Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, along with Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams, announced during a March 24 press conference a stay-at-home order for Tarrant County.
This order applies to residents of Tarrant County and will remain in effect until April 7.
With the order, all businesses operating in Tarrant County that are deemed nonessential are required to close to the public. These businesses may continue minimum basic operations as long as social distancing is maintained between all employees and contractors. Restaurants, breweries and wineries are still able to function with only drive-thru, takeout, delivery, drive-in or drive-thru services, per the executive order. People who are not on the essential workers list are ordered to work virtually if they can and stay at home, the order said. Essential businesses include hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, food service providers and gas stations. A full list of types of essential workers can be found on Page 3 at this link.
All public and private gatherings of any number of people outside of a single household are prohibited, with a few exceptions, such as weddings and funerals, Tarrant County commissioners said during a March 24 meeting. All elective medical, surgical and dental work is prohibited in the county, according to the executive order. Nonessential visitors to nursing homes are also prohibited.
Price said Tarrant County residents will still be able make runs to grocery stores and pharmacies and go out for essential items but are encouraged to keep a 6-foot distance from others.
“This is to get you who are suffering from lack of work back to work quicker,” Price said. “These are tighter restrictions. There are to be no gatherings of any kind.”
Southlake Mayor Laura Hill described the order as a "tool" to help protect the public's health.
“The city’s Office of Emergency Management has prepared for this possibility, and now that it’s reality, the city will move forward on supporting the order,” Southlake Assistant City Manager Alison Ortowski said.
Robert Earley, the CEO of John Peter Smith Hospital, said he agrees with the mandate and that it is what the doctors and nurses he works with are telling people to do.
“They are telling everyone to stay away,” he said.
Tarrant County currently has 54 active COVID-19 cases. Three are in Colleyville; one is in Grapevine; four are in Southlake; two are in Keller; and 18 are in Fort Worth. There have been one death and two recovered cases of the disease countywide.
Texas 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.