As evacuation orders go into effect along the coast, two North Texas communities are preparing to provide shelter for those fleeing the storm.
Tuesday night, a reception center opened at 15515 E. Interstate 20 in Mesquite to receive evacuees arriving on state shuttle buses to assign them a place to stay.
With COVID-19 still spreading, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said rather than house those evacuees in shelters, they’ll place them in hotel rooms.
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County officials were still finalizing plans for which hotels would be used late Tuesday, but Jenkins said they’d contracted for 300 rooms initially that would be paid for by state funds.
"We are also involved in helping hundreds of families from the coast get refuge, meals and services here in Dallas County by placing them in hotels and providing them with services in their time of need. North Texans should be proud of their welcoming spirit and how the people of Dallas County always step up to help neighbors in need," said Dallas County officials in a news release Wednesday. "This will be done without an increased risk of infection to the community. The people fleeing Hurricane Laura are no more likely to have COVID-19 than members of the general population anywhere in Texas, and the services that we provide to them, including COVID-19 testing, will be done from our excess capacity so no one in Dallas County will be denied a COVID-19 test or services due to the services being provided to our neighbors to from the Texas coast."
Meals will be delivered to evacuees in their rooms. And though they’ll be free to come and go, the county’s asking them to adhere to masking and distancing within the hotel and to avoid going to places where that can’t be done.
The county will also offer COVID-19 testing for evacuees with the hope that hosting Texans in need won’t contribute to the spread of the virus.
“We’re all working really hard to have a good medical plan around the people that we’re helping, so that’s certainly something we’re aware of and watching closely. But we believe we can do this in a way that’s safe, helps our fellow Texans and doesn’t pose any risk to you,” said Jenkins.
Ellis County’s reception center is at the Knights of Columbus at 850 South IH-45 in Ennis.