Details of the policy are almost identical to what Dallas County announced March 23; however, Richardson's order extends about a month longer than the county equivalent, which expires April 3. The mayor has the ability to lift the order at any time, Deputy City Manager Don Magner said. Because the mayor is only allowed to approve emergency declarations for up to a week at a time, extending the order until April 30 allows the city avoid to avoid weekly re-approvals, according to a March 24 statement from the city.
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. Restaurants may remain open for takeout and delivery services only.
The order also stresses that people continue to maintain a minimum 6-foot distance from others.
“We need people to take this separation to heart,” Magner said.
Many city employees will continue to go to work at City Hall and other municipal buildings, as government operations fall under the essential business category, City Manager Dan Johnson said. Staff is observing social distancing; however, Johnson said contingency plans, such as staggered shifts, are an option if necessary.
The announcement from Richardson comes before Collin County Commissioners Court is expected to issue a similar order at 10 a.m. March 24. Richardson residents who live north of Lookout Drive are citizens of Collin County.
Council Member Ken Hutchenrider, who is also the president of Methodist Richardson Medical Center, urged the community to not only stay home but also resist sharing inaccurate information.
“The health care community is working as hard and as fast as we can to care for everyone and figure out what this virus is, what it will do and how we will continue to mitigate it and move past this,” he said.
Richardson is also adopting Dallas County’s policy on toilet paper sales that limits each purchase to 12 rolls at a time. This is meant to discourage hoarding of essential items, Magner said.
“Maybe once we get a cue from other communities that things have leveled out, the mayor can change that [restriction],” Magner said.
Anyone who violates any aspect of the order is subject to a $1,000 per day fine, Magner said.
“As you can see, it would become quite costly,” he said.
The city is also committed to maintaining water and solid waste services regardless of a resident’s payment status, Magner said. Certain fees are also being waived, including those associated with business sign permits, penalties and interest on past-due hotel and motel tax payments, water and solid waste service fees, and community service fees, Magner said.
“I appreciate that the city is showing compassion in holding back on fines, evictions and late fees,” Council Member Bob Dubey said.
The order also gives authority to the mayor and the city manager to cancel City Council meetings without council approval, Magner said.
“We want to make sure we are only bringing people together for essential business,” he said.
Council voted unanimously to ratify the disaster declaration. It will remain in place until it is deactivated; however, certain aspects may be tweaked without issuing a new order, Magner said.
“There is an end, we know there is an end,” Hutchenrider said in closing. “I can’t tell you it’s tomorrow or the next day. But there is an end out there, and we have to come together as a community, shelter at home and check on each other.”