Dallas County judge says shelter in place could last 'months'

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he would need to see a “recommendation from the medical community” that it is safe to lift the shelter in place order. (Screenshot courtesy FOX 4 News)
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he would need to see a “recommendation from the medical community” that it is safe to lift the shelter in place order. (Screenshot courtesy FOX 4 News)

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he would need to see a “recommendation from the medical community” that it is safe to lift the shelter in place order. (Screenshot courtesy FOX 4 News)

Image description
Dr. Mark Casanova, president of the Dallas County Medical Society, said every scenario explored for a possible pandemic outbreak in North Texas dating back to 2005 always brought a similar recommendation of a stay-at-home order to shelter in place. (Screenshot courtesy FOX 4 News)
The order that Dallas County residents shelter in place beginning at 11:59 p.m. March 23 currently has no end date, according to the county's top official.

During a March 23 news conference about the order, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he would need to see a “recommendation from the medical community” that it is safe to lift the order.

“The estimate from the medical community is not two weeks, it’s months unfortunately,” Jenkins said. “I hope that turns out to be wrong.”

While Dallas County is currently the only one in North Texas to enact such an order, McKinney Mayor George Fuller said his city, along with all others in Collin County, will be announcing some form of a "shelter in place" requirement March 24.

“I suspect that very soon the rest of this region will likely be doing the same thing that we are doing,” Jenkins said.


Dallas County officials confirmed 24 additional cases of the novel coronavirus on March 23, bringing the total count to 155. The county also confirmed in a March 23 news release the county’s third and fourth deaths from COVID-19. The two men were Dallas residents in their 60s.

“The first job of government is to protect the safety of the people they serve,” Jenkins said. “Nothing else matters if we can’t keep you safe. That’s what we’ve got to focus on. And the job of this community is to come together with love for one another, do the right thing for yourself and your family and everyone else and help us to defeat this invisible enemy.”

Jenkins also addressed questions about exceptions to the shelter-in-place order during the news conference. He explained in addition to those who work at jobs classified as “an essential business,” county residents can care for a family member or pet in another household, engage in outdoor activities as long as they stay six feet away from other people, and can move to another residence either in or outside of Dallas County.

He listed government and emergency services as essential businesses, along with sanitation, utilities, health care facilities, pharmacies, substance abuse service providers, blood banks, mental health providers and anything in the food supply chain, but noted that was not an exhaustive list. Jenkins also classified schools as essential “only for the purpose of facilitating distance learning and performing essential functions” such as feeding people.

Child care, the county judge explained, is only essential for those working at essential businesses.

“If you’re not in an essential business and you’re working from home, and I know it’s hard to do that with small children at your feet, [outside child care is not allowed],” Jenkins said. “What we’re trying to do is limit the groupings of people.”

Dr. Mark Casanova, president of the Dallas County Medical Society, addressed concerns that the shelter-in-place order could be viewed an overreaction on the county’s part. Casanova said during the news conference that every scenario explored for a possible pandemic outbreak in North Texas dating back to 2005 always brought a similar recommendation to shelter in place.

“What we need in this fight is space,” Casanova said. “Treating a viral illness and managing a pandemic, while they seem very similar, are in fact two different things.”

Casanova explained the data being assessed in North Texas is really five to seven days behind the curve.

“The analogy I would use is dominoes are falling behind us, and I’m hearing them over our left shoulder about two dominoes back,” Casanova said. “If we can stay at home and stay safe, we can remove one [or]—God willing—two dominoes and provide us the protection we need to more effectively handle this on a population basis but then also more effectively care for the patients who are becoming critically ill and entering our hospital systems as we speak.”

Casanova also said that without the shelter-in-place order, many hospitals “run the risk of exhausting appropriate protective equipment by mid-April.”

The shelter-in-place order can help change those numbers, he said.

“We hope that others will look at this and look at those that are two steps ahead of us and understand that if we can just remove those dominoes, we stand a chance to really make a meaningful impact,” Casanova said. “There is hope, and there is room for positivity here.”

Dr. Philip Huang, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, also showed a chart with the projected spread of the virus to 40% of the population twithout the shelter in place order. That chart showed such a spread could lead to a shortage of thousands of hospital beds in Dallas County. A shelter in place order, meanwhile, would give the current facilities the ability to handle the number of patients needing to be hospitalized.
By William C. Wadsack
William C. Wadsack is editor of the Frisco edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He previously served as managing editor of several daily and weekly publications in North Texas and his native state of Louisiana before joining Community Impact Newspaper in 2019.


MOST RECENT

As of Nov. 30, patients confirmed to have COVID-19 filled 16.1% of hospital beds in Trauma Service Area E, which includes Collin, Denton, Tarrant and Dallas counties among others. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
North Texas hovers above key COVID-19 hospitalization threshold as further restrictions loom

North Texas businesses could face additional restrictions—including the closure of some bars—if area hospitals do not see a reversal in the number of COVID-19 patients within a matter of days.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for the state Nov. 23 for a vaccine he said could be available as soon as December. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announces COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan

The vaccine could start being distributed "as early as next month," according to a Nov. 23 news release.

Laura Colangelo
Q&A: Laura Colangelo discusses challenges facing private schools during pandemic

Colangelo said private schools have adapted to remote learning and other obstacles in 2020 despite less revenue and a 9% decline in enrollment statewide.

Schools now have the power to temporarily suspend on-campus instruction if “a significant number of the instructional staff at the campus is impacted due to a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak." (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas Education Agency authorizes schools to close doors for 14 days due to coronavirus-related staffing concerns

Campuses can now instate a hybrid or fully remote instruction model for up to 14 days if adequate instructional staffing is not possible due to high numbers of COVID-19 cases among employees.

Over 60 elected representatives in Texas have written the Texas Education Agency to request the state cancel STAAR testing for the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas state representatives call for cancellation of STAAR test administration for 2020-21 school year

Over 60 state representatives have requested that the Texas Education Agency cancel the STAAR test for the 2020-21 school year.

The approved plan involves a hybrid concept that balances the need to maintain high-ridership routes with providing adequate coverage.. (Courtesy DART)
DART board, committee approve hybrid approach to bus network redesign

The approved plan involves a hybrid concept that balances the need to maintain high-ridership routes with providing adequate coverage.

The free drive-thru COVID-19 saliva testing site operating in Frisco is now located at the northwest corner of Technology Drive and World Cup Way. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Free COVID-19 testing site in Frisco moves to Toyota Stadium

The state relocated the free drive-thru COVID-19 saliva testing site operating in Frisco to Toyota Stadium’s Corolla Red Lot on Nov. 2.

The Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas offers assistance to low-income residents in 114 counties in North and West Texas, including Collin, Denton, Tarrant and Dallas counties. (Chase Autin/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legal aids see increased need from North Texans following coronavirus pandemic

The Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas offers assistance to low-income residents in 114 counties in North and West Texas, including Collin, Denton, Tarrant and Dallas counties.

The Lab.ms is set to open in Richardson's Innovation Quarter on Dec. 1. (Courtesy The Lab.ms)
New maker space opens in Richardson and more DFW-area updates

Here are some of the most recent business and event updates from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Less than a week ahead of the Nov. 3 Election Day, Cihan Varol, an associate professor with Sam Houston State University's Cyber Forensics Intelligence Center, shared insight on foreign election hacking and what it means for voters. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Q&A: Sam Houston State University cyber forensics intelligence expert talks foreign election hacking ahead of Nov. 3

"There is a very slim chance that the hackers can change vote count, but they can definitely influence people to believe that they did manipulate it," Cihan Varol said. "If election fraud is going to happen, it'll be because of disinformation."

Face coverings are not required for those entering polling places in Texas during the general election. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
UPDATED: U.S. appeals court pauses decision voiding face covering exemption at polling places

The court temporarily stayed a district judge's decision to void an exemption to Gov. Greg Abbott's statewide face covering order concerning polling places.