Q&A: What stay-at-home orders mean for Tarrant County and Denton County residents

Stay-at-home orders were issued by Tarrant County and Denton County officials in an attempt to reduce social contact and limit the strain on the local health care system. (Courtesy Adobe Stock/Community Impact Newspaper)
Stay-at-home orders were issued by Tarrant County and Denton County officials in an attempt to reduce social contact and limit the strain on the local health care system. (Courtesy Adobe Stock/Community Impact Newspaper)

Stay-at-home orders were issued by Tarrant County and Denton County officials in an attempt to reduce social contact and limit the strain on the local health care system. (Courtesy Adobe Stock/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Since March 25, residents of Tarrant County and Denton County have been under restrictions, which were put in place by local governments to keep people home to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

A stay-at-home order was issued by Tarrant County and Denton County officials in an attempt to reduce social contact and limit the strain on the local health care system.

Tarrant County currently has 5,300 hospital beds, and 85% of those are full at any given time, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said. Without increased restrictions, the number of hospital patients could climb to 12,000, she said.

"We're telling businesses, 'If you can, work from home or work virtually,'" Price said. "Everyone else should stay at home."

For additional questions about stay-at-home orders, readers can reach out to Community Impact Newspaper editorial staff via social media or at ipribanic@communityimpact.com. Full text of the Tarrant County order can be found here and the Denton County order here.

What is a stay-at-home order?

Stay-at-home orders were put in place by Tarrant County, Denton County and the city of Fort Worth with the intent to reduce physical contact between local residents. Each jurisdiction previously limited social gatherings to no more than 10 people, and each was asking companies to allow employees to work from home. Currently, all social gatherings are prohibited unless inside a single household, and all companies must have employees stay home unless the business meets specific criteria to be deemed "essential."

How long will the order last?

Denton County Commissioners Court voted March 27 on a revised disaster declaration due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The renewed declaration will last through March 31. Commissioners have another meeting scheduled that day to consider whether to extend the declaration further.

During a March 24 press conference, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, along with Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams, announced a stay-at-home order for Tarrant County. The order applies to residents of Tarrant County and will remain in effect until April 7.

For which activities can I leave my home?

Stay-at-home orders in Tarrant County and Denton County outline essential activities for which residents can leave home, including getting supplies or services from essential businesses and outdoor activities, such as exercise or walking a pet. Other essential activities include providing care for a family member or pet in another household; tasks that are essential to an individual’s health and safety, such as medical appointments or obtaining medicine; and performing work that provides essential products and services at an essential business.

Which retail businesses are still open?

The orders in place dictate which businesses and services are eligible to remain open given new social distancing guidelines and limits on large gatherings. Those include essential retail, such as grocery and hardware stores; laundromats; gas stations; liquor stores; pharmacies and medical service providers; and restaurants that offer takeout or delivery services.

Will my trash still get picked up?

Stay-at-home orders define “critical infrastructure” as sanitation services and public works, both of which will remain in operation. Orders also exempt “essential government functions,” such as police, fire and emergency medical services.

Will my mail still get delivered?

According to the U.S. Postal Service website, mail delivery is considered an essential service, as it can provide critical items, such as medication and Social Security checks, and therefore, service will continue.

How does this affect transportation?

Local public transit agency Trinity Metro announced March 26 a campaign to “minimize the amount of contact” between customers and employees. The agency is now offering free rides on all Trinity Metro buses as well as on ACCESS Paratransit and TEXRail routes. The agency is asking customers to assist in social distancing procedures by boarding and exiting all buses through the rear door. Passengers who are wheelchair-bound can utilize an access ramp at the front of the bus.

What other local services will remain open during the order?

Other business and government services classified as essential include child care services for employees still required to go to work; in-home care and caregiving services; trade service providers, such as plumbers and electricians; hotel and lodging facilities that practice social distancing standards; and news media.

How will local schools be impacted by the order?

Prior to the issuing of stay-at-home orders, Keller ISD, Northwest ISD and other area school districts extended spring breaks, finalized plans for distance learning and administered instructional enrichment. School districts have since announced online learning platforms. Officials with Keller ISD and Northwest ISD confirmed March 27 schools would remain closed to on-campus learning through at least April 17.
By Ian Pribanic
Ian Pribanic covers city government, transportation, business and education news for Community Impact Newspaper in the Keller-Roanoke-Northeast Fort Worth areas. A Washington D.C. native and University of North Texas graduate, Ian was previously an editor for papers in Oklahoma, West Texas and for Community Impact in New Braunfels.


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