Arlington City Council extends disaster declaration to April 30, clarifies on essential services

Blue tape covers seating to encourage social distancing in the city council chambers before an emergency meeting March 18 in City Hall. Attendees of the meeting were screened for symptoms of COVID-19 before being allowed into the chambers.

Arlington City Council extended the city’s disaster declaration until April 30 and made several other changes to it amid the COVID-19 pandemic at a Thursday morning teleconference.

The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, and the council has the option to terminate it at any time.

The order states that Arlington residents are to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who aren’t in the same household. The only exception to this is when it’s necessary to provide or obtain essential services.

The ordinance revises the definition of critical infrastructure to include anything in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security guidance on essential critical infrastructure, city attorney Teris Solis said.

Businesses can be added to the list through a status setup process, Solis said. The amendment language has been modified to clarify that if any additional businesses are added as essential by the state, that they would also be considered essential in Arlington.

The ordinance changes the requirements on worship services to be aligned with the executive order Gov. Greg Abbott made Tuesday, she said.

The order states that if services can’t be held from home or remotely, they can be held as long as they follow President Donald Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social distancing guidelines.

Council member Marvin Sutton asked if this means drive-in style services, where people meet in their vehicles in a parking lot to have service, are allowed.

Solis said the drive-in service isn’t listed specifically in Abbott’s executive order, but it would be appropriate under Trump and the CDC’s regulations. Therefore, as long as social distancing is maintained, the service is appropriate, she said.

Nothing in the order is constructed to prohibit or regulate the transfer, possession or ownership of a firearm, Solis said. This is to clarify that the ordinance does not interfere with the right to sell guns, she said.

The amendment requires nursing homes, assisted living centers and other residential facilities to comply with the instructions given by Don Crowson, Fire Chief and Emergency Management director. This is working in conjunction with the city’s public health authority on instructions that relate to COVID-19, Solis said.

Any violation of the ordinance is a class C misdemeanor and each day the violation continues there will be a separate punishable fine of no more than $500, according to the ordinance.

As of Thursday afternoon, there are 325 positive COVID-19 cases in Tarrant County, with 55 cases in Arlington. There have been six deaths and 23 recovered cases in the county.

@bjgarcia27

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