Dallas County orders shelter-in-place for residents
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a countywide shelter-in-place order on Sunday, marking the most expansive action yet from a Texas official to combat the new coronavirus continuing to spread across the state.
The "Stay Home Stay Safe" order, effective as of 11:59 p.m. on March 23, will continue through April 3. And it comes hours after Gov. Greg Abbott declined to issue a statewide shelter-in-place, though the state's top elected official noted he would applaud local leaders if they decided to take more sweeping actions for their jurisdictions.
Jenkins said he expected his authority to keep the order in place would extend beyond April 3, if necessary. He said that if Abbott issues a statewide order, the number of deaths would be reduced from more than 400,000 to about 5,000 over a three month period.
Dallas County's order is intended to keep hospitals from exceeding their capacity of COVID-19 patients and to "minimize the catastrophic outcomes" seen in other countries, Jenkins said at a press conference Sunday.
"We are headed to a point of no return if we continue to dawdle," he said. "This is larger than Dallas County, so I implore [Abbott] to reconsider" a statewide order.
Jenkins' order allows for people to leave their homes for outdoor walks, getting necessary items like medicine and groceries, and to care for sick relatives, but otherwise must stay in their households. Businesses that do not provide essential services cannot continue to operate from their facilities, and instead employees must work from home, if possible.
"All individuals currently living within Dallas County are ordered to shelter at their place of residence," the order reads. "For the purposes of this Order, residences include hotels, motels, shared rentals, and similar facilities.
To the extent individuals are using shared or outdoor spaces, they must at all times as reasonably as possible maintain social distancing of at least six feet from any other person when they are outside their residence."
Essential businesses, including hospitals, senior residential centers and childcare for those employees, may continue in-person operations.
They are still required to keep six feet of distance among employees and with members of the public, if necessary. As Texans continue to clear grocery stores of hand sanitizer and food, Jenkins stressed that grocery stores will continue to be open and accessible.
Dallas County is believed to have been the most affected area of the state for the coronavirus. Local health officials reported that 131 county residents have tested positive as of Sunday morning.
The Texas State Department of Health Services reported 30 cases there as of noon Sunday. Abbott said that the state's numbers do not include "presumed positive" cases as an explanation for why DSHS' daily figures of positive cases in Texas have consistently lagged other disclosures and reports.