Coronavirus News

Dallas County imposes 'shelter in place' to prevent COVID-19 spread

Dallas County imposes 'shelter in place' to prevent COVID-19 spread

Family coming out of house
Dallas County has seen nearly double the number of coronavirus cases in the past 48 hours. Photo courtesy of Texas Health Resources

UPDATE 4-21-2020: The Dallas County Commissioner's Court voted to extend the stay-at-home order until May 15, reserving the option to reduce or extend depending on cases.

UPDATE 4-3-2020: The Dallas County Commissioner's Court voted to extend the disaster declaration until May 20, and Judge Clay Jenkins extended the shelter-in-place order until April 20.

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Concerned about the rising number of COVID-19 cases in North Texas, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins executed an order requiring all individuals who live within Dallas County to shelter at their place of residence.

The order says that you can't leave your residence unless you are performing an "essential" activity such as getting food or medicine.

You can also go out for a walk, hike, or bike, as long as you observe the social distancing requirements of 6 feet or more.

It goes into effect at 11:59 pm on March 23, and is in effect until April 3, with the likelihood that it will be extended well through the end of April.

"The reason for that date is that April 3 is when my current authority expires, but I fully expect that authority will be extended for as long as it takes us to get through this crisis," he said.

Nearly all businesses will be closed other than those providing essential services including food, pet supplies, and health care items.

Exceptions include hospitals, media, essential government and infrastructure, and childcare services for employees who are performing essential duties.

Food operations are also exempt including supermarkets and restaurants, but restaurants can only do take-out or drive-thru.

Gatherings of any number are no longer allowed, other than family members within a household. Religious and worship services may only be provided by video and teleconference.

All elective medical, surgical, and dental procedures are prohibited.

Jenkins made the announcement at a press conference on March 22, when he said that the order was spurred by the dramatic increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

In Dallas County, the current number of cases is 131. On March 19, it was 74, and on March 20, it was 95 cases. There's also been a second death.

"Another person has died within the last 24 hours," Jenkins said. "We're headed to a point of no return, if we continue to dawdle."

Earlier in the day, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a ban on elective surgery and an initiative to increase the number of hospital beds in Texas, but stopped short of a statewide shelter in place, saying that he needed to consider all 254 counties in the state of Texas and not just the most populous areas like Dallas and Houston.

Jenkins said he wished a shelter-in-place rule could have been put into play statewide, and hoped other counties around North Texas would join Dallas County and initiate shelter-in-place orders, as well.

"I know what we must do, but with the powers at my disposal, I can't do it without all of you and I can't do it without at least our regional partners," he said. "I'm hopeful that they'll follow suit. I spoke to the Harris County judge who is committed to doing the same, and hopefully the Governor will reconsider. The DFW Hospital Council and many others have implored him before the press conference today that this is larger than Dallas County."

Philip Huang, director at Dallas County Health and Human Services, said that if Dallas continued to follow its current program of social distancing, then the county would reach a critical overload of cases on or about April 28.

According to his order, "essential" retail options include grocery stores, warehouse stores, big-box stores, bodegas, liquor stores, gas stations, convenience stores, and farmers' markets that sell food products and household staples.

Also farming, fishing, and livestock; businesses like Amazon that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences; restaurants, but only for delivery or carry out; schools that feed students, but only via pick-up take-out; laundromats and dry cleaners; gas stations, auto supply stores, auto and bicycle repair, and hardware stores; and businesses that supply products for working at home.

On March 21, Dallas County shut down bars, arcades, bowling alleys, theaters, gyms, fitness centers, gymnastics studios, and martial arts studios.

Non-essential services such as massage parlors, nail salons, hair salons, barber shops, beauty salons, hair removal services, spas, tattoo, and piercing parlors were also closed.

There is also a new limit on how much toilet paper Dallas County residents can buy at one time: Either 12 rolls of toilet paper, or one package, if it contains more than 12 rolls. It's in effect for two weeks, until supply catches up with the artificial demand.

"It's a surreal time that we live in when I'm having a press conference and I'm spending a lot of time on toilet paper, but there's not a supply chain problem with the toilet paper," Jenkins said. "Folks, we are the problem with the toilet paper. When I say 'we,' I mean shoppers are the problem with the toilet paper."