DALLAS - Dallas County and the city of Dallas will close all bars, dine-in restaurants, gyms and theaters in an unprecedented effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The restaurants will be allowed to operate delivery and take-out following an order from Mayor Eric Johnson and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, but cannot have their dining room open. The new rules go into effect at 12:00 a.m. Tuesday, meaning Monday is the final day any of those businesses can be open.
“I'm moved about what I know is going to happen to our economy that we've worked so hard to build over a long, long time in the city and I did not take this decision lightly at all,” Johnson said, saying he had trouble sleeping last night thinking about the order. “We're only doing this because we genuinely believe it is going to potentially save lives and certainly is what is absolutely required to flatten the curve of this pandemic.”
Public and private community gatherings of more than 50 people are also banned. The decision was announced Monday afternoon after Dallas County officials announced five new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total in the county to 19.
Code enforcement officials along with the support of the Dallas Police Department will ensure the order is obeyed in the city of Dallas.
Jenkins said the county is prohibiting community gatherings of 50 people or more. That means things like movies, concerts, plays ballgames and parties. Bars, gyms and lounges will be closed until Friday, March 20. But Jenkins said that will likely be extended.
“We need to turn our fear to faith. Not only faith in a higher power, but faith in the science,” he said. “These guidelines are the science. You need to have faith in those guidelines and follow that.”
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Grocery stores and other retail stores can remain open. People can still go through bus stations, terminals and airports. But Jenkins urged people to avoid prolonged periods of time where you’re within six feet of someone.
Small business owners will have to figure out how to keep their operations afloat. Employees in the service industry, like restaurants and bars, may be facing layoffs as they try to figure out how to make ends meet.
Simon McDonald has owned the Libertine Bar in Lower Greenville for 15 years. He says they predicted this would happen, but the reality has set in.
“It’s terrifying for them. They have all been informed. It’s going to be really hard,” he said. “I know all my employees personally. They don’t have savings for six weeks, eight weeks, one week. They don’t have savings for a day, so yea. It’s going to rock them.”
Jenkins said now is not the time for selfishness.
“It really comes down to personal responsibility,” Jenkins said. “There’s no way to legislate for you personal responsibility and looking out for not just yourself but the community.”
Jenkins also said a drive thru testing site will soon open near the American Airlines Center and at the theater in Grand Prairie.
President Donald Trump also announced on Monday new health guidelines (but not requirements), including no gatherings of more than 10 people, not participating in discretionary travel, and not eating at bars, restaurants and food courts.
Dallas is far from the only place to take action to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Bars, restaurants, movie theaters and casinos are being shut down at 8 p.m. Monday throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut because of the coronavirus, the states' governors said. Restaurants and bars there will move to takeout and delivery services only. New York is changing its rules to allow bars, restaurants and distilleries to sell their products off premises, Cuomo said.
Over the weekend, states like California, Ohio and Illinois ordered bars and restaurants to shut their doors or limit service.
In North Texas, there are 19 cases of coronavirus in Dallas County, five in Tarrant County, eight in Collin County and one in Denton County. That number will likely go up as more people get tested for the virus.