In an effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, pursuant to Texas Government Code Section 418.108, has issued a stay-at-home Order that takes effect at 11:59 p.m. on March 23, 2020, and continues until at least 11:59 p.m. April 3, 2020. The Order directs all individuals currently living within Dallas County to shelter at their place of residence, other than to engage in Essential Activities, or provide or perform Essential Governmental Functions, or to operate Essential Businesses. For purposes of the Order, residences include hotels, motels, shared rentals, and similar facilities. Moreover, Dallas County residents who perform work or services for businesses outside of Dallas County are bound by the Order and must not leave their home to travel outside of the county to perform work in violation of the Order. The Order also requires all businesses operating within Dallas County, except Essential Businesses, to cease all activities at facilities located within the county. Businesses may continue operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors working from home. All Essential Businesses must also comply with Social Distancing Guidelines attached to the Order "to the greatest extent possible."
- Except as otherwise provided in the Order, all public or private gatherings outside a single family or household, regardless of number, are prohibited;
- Restaurants, microbreweries, micro-distilleries, or wineries may only provide take-out, delivery or drive-thru services;
- Religious and worship services may only be provided by video and teleconference and must limit in-person staff to ten persons or fewer to prepare for or conduct such services, and all staff must follow the Social Distancing Guidelines, including distancing requirements of six-feet; and
- All elective medical, surgical, and dental procedures are prohibited anywhere in Dallas County.
What activities are allowed?
Individuals are permitted to leave their homes to perform Essential Activities, which the Order defines as:
- Activities and tasks essential to the individual’s health and safety or the health and safety of a family or household member (such as obtaining medical supplies or medication, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies need to work from home);
- Obtaining necessary services or supplies for the individual or their family or household members or delivering those services or supplies to others (for example, food, pet supplies, and any other household consumer products, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences);
- Engaging in outdoor activities (such as walking, biking, hiking, or running) as long as the individuals comply with social distancing requirements of six feet;
- Performing work to provide essential products and services at an Essential Business or otherwise carrying out activities specifically permitted in the Order;
- Caring for a family member or pet in another household.
What is an “essential” business in Dallas County?
Businesses deemed to be “essential” and allowed to remain open are extensive, and below is a non-exhaustive list:
- Essential Healthcare Operations. (hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, other healthcare facilities, mental health and substance abuse providers, blood banks, medical research, laboratory services, or any related and/or ancillary healthcare services. Home-based and residential-based care for seniors, adults, or children are also considered healthcare operations. Healthcare operations also includes veterinary care and all health and welfare services provided to animals. This exemption shall be viewed broadly to avoid any impacts to the delivery of healthcare. Healthcare operations do not include fitness and exercise gyms and similar facilities. Healthcare care operations do not include elective medical, surgical, and dental procedures).
- Essential Government Functions. (all services provided by local governments needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Nothing in the Order prohibits any individual from performing or accessing Essential Government Functions).
- Essential Critical Infrastructure. (work necessary to the operations and maintenance of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors as identified by the National Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) including public works construction, residential and commercial construction, airport operations, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, public transportation, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services), financial institutions, defense and national security-related operations, essential manufacturing operations provided that they carry out those services or that work in compliance with social distancing requirements of six feet, to the extent possible. Essential Businesses providing essential infrastructure should implement screening precautions to protect employees and all activity should be performed in compliance with social distancing guidelines).
- Essential Retail. (food service providers, including grocery stores, warehouse stores, big-box stores, bodegas, liquor stores, gas stations and convenience stores, farmers’ markets that sell food products and household staples. Food cultivation, including farming, fishing, and livestock. Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences. Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out. Schools and other entities that typically provide free services to students or members of the public on a pick-up and take-away basis only. The restriction of delivery or carry out does not apply to cafes and restaurants located within hospitals and medical facilities. Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers. Gas stations, auto-supply, auto and bicycle repair, hardware stores, and related facilities. Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home).
- Providers of Basic Necessities to Economically Disadvantaged Populations. (businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities for life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals).
- Essential Services Necessary to Maintain Essential Operations of Residences or Other Essential Businesses. (trash and recycling collection, processing and disposal, mail and shipping services, building cleaning and maintenance, warehouse/distribution and fulfillment, storage for essential businesses, funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries. Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences and Essential Businesses. Professional services such as legal or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities. Businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support of supplies needed to operate).
- News Media. (newspapers, television, radio, and other media services).
- Childcare Services. (childcare facilities providing services that enable employees exempted in the Order to work as permitted).
- Any manufacturer who retools so that a substantial part of their business is for the purpose of manufacturing and producing ventilators may apply for an “essential business” exemption.
- Delivery hour restrictions for transport to or from any entity involved in the selling or distribution of food products, medicine, or medical supplies in Dallas County are suspended for the next 60 days.
Further the Order implements the following:
- A mandatory limit on toilet paper sales—12 rolls, or one package, whichever is greater—until the supply chain meets demand or two weeks, whichever comes first.
- Advisory to the Dallas County Justices of the Peace to suspend eviction hearings and writs of possession for at least the next 60 days to prevent renters from being displaced.
- Isolation of all members of a household if someone in the household has tested positive for coronavirus. Members of the household cannot go to work, school, or any other community function.
- Non-essential visitors are prohibited from accessing all nursing homes, retirement, and long-term care facilities except to provide critical assistance or for end-of-life visitation.
- Public and private schools and institutions of higher education are to provide a safety plan to Dallas County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management 72 hours before students return to a classroom setting.
- The Office of the Dallas County Judge and Health Authority instructs all employees to remain at home if sick.
- Employees of 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 to care for sick family members.
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.