Dallas County announces stricter social restrictions, temporarily halts evictions

Dallas County officials announced stricter restrictions going into effect Thursday, limiting social restrictions and halted evictions for the next 60 days.

County Judge Clay Jenkins announced the move Wednesday afternoon as the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread across Dallas County with at least 39 cases.

Judge Jenkins is also advising justice of the peaces to suspend eviction hearings for at least the next 60 days to prevent renters from being displaced.

Under the amended proclamation, social recreational gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited.

For social gatherings of less than 10, people are urged to social distance themselves and stay at least six feet apart.

The order defines a recreational gathering as “any indoor or outdoor event or convening that is primarily social or recreational in nature that brings together or is likely to bring together ten or more persons at the same time in a single room…. For clarity, social gatherings include, but are not limited to, parties, backyard barbecues, social events, sporting events, and other gatherings.”

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The order also prohibits community gatherings (weddings, religious services, funerals) of more than 50 people.

Those who are considered high-risk individuals, people over 60 or with underlying health conditions, are urged to not attend any pubic event.

Track Texas coronavirus cases by county with this interactive map

The judge recognized the financial impact of the virus and halted evictions for at least 60 days to prevent renters from losing their homes.

“We can ill afford to have people couch surfing or homeless at a time when the safest way to keep us all safe is for people to limit their trips out of their homes,” Jenkins said. “And to do that, they have to have a home.”

Sandy Rollins is Executive Director of the Texas Tenants’ Union. She says thousands of people are evicted in Dallas County each month, and that is not during this uncertain time as people are losing jobs.

“I think it means for Dallas County tenants, they’ve got a reprieve,” she said. “Anybody who’s not getting a paycheck now at least has a little bit of a window. And if the feds or somebody else comes through with a stimulus that will enable people to continue to pay their bills, that might end up being a permanent solution to this.”

Dallas County was one of the first in the state to order restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses to close and is again among the first with these stricter mandates.

Jenkins is going so far as encouraging people to report those who are not staying in their homes and following the guidelines for gatherings. As Jenkins says, it endangers the health of others.

“Report them because we don’t have the officers to drive through alleys and listen to noise and loud parties,” he said.

The new order doesn’t apply to critical facilities, like airports, bus stations, schools, office buildings, grocery stores, pharmacies and hospital. However, visitors should stay at least six feet apart.

All delivery-hour restrictions have been suspended for delivers of food products, medicine, or medical supplies in Dallas County for the next 60 days.

The changes go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and will continue through 11 a.m. on March 20.  Jenkins said he plans to ask for a 30-day extension.

Previous rules closing gyms and bars and limiting restaurants to delivery or to-go orders only remain in effect.

The judge asks people to call 311 to report and says those who violate the rules could face a fine or a jail sentence of up to six months.