Summary: After Dallas County took the lead on Monday, March 23, by implementing a “shelter-in-place” order, other Texas counties quickly followed suit to take action to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Collin, Denton, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, and Tarrant counties have all implemented shelter-in-place orders to take effect at midnight on March 24, 2020 (Denton County’s order will take effect at midnight on March 25, 2020), and all will remain in effect as stated, or until either rescinded, superseded, or amended. Dallas County also issued an amendment to its “Stay Home Stay Safe” order setting forth specific enforcement provisions, providing that a violation of the order may be punishable through criminal or civil enforcement (a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000 and/or confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days). Please see our March 23 Alert for more information on the Dallas County Order.
What Do These Orders Mean for Businesses and Residents?
Generally, these orders mean that non-essential businesses must close to the public or determine how to provide services remotely. Each order defines what businesses are deemed essential, so questions regarding whether a business may remain open (abiding by social distancing guidelines to the greatest extent possible) while an order is in place can be addressed by referring to the order of the specific county in which the business is located. The Texas Health and Human Services Department seems to be taking the position that employers should make a determination as to whether they are essential or not and that it is up to the local governments on how the decisions will be enforced. Businesses should be prepared to provide information to local law enforcement and fire marshals regarding what their business is and what steps they are taking to abide by the social distancing guidelines, specifically including maintaining six feet of separation for both employees and the general public.
Each order also sets forth activities for which residents may leave their homes while the order is in place. Additionally, each order mandates that residents of homes where a resident has tested positive for COVID-19 are to stay home and not attend work, school, or any other community functions until cleared by a medical professional. The most common reasons that residents may leave their homes are to engage in activities related to their or a family member’s health and safety. Questions regarding what specific activities residents may leave their homes to participate in can be answered by reviewing the issued orders. Residents who live in one county and work in another should pay close attention to the specific county orders. Residents will be required to abide by the orders for both the county in which they work and the county in which they reside, if different. This could mean that individuals are unable to leave from their residence to perform work in a different county if doing so conflicts with the “shelter-in-place” orders of the county in which they reside.
In essence, all of these orders seek to accomplish a united front to instruct, encourage, and require individuals to stay home in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Links to the orders for each county can be found below.
This situation is fluid, as municipal governments are issuing orders on a daily basis. If you think you may be impacted by an order not discussed in this Alert, please see the State and Major Municipality Orders page on our Coronavirus Taskforce page, which is updated in real time, for links to additional orders that may impact you.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.