for help are people who’ve never needed food assistance before, said food bank spokeswoman Liana Solis.
50%Fewer passengers at Dallas Love FieldSecurity lines at Dallas Love Field were nearly empty on April 14.(Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer)
Dallas’ usually busy skies are quiet as airlines such as American and Southwest have slashed flight schedules.
Fewer than 705,000 people flew in and out of Dallas Love Field in March, a 50% drop from a year earlier. But that’s just the beginning of the decrease, since airline traffic has dropped considerably since then.
That’s the fewest passengers Love Field has seen since Wright Amendment restrictions ended in 2014 and Southwest Airlines was allowed to fly anywhere in the country from the airport.
Nationally, airport traffic numbers have fallen 95% to 97% compared with figures a year earlier, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
“We kind of feel like we are at the bottom,” said Mark Duebner, Love Field’s director of aviation. “The hard part we are all grappling with is, what does the return look like?”
Lately, only 1,500 people a day have been traveling through Love Field, Duebner said.
606Noise complaint calls to 911 during the first week of the shelter-in-place order
Weekly noise complaints in Dallas have more than doubled.
Dallas police typically receive fewer than 300 noise complaints a week, but in mid-March that number began to rise past 500, according to a Dallas Morning News analysis of 911 calls.
The week of March 22, the first week of the shelter-in-place order, Dallas residents made 606 calls related to noise.
341Animals fostered from Dallas Animal Services between mid-March and mid-April
As residents spend more time at home, many have volunteered to care for cats and dogs that normally would be at animal shelters.
From March 13 until the shelter-in-place order, 177 pets were fostered, compared with just 62 for the same period a year earlier. Since then, volunteers have continued to step up and over 300 animals were fostered by mid-April.
Dogs and cats up for adoption through Dallas Animal Services(Courtesy Dallas Animal Services)
Operation Kindness, a no-kill shelter in Carrollton, felt a sizable impact. In February, it received 26 foster applications — a typical number. Since asking the community to help foster pets in mid-March, it’s received 697 foster applications, which allowed it to clear the shelter of more than 200 pets. The exceptions were “medically fragile” animals that must stay on site for care.
The SPCA of Texas, which previously housed over 600 animals in its shelters, was able to reduce that number to 350 in just two weeks with help from fostering. On average, the SPCA of Texas has 159 animals in foster homes, but an increase in volunteers brought the number of animals being fostered to 284 by the end of March.
And here’s a hat tip to The New York Times for planting the seed for this look at how life has changed in North Texas.