Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins on Sunday issued an order requiring county residents to shelter in place.
The order takes effect at 11:59 p.m. March 23 and continues until 11:59 p.m. April 3, with the likelihood of being extended.
“I know there will be economic hardship and business closures with this order and it makes me sick that we are at this point,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said.
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The restrictions are the tightest in North Texas in a desperate effort to drastically reduce the number of new coronavirus cases.
It came the same day the county announced two more deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. The county has reported three deaths and 131 cases.
“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.
The order states people may leave their residences only for essential activities — including to get supplies for themselves and their families or perform tasks essential to their health and safety and that of others — or to operate essential businesses, such as healthcare, critical infrastructure and retail, including grocery stores.
A detailed list of what qualifies as "essential activities" and "essential business" is included in the document below:
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Businesses not outlined in the essential businesses section may continue to operate as long as employees or contractors work from home.
People may continue to get take-out, delivery or drive-thru services from restaurants, micro-breweries, micro-distilleries and wineries, according to the order.
The order does permit people to do activities, such as walking, biking, hiking or running, outdoors as long as people maintain social distancing requirements.
"I want you to think about the sacrifice of the greatest generation and the level of selflessness and determination to protecting one another that they had and I want you to make that your guidepost," Jenkins said. "I want you to be gracious to one another, but when you see people that are way too close together, you see people out in public who aren't following this, nicely remind them by saying, 'six feet.' "
Jenkins and Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang displayed two graphics from Covid Act Now — one showing the impact of social distancing and sheltering in place efforts along with the number of hospital beds, and another with predictive outcomes after three months if those measures are taken.
Jenkins said this is why they are calling on the North Texas business community to create ventilators and personal protective equipment.
"There's not much good news or easy choices in this," Jenkins said. "God willing, [safer at home measures] and a mass production of ventilators will keep us from the specter of rationing care."
It’s a sacrifice he says is for the greater good.
“A month from now, a week from now, two weeks from now, nobody is going to be saying thank God I was able to go to work for an extra two weeks. They’re going to be saying I wish my community had acted sooner,” says Jenkins.
Earlier Sunday, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, along with executives from Medical City Health Care, Texas Health Resources, DFW International Airport, Parkland Health and Hospital System and the Dallas County Medical Society sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott requesting that he consider issuing a mandatory shelter-in-place order for the state.
The letter also stated that, at a minimum, Abbott recommend "safer at home" directives.
In a statement after Jenkins' news conference, Johnson said that he thinks the "disease does not respect political boundaries" and that a statewide or regional approach would be the best way to defeat the pandemic.
"While this approach likely means our city will experience economic difficulties, our top priority is public health, and it’s vitally important that we take the steps necessary to save lives and prevent strain on our healthcare system," Johnson said.
At a news conference Sunday afternoon, Abbott declined to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order, saying that more time was needed to gauge the level of effectiveness of the executive order he issued Friday.
In a statement by Johnson that was read Sunday night at a teleconference of the city's Ad Hoc Committee on COVID-19 Human and Social Recovery and Assistance, he tasked the committee with minimizing the impact on the resident's quality of life, particularly the homeless, seniors and other vulnerable populations.
"This is also the time to begin laying the groundwork for our complete recovery from COVID-19," the statement said.
On Saturday, Judge Clay Jenkins amended a previous order issued Monday to prohibit all medical, surgical and dental procedures deemed to be elective by healthcare professionals.
It also placed a limit on toilet paper sales — 12 rolls or one package, whichever is greater — until the supply chain meets demands.