Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has extended the county-wide shelter-in-place order to April 30. The order, meant to help halt the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, went into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23. It was originally set to expire April 3.
“The goal of this order is never to exceed our hospital capacity and to minimize the catastrophic outcomes we are seeing in other countries because they waited too long,” Jenkins said during a March 22 press conference. In the hours before the press conference, the county recorded two more deaths caused by COVID-19, according to NBC DFW.
Under the order, Dallas County residents are only permitted to leave their homes for essential activities such as work (if they work at an essential business), grocery shopping, vital health care appointments and exercise, all while complying with social distancing guidelines.
Liliana Menjivar Cruz, Brookhaven College Student Government Association public relations officer, said she feels the shelter-in-place order is necessary. “I feel like this will allow officials to get to the root of the problem quicker. The sooner people take this seriously the sooner this pandemic will be over. With that being said, I do believe that it will help flatten the curve,” she said.
Only essential businesses, such as health care providers and crucial retailers, are to remain open while the order is in place. “We have to eat, we have to have food, so your grocery stores will stay open,” Jenkins said.
Religious worship ceremonies have been limited to video or teleconferencing and churches are required to limit their staff to 10 people or less when conducting services under the order. However, public transportation such as DART will continue to run, albeit less often and with transit center waiting areas closed. DART recommended that riders maintain a six-foot distance from fellow riders and DART operators and to leave an open seat between themselves and other riders when possible.
During the announcement, Jenkins urged people to stay home if they are not participating in essential activities. He said: “We have seen deaths in Dallas County and we announced one this Sunday morning – another person has died in a few hours. We must act swiftly.”
Jenkins said he knows there are tough times ahead for businesses that are not considered essential. “I know there will be economic hardship and business closures with this order and it makes me sick that we are at this point,” he said.
The Dallas order came after Gov. Greg Abbott declined to issue a similar order covering the entire state, according to The Texas Tribune. Abbott suggested local officials take more restrictive action if necessary, adding that many counties had not reported any confirmed cases of the coronavirus. “What may be right for places like the large urban areas may not be right at this particular point in time for the more than 200 counties that have zero cases of COVID-19,” Abbott said.
After Dallas County issued the order, several counties followed its lead, including Tarrant, Collin and Denton Counties.