In a letter on Saturday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins asked Gov. Greg Abbott to enact a statewide shelter-in-place order as the county continues to see increasing numbers of reported COVID-19 cases.
Jenkins presented a variety of policies he believes would mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and asked Abbott to either implement the suggestions or allow local authorities to enact them.
“I made my peace early on during this crisis to always follow the science and our public health experts. I recommend that you enact these requirements statewide, or at the very least, regionally,” Jenkins said.
“If not, please rescind your prior order restricting local control and allow Dallas County to implement the above recommendations in an effort to slow the spread of the rampant and devastating COVID-19 virus.”
Among the county judge’s recommendations were mandatory “universal masking/physical distancing that is enforced with fines statewide or at least regionally,” a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, a prohibition on indoor dining at restaurants, the closure of any “social venues or activities” that are not able to strictly enforce coronavirus precautions, as well as other requirements.
Jenkins’ requests follow statements from Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council President Stephen Love indicating that hospital systems in North Texas are still capable of handling an influx of coronavirus patients.
“We want the people of North Texas to please not panic regarding the COVID-19 virus. The virus has created increased hospitalizations over the past two weeks, but we have capacity in North Texas in our hospitals,” Love said in a statement on Wednesday.
Hospital chief executive officers in the Houston area issued similar statements last Thursday, saying that the public should be educated but not alarmed about hospital systems’ capacities.
On Thursday, in an effort to free more hospital beds for coronavirus patients, Abbott temporarily banned medical procedures in Dallas, Harris, Bexar, and Travis counties unless they are “immediately, medically necessary.”
A similar order earlier in the pandemic caused 1,200 job losses in the Baylor, Scott & White Health hospital system.
Dallas County health officials reported 570 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death on Sunday.
While the number of reported cases is increasing in Dallas County and elsewhere across Texas, delays in reporting positive tests and deaths could be giving the impression that the virus is spreading more rapidly than it is.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages facial coverings, frequent hand washing, cleaning commonly used surfaces, avoiding large gatherings, and closely monitoring for coronavirus symptoms.
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Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan in Dallas. During the academic year, he coaches high school competitive speech and debate and has also been involved in community theater and politics. A native Texan, Hayden served as a delegate at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in 2016. He is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liberty University. In his free time, Hayden is known to take walks around the neighborhood while listening to random music on Spotify.