Dallas County will be under a “shelter-in-place” order starting at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 23 through April 3. It is the first county in Texas to enact this measure.
County Judge Clay Jenkins announced the order during a press conference on Sunday. No meeting of the Dallas County Commissioners took place before the order was announced.
“This order is our best chance to flatten the curve here in Dallas County and save as many lives as possible,” Jenkins said.
He continued, “I know there will be economic hardship and business closures with this order, and it makes me sick that we are at this point.”
As of Sunday, there were 131 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Dallas County and two deaths attributed to the virus according to the Dallas County website. Dallas County has a population of over 2.6 million.
To explain his decision, Jenkins utilized a graph and statistics from Covid Act Now, a private organization, showing high infection rates and fatality rates unless a “shelter in place” order was enacted. Jenkins did not present any models from state or federal agencies.
The graph showed that the county could achieve virtually no cases of COVID-19 with a 3-month shelter-in-place order. The goal of the order, according to Jenkins, is to avoid overrunning hospitals.
The projections from Covid Act Now have admitted limitations, including being based on outdated hospital bed counts, not being adjusted for such factors as population density and interactions within different cultures. The website also states that “interventions should be targeted primarily at those most likely to spread the disease.”
The order requires residents to shelter in their homes and only leave for things defined as essential activities, essential government functions, or to operate essential businesses.
Dallas County residents can leave home to obtain necessary supplies like groceries and medicine. Toilet paper purchases are limited to the greater of one package or twelve rolls.
Essential businesses that can remain open include grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, dry cleaners, and liquor stores. Restaurants may remain open to provide delivery or pick-up service. Child care facilities that provide care to children of those who work in essential businesses may remain open.
All public gatherings are prohibited. Churches and all places of worship are prohibited from meeting in person and may conduct on-line services only.
Dallas County residents may be outside to exercise, observing a six-foot social distance from others.
Jenkins said he had hoped Governor Abbott would issue a statewide shelter-in-place order on Sunday, however, Abbott declined to do so for the time being. Abbott cited the fact that over 200 counties in Texas have no official cases of the virus at this time.
Tarrant County Commissioners held an emergency meeting at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, but did not enact a shelter-in-place order at that time.
Harris County is expected to issue some form of shelter-in-place order today.
Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.