Update Friday: Dallas County Commissioners voted Friday to remove the penalty associated with the order to wear a face covering in Dallas County. Read more here.
Starting Saturday, people in Dallas County will be required to wear a cloth covering over their mouth and nose or risk facing a steep fine, this according to county officials who confirmed another 80 positive cases of COVID-19 on Thursday along with the deaths of seven more seniors, including three residents of long-term care facilities.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said that people visiting essential businesses, working in essential businesses or those riding public transportation will be required to have a piece of cloth covering their mouth and nose.
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"We must limit all unnecessary trips. Each trip carries some risk to you, your family and the public at large. To better protect you and our front line heroes, we are requiring all visitors to essential businesses, essential business employees and riders of public transportation to wear a cloth covering starting Saturday," Jenkins said in a prepared statement. "There are a lot more cars on the roads this week. That's a concern. If a few of us slack off on making good personal responsibility decisions we not only put public health at risk but are prolonging this for ourselves and everyone."
The county's amended Shelter in Place order said violations, which include the face coverings as of midnight Saturday, could be punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and/or jail time.
"Because an infected person can transmit the COVID-19 virus to others before showing any symptoms, the covering of a person’s nose and mouth is necessary to help slow the spread of the virus. Effective at 11:59 p.m. on April 17, 2020, to the greatest extent possible all persons over the age of two (2) shall wear some form of covering over their nose and mouth, such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandanna or handkerchief, when patronizing an Essential Business or using public transportation," the order said.
The penalty is consistent with those in other Texas cities and counties requiring facial coverings, including Travis County (Austin) and the city of Laredo where residents of both were warned of a possible $1,000 fine for non-compliance.
Despite the penalty being in the order, Jenkins, on Twitter Thursday afternoon, said he didn't expect to need enforcement of the amendment.
"I don’t contemplate the need for government enforcement of this requirement. Dallas County residents value the sacrifice of front line responders at essential businesses as well as their own health and public health," Jenkins said.
Jenkins' chief of staff said the person enforcing the order will need to have a discussion with anyone found not in compliance to determine if they have a legitimate reason for not wearing a covering.
Of the latest seven victims, the county said six were residents of Dallas and one was a resident of Garland. Three of the victims were residents of long-term care facilities. All of the victims had been critically ill, though it's not known if they suffered from any underlying health conditions. The victims ranged in age from their 60s to their 80s. No further information about the victims was released.
County officials didn't provide any details on the locations of the 80 new cases -- that information will be released in an aggregate report on Friday. The total number of confirmed cases in Dallas County is now 2,066.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.