Going out for a cocktail is about to be off the table: The city of Dallas is closing all bars, as well as gyms, health clubs, and other venues that accommodate large groups.
Restaurants can stay open but for drive-through and take-out only.
The measures are effective at 11:59 pm on Monday, March 16, and last for seven days. The Dallas City Council will vote at a special meeting on March 18 on whether to extend it beyond the seven days.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson announced the closures at a press conference on March 16, stating that it would be a painful process but was necessary to help mitigate the coronavirus.
"We have another case in Dallas and in the days ahead we’ll have more such cases, and we must take action," Johnson said. "The fight against this disease will require some sacrifice."
"Dallas is ordering the closing of all bars, lounges, taverns, nightclubs, gyms and health clubs, theaters, and entertainment or amusement venues such as arcades and billiard halls," he said.
Restaurants will only be allowed to do drive-through delivery and takeout; dine-in service will be prohibited.
Theaters include both movie theaters and live performing venues.
Following the guideline set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, community gatherings will be restricted to no more than 50 people.
On March 16, Dallas County reported five new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total 19.
Some other states and cities have already enacted closures or limitations in service. Illinois and Ohio ordered all bars and restaurants to close, while California shut down bars, pubs, and wineries; restaurants can remain open but are required to reduce their capacities and guarantee social distancing. Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Boston, and New Jersey have also enacted restrictions on bars and restaurants.
Harris County, which encompasses Houston, also just announced a similar temporary closure which will last for 15 days.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said that Dallas was in a bad position because so many people are uninsured.
"Texas has a quarter of a million people without medical access — that puts us behind 37 other states, so we must act aggressively to have a chance to fight this," he said.
City manager TC Broadnax said that enforcement would be left to the Code Compliance department.
Johnson said that the decision was gut wrenching. "There's not a single person who hasn't sat around this table and thought about the residents and their health safety and welfare is the No. 1 priority of this city and our leaders here, and that's why this decision was made."
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said that he hoped that other counties in the area would support Dallas' initiative.
""We have the virus spread in not one but two places in Dallas County, and we have to act," Jenkins said. "But for these prohibitions to work, it can’t be where someone can drive half a mile outside of Dallas and congregate."