Dallas County residents are ordered to shelter in their place of residence from 11:59 p.m. March 23 through April 3 in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
"This order is our best chance to flatten the curve here in Dallas County and save as many lives as possible," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said during a news conference March 22. "I know there will be economic hardship and business closures with this order, and it makes me sick that we are at this point."
Flattening the curve refers to minimizing the infection rate of the virus through similar shelter-in-place orders to avoid the inundation of hospitals, Jenkins said.
The order generally bars all public or private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside of one's residence. Exceptions include essential business operations and government work. The order also stresses people to continue to maintain a minimum 6-foot distance from others.
Essential functions include health care work, essential critical infrastructure work, and operations that support residences and other businesses. Providing essential retail services and providing aid to lower-income communities are also allowed, according to the order.
Religious gatherings are also ordered to be conducted only via video and teleconference. Bars, lounges, salons and other similar business are ordered to close. Restaurants may provide delivery and takeout services but must close their dining rooms.
Individuals should refrain from leaving their homes, unless for gathering groceries or essential medical supplies, according to the order. Working from home is permitted.
Jenkins' order applies only to residents who live in Dallas County. He said he is hoping this decision will influence some of the surrounding counties to take similar measures.
"There’s 2.7 million people in Dallas County, but there’s 7.6 million people in the metroplex,” Jenkins said. “This is going to spread across the state, and a month from now, ... nobody is going to be saying, ‘Thank God I was able to go to work for one extra two weeks.’"
Dallas County reported 36 additional cases of coronavirus on March 22, bringing the countywide total to 131. Statewide, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases totals more than 330, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services website.
Gov. Greg Abbott took multiple measures March 22 designed to expand hospital staffing and capacity in the state but declined to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order—even as calls for such an action increased as the new coronavirus continued to spread across the state.
"What ... may be right for places like the large urban areas may not be right at this particular point of time for the more than 200 counties that have zero cases of COVID-19,” Abbott said in a March 22 Texas Tribune report.
Jenkins said during his news conference that he is encouraging the governor to make a statewide shelter-in-place order.
"I appreciate the difficult situation [the governor] is in, but I really believe it is imperative that this [order] is larger than Dallas County. I would implore him to reconsider."
Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang said during the county news conference that a statewide shelter-in-place order could prevent hundreds of thousands of cases.
“With the current social distancing, [there would be] about 430,000 deaths in Texas,” he said. “However, then with the shelter-in-place, [there would be] about 5,000 deaths in Texas.”