Dallas County declares public health emergency following community-spread case of coronavirus

Dallas County has issued a public health emergency disaster declaration after its first case of community-spread COVID-19 coronavirus.

Health officials announced Friday night that Dallas County has an additional five presumptive positive cases of the virus. One of the new cases did not have any travel history, meaning it was spread within Dallas County.

The county has filed for a public health emergency declaration and community gathering order prohibiting gatherings of more than 500 people. The declaration will take effect Friday at 11 a.m. and is scheduled to last one week, at this time. Those who do not follow the ordinance could be cited.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says the ban on public gatherings does not include schools, office towers, theaters, airports or grocery stores as long as more than 500 people are not present at once or within arm’s length of each other.

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"It is a very serious situation and one that will be getting a lot worse before it gets better," Jenkins said. "But how we fare as a community will depend on all of us, and not just depending on gathering orders, but to use our brains as we're all very good at doing in this community, and ask yourself the question as you do things, 'Is this worth the risk, not just to me, but to the community?'"

Health officials say groups larger than 250 people are highly discouraged, but they are not prohibited at this time. Those with increased risks, such as 60 years or older or pre-existing conditions, should not gather in groups of 10 or more, officials said.

The new cases involve a woman in her 70s, a man in his 40s, a man in his 50s, a man in his 60s and another woman in her 60s. Two of them are in the hospital while the other three are self-isolating at home. Four of the cases involve Dallas residents while one lives in Balch Springs.

When it comes to how the five people got the virus, health officials said: two are from domestic travel, one from international travel, one is being investigated as "likely transmission from a close contact" and one is believed to be the community-spread case.

Mayor Eric Johnson issued a proclamation declaring a local state of disaster late Thursday, similar to the county’s declaration.

The city manager is authorized to restrict gatherings of 500 people or more. The city is also asking that labs report the number of COVID-19 tests done daily.

The proclamation lasts for seven days and would then need to be renewed by the Dallas City Council.

A meeting will be held at the Dallas City Hall at 10 a.m. Friday to discuss how the city and county are preparing.

The late Thursday announcement brings the total cases of the coronavirus in Dallas County up to eight. There are also four cases in Collin County and one case in Tarrant County.

Coronavirus health tips

While COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus, daily precautions recommended to prevent respiratory illnesses are the same:

•  Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer when you can't wash your hands.

•  Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

•  Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue away. If you don’t have a tissue, use the elbow of your sleeve. Don’t use your hands to cover coughs and sneezes.

RELATED: Coronavirus FAQ: Here’s what you need to know about the COVID-19 outbreak

•  Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

•  Stay home when you are sick and keep children home when they are sick.

•  Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

•  Get a flu shot. (Although the flu shot does not protect against COVID-19, it is flu season.)

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