Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins ordered that all bars and dine-in restaurant services in the county close starting 11:59 p.m. Monday in efforts to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Dallas County Health and Human Services reported five additional positive cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total to 19, according to a Dallas County press release. Cities included in the county are Dallas, Addison, Grand Prairie, Irving, Grapevine, Duncanville, Richardson and others.
Jenkins said the order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday and goes until 11 a.m. March 20. He said the order will seek to be extended past the March 20 date.
The order comes after Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson amended regulations to his disaster declaration that included prohibiting dine-in services and restricting community gatherings to no more than 50 people. It also included closing bars, lounges, taverns, private clubs, gyms, health studios, theaters and commercial amusement facilities in the city.
“We’re taking these actions now because our core responsibility as a government is to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our residents,” Johnson said, during a press conference held in the Dallas City Hall Flag Room.
Johnson said the city made the decision in consultation with health care professionals and with guidance from national experts such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“What all this means is that as of right now, Dallas has the most aggressive rules of all the major cities in Texas for minimizing and slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Johnson stated.
Dallas City Council will meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday to be briefed on the response and preparation efforts for COVID-19 and will vote on whether to extend the city’s disaster declaration.
Jenkins’ order prohibits private and public gatherings in Dallas County. The gatherings defined in the order include bars, lounges and clubs. However, restaurants, microbreweries and wineries can remain open if they provide takeout, delivery or drive-thru services, he said.
He said if businesses don’t follow the order, it’s punishable with a $2,500 fine and a potential jail sentence up to six months.
“I don’t think that’s going to be necessary,” Jenkins said. “I think most of our businesses will comply with that.”
Jenkins said there is some good news in these uncertain times. On Monday, drive-thru testing opened for first responders, health workers and Parkland Hospital patients at a facility located in the hospital.
In the coming days, there will be two large testing facilities opening, he said. One in Grand Prairie at The Theatre and one in the American Airlines Center in a parking garage.
He said about 2,500 people per site, per week will be tested at the two large testing facilities.
The Dallas County judge’s office and Health and Human Services department strongly urge organizations who serve high-risk populations to cancel all gatherings until further notice, Jenkins said.
These recommendations are based on the social distancing practice attached to the order, he said. However, Jenkins said the order doesn’t mean people can’t go outside.
He also clarified that community gatherings don’t include bus terminals, airports, office spaces, schools, residential buildings, grocery stores, shopping malls or other retail establishments.
People that test positive for COVID-19 must stay home and self-isolate, Jenkins said. Members of a confirmed case household shouldn't attend community functions.
Nursing homes, retirement centers and long-term care facilities are instructed to prohibit nonessential visitors from assessing their facilities, Jenkins said. However, there are exceptions including if nonessential visitors can provide critical assistance or end of life visitation.
Public and private school institutions and institutions of higher education are instructed to provide a safety plan to the Dallas County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management at least 72 hours before students return to classroom settings, he said.
Jenkins said this isn’t in the order, but the Office of the Dallas County Judge and the Health Authority strongly encourages all employees to remain at home. Employees for private businesses and nonprofits with six or more employees in the city of Dallas can use their paid sick leave when they are sick or use it to care for sick family members, he said.
“We need people to not just look at what we’re doing in these orders but look at these guidelines and follow these guidelines,” he said.