Tarrant County issued a “stay at home” order Tuesday, for residents to only go out for essential services such as grocery stores and medical facilities, to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
The executive order, issued by County Judge Glen Whitley, goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and lasts until April 7. Residents who violate the order may face a fine up to $1,000 or jail time for a period not exceeding 180 days.
Cities in Tarrant County include Arlington, Azle, Fort Worth, Burleson, Colleyville, Grand Prairie, Mansfield and Southlake, among others.
Tarrant County has over 70 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with one related death and three recovered cases, according to the county website. Fort Worth leads the county with 24 cases and Arlington is second with 14 as of Tuesday.
All businesses except for essential business must remain closed to the public, according to the order. Nonessential businesses can continue operating, but only in minimum basic operations and must practice social distancing.
Essential businesses such as health care services, grocery stores, governmental operations, city infrastructure services and restaurants in delivery, takeout or drive-thru capacity can remain open, according to the order.
All public or private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household are prohibited, according to the order.
Whitley said as a small business owner himself, he knows how hard taking this action means to local businesses. However, he said he also knows the repercussions if action isn’t taken.
“No amount of economic activity is worth the loss of life,” he said.
Whitley said when everything is over, the Commissioners Court will do its part to help spur economic growth in the county. The health care challenges are more important and the consequences are serious, he said.
The people of Tarrant County will rise to the moment and by coming together, everyone can beat the virus, he said.
Arlington City Council approved a supporting ordinance Tuesday night at its meeting. The council met virtually, with Mayor Jeff Williams leading the meeting from the city briefing room.
The ordinance goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and is in effect until April 3.
City attorney Teris Solis said the ordinance requires Arlington residents to stay home unless for essential travel, activities or to provide governmental functions.
All businesses are to be closed except for essential ones, she said. Restaurants are still open, but only in delivery, takeout or drive-thru capacity. All elective medical, surgical and dental procedures are prohibited, she said.
Solis said the city's ordinance reflects similar orders made by the county earlier in the day.
Price gouging, or excessive pricing, is also prohibited on groceries, toiletries and medical supplies, according to the ordinance.
While the city is asking its residents to stay home, Williams said those who are able to work from home should continue to work. He said not only will working from home support the person’s family but will help the local economy.
“That’s very important that we keep our businesses going, so that it will not be as hard at the end of this,” he said.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price made the same order earlier Tuesday at a press conference in the city council chambers. The Fort Worth order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and lasts till April 3.
Price said Fort Worth must flatten the curve as well. She said as the virus spreads, there are only 5,300 hospital beds in the county, and about 85% of them are in use.
“If we don’t begin to slow the virus, we could easily have 12,000 people who need hospital care,” she said.
Price said that Tuesday’s announcement from Fort Worth and other cities will impact about 70% of Texas’s population. With this, she said COVID-19 cases will begin to fall, rather than rise.
“It’ll save lives and save jobs, and everyone’s life matters,” she said. “No matter how old or how young you are.”