Shelter at home: What's considered essential?

What does Dallas County's shelter-at-home order mean for workers and residents?

Under the new order, Dallas County residents should only leave home for essential activities like a doctor’s appointment or going to the grocery store. Those who work in Dallas County are encouraged to work from home if possible. Only essential employees are exempt, including those who work in health care, public works, banks and public transportation.

The order states, "all individuals currently living within Dallas County are ordered to shelter at their place of residence," unless doing an "essential activity" (going to the grocery store or getting other necessary supplies, exercising while complying with social distancing, going to work, or caring for another family member or pet).

"All businesses operating within Dallas County, except Essential Businesses...are required to cease all activities at facilities located within the county," the order added. All essential businesses must also comply with social distancing "to the greatest extent possible."

The county defined essential businesses as: Essential Healthcare Operations (hospitals, dentists, pharmacies, etc.), Essential Government Functions (services provided by local governments), Essential Critical Infrastructure (operations from the 16 critical infrastructure sectors as identified by the National Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency), Essential Retail (grocery stores, warehouse stores, liquor stores, gas stations, businesses that supply products for people to work from home, etc.), businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services for the economically disadvantaged, Essential Services Necessary to Maintain Essential Operations (trash and recycling collection, processing, and disposal, funeral homes, plumbers, etc.), News Media, and Childcare Services.

"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," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins explained.

When asked, Jenkins clarified that Uber drivers, rideshare services, taxis and people delivering food or taking people to essential businesses are included as essential. Dallas Area Rapid Transit buses and trains will also continue to run.

Laundromats, dry cleaners and laundry service providers are exempt and can remain open. Lawn mowing services, pool cleaning and housekeeping are also allowed under the order.

"I suspect those who can do these for themselves will but we can’t have sight obstructions, mosquito breeding grounds and rodent attraction," Jenkins said.

Even though airlines are shedding flights from the schedule daily because people aren't flying right now, the airline industry and those that support it are essential The judge added these are necessary for health and well being with personal protecting and social distancing to flatten the curve

Worship services have been limited to video or teleconferencing. Churches must also limit their staff to 10 people or less on-site when conducting their services. 

Judge Jenkins emphasized the order applies to anyone living in Dallas County, even if they work in another county.

"It doesn't matter whether your job is in Fort Worth or whether your job is in Downtown Dallas or Plano. If you live here, you're under this order,” he said. "All Dallas County residents are covered by the order. Please tell your employer and show them order."

Jenkins also answered the flood of questions he received on social media.

The order starts at midnight Monday night and runs through at least April 3. It is punishable by a fine or jail time, but the county has not yet indicated how it will be enforced or how people can report violations.

Read the full order below for a full list of essential businesses:

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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