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PH COVID-19 Client Alert Series: Dallas County, Texas – Stay Home, Stay Safe Order

Dallas County, Texas issued its Stay Home Stay Safe Order on March 23, 2020, to be effective starting at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23, 2020 and running through 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 3, 2020.

Yesterday (on March 25, 2020), we issued an alert that provided a summary of the Harris County, Texas Stay Home, Work Safe Order. That alert can be accessed at https://www.paulhastings.com/publications-items/details/?id=bb8f036f-2334-6428-811c-ff00004cbded.

The following is a summary of the Dallas County Order. It includes a table that organizes and summarizes the headline restrictions, exceptions, exemptions, enforcement actions, timetables, and more that are set forth in the official Dallas County Order the full text of which can be accessed at https://www.dallascounty.org/covid-19/judge-orders.php.

To date, the State of Texas has not issued a state-wide stay at home order. As a consequence, many of the counties in the State of Texas have begun issuing their own shelter in place or stay at home orders. So far these various county orders have followed the same general framework. Each has generally required that subject to specified exceptions, all individuals residing in that county are to remain at home for the term of the order, and that all businesses operating in that county cease operation. The specified exceptions are for individuals providing essential activities, and for businesses that are essential businesses, and those terms are defined and explained in each county’s order.

Each of the orders has been structured so as to supplement the guidance issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”) with regards to the 16 critical infrastructure sectors it identified.

Each county has provided additional guidance as to the application of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors in that county and has provided its own guidance as to what are essential activities and essential businesses in that county. Each of the counties has identified exceptions that are unique and appropriate for the respective counties. For example, Harris County specifically excepted activities of NASA and the Port of Houston. Dallas County exempted other specifically identified activities.

The following is our summary of the Dallas County Order. We hope that you find this useful in navigating your personal lives and business operations during these unprecedented times. While this summary is specific to the Dallas County Order, those of you who live in or have business operations in other counties in the State of Texas will still find this summary to be generally useful, as most of the counties are following the same general framework. However, you will need to refer to any order issued by your county in order to definitively understand the restrictions that your county has mandated. For those of you in Harris County, please refer to our alert summarizing the Harris County Order.

One Note and One Recommendation

Note. This is a very fluid situation and the various county orders, while detailed in some ways are also subject to interpretation in others. We anticipate that all county orders will continue to be amended or supplemented as communities learn more about this virus and its spread. We will attempt to update this summary over the following days and weeks, but please be aware that this summary speaks only as to the Dallas County Order as of the date stated above and reflects the information that we have been able to locate that is publicly available.

Recommendation. For those operating an Essential Business, we encourage you to consider issuing to each of your employees or contractors who will be traveling to and from your business a letter on company letterhead that identifies the name of your company, generally states the nature of your business, names the individual employee or contractor, and states that you require that individual to be at your place of business in order to operate. We have not seen any reference to such a letter in any of the county orders so far, and as a consequence any such letter would not have any officially mandated special authority. However, we would anticipate that having such a letter in his or her possession would lend credibility should they be stopped or questioned by a law enforcement officer or other governmental authority.

Finally, please note that this summary highlights information contained in the Dallas County Order. In evaluating how the Dallas County Order applies to you or your business, you should carefully read the entire Dallas County Order and the other rules, orders, and announcements referenced in the Dallas County Order.

Summary

  1. Restrictions

    Effective Dates:

    From 11:59 p.m. on March 23, 2020 through 11:59 p.m. on April 3, 2020.

    Note: Dallas County’s initial Stay Home Stay Safe Order went into effect on 11:59 p.m. on March 23, 2020; the Final Amendment went into effect on March 24, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

    Coverage

    All individuals currently living within Dallas County are ordered to shelter at their place of residence.

    All persons may leave their residences (defined below) only for Essential Activities (defined below), or to provide or perform Essential Governmental Functions (defined below), or to operate Essential Businesses (defined below).

    Residence – For the purposes of the Order, residences include hotels, motels, shared rentals, and similar facilities.

    Businesses, Other Than Essential Businesses, to Cease Operations (Employees Can Work from Home)

    All businesses operating within Dallas County are required to cease all activities at facilities located within the County. This does not apply to Essential Businesses.

    Essential Businesses are to comply with the six (6) feet social distancing guidelines.

    No Gatherings

    All public or private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited. There are exceptions for certain outdoor spaces and activities (see “Essential Activities (permitted activities) – Outdoor Activities” below).

    This does not prohibit the gathering of members of a household or living unit.

    Restaurants, Bars, etc. May Provide Take-Out Services

    Restaurants with or without drive-in or drive-through services and microbreweries, micro-distilleries, or wineries may only provide take out, delivery, or drive-through services.

    Faith Based and Other Religious Services are Restricted

    Religious and worship services may only be provided by video and teleconference.

    Religious institutions must limit in-person staff to ten (10) people or less when preparing for or conducting video or teleconference services.

    All individuals must follow the six (6) feet social distancing guidelines.

    No Elective Medical Procedures

    All elective medical, surgical, and dental procedures are prohibited anywhere in Dallas County.

  2. Essential Activities (Permitted Activities)

    Health and Safety

    To engage in activities or perform tasks essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members (for example, obtaining medical supplies or medication, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies need to work from home).

    Obtaining Necessary Services or Supplies

    To obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, or to deliver those services or supplies to others (for example, food, pet supplies, and any other household consumer products, supplies needed to work from home, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences).

    Outdoor Activities

    To engage in outdoor activity (for example, walking, biking, hiking, or running), provided the individuals comply with social distancing requirements of six (6) feet.

    Working for Essential Businesses and Other Permitted Activities

    To perform work providing essential products and services at an Essential Business or to otherwise carry out activities specifically permitted in the Order.

    Care for Family Members or Pets

    To care for a family member or pet in another household.

    Moving

    To move to another residence either in or outside Dallas County.

  3. Essential Businesses

    Essential Healthcare Operations

    Healthcare operations, including hospitals, clinics, dentists, chiropractors, physical therapy, optometry offices, pharmacies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, other healthcare facilities, healthcare suppliers, mental health providers, substance abuse service 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 include 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 permitted under the Order do not include fitness and exercise gyms, personal training, gymnastics studios, and similar facilities.

    Healthcare operations permitted under the Order do not include elective medical, surgical, and dental procedures which are specifically prohibited under the Order (see “Restrictions – No Elective Medical Procedures” above).

    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.

    The Order does not prohibit any individual from performing or accessing “Essential Government Functions.”

    All Essential Government Functions are to be performed in compliance with social distancing requirements of six (6) feet, to the extent possible.

    Essential Critical Infrastructure

    Individuals may provide any services or perform any work necessary to offer, operate, maintain, and repair, “Essential Critical Infrastructure.”

    Essential Critical Infrastructure is defined by the 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by the National Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (“CISA”) (see below).

    Essential Businesses providing essential infrastructure should implement screening precautions to protect employees and all activity shall be performed in compliance with the six foot social distancing guidelines.

    Note: The Dallas County Order provides additional guidance as to how the 16 critical infrastructure sectors apply in Dallas County.

    Note: The CISA guidance can be accessed at https://www.cisa.gov/critical-infrastruture-sectors.

    The 16 sectors are:

    • Healthcare/Public Health
    • Law Enforcement, Public Safety, and First Responders
    • Food and Agriculture
    • Energy
    • Water and Wastewater
    • Transportation and Logistics
    • Public Works
    • Communications and Information Technology
    • Other Community-Based Government Operations and Essential Functions
    • Critical Manufacturing
    • Hazardous Materials
    • Financial Services
    • Chemical
    • Defense Industrial Base

    Essential Retail

    Food service providers, including grocery stores, warehouse stores, big-box stores, bodegas, liquor stores, gas stations and convenience stores, and farmers’ markets that sell food products and household staples.

    Food cultivation, including farming, fishing, and livestock.

    Pet food and supplies.

    Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, hygiene products, goods, or services directly to residences or essential businesses.

    Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery, drive-through services, 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 hospital and medical facilities.

    Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers.

    Gas stations, auto-supply, auto and bicycle repair, hardware stores, and related facilities.

    Firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers for purposes of safety and security.

    Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home.

    To the greatest extent possible, essential retail establishments shall follow the guidelines below:

    • Designate shopping times for at risk populations (seniors, pregnant people, and people with underlying health conditions);
    • Limit the amount of people in a store at once so that social distancing is possible;
    • Implement an organized line system where people are spaced at least a few feet apart (ideally six (6) feet);
    • Implement purchase limits on high-demand items (toilet paper, soap, and hand sanitizer); and
    • Offer pick up or deliveries of grocery items.

    Providers of Basic Necessities to Economically Disadvantaged Populations.

    Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of 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, landscaping services, processing and disposal, mail, shipping and delivery services, building cleaning, maintenance and security, warehouse/distribution and fulfillment, storage for essential businesses, moving services for residential and 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.

    Real estate and inspection services, but only for the purpose of title work and closing; open houses and showings are prohibited.

    Businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies needed to operate.

    To the extent possible, services shall be provided in compliance with the six (6) feet social distancing guidelines and routine use of hand sanitizer.

    Public and Private Education

    Public and private educational institutions, only for the purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions.

    News Media

    Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services.

    Childcare Services

    Childcare facilities providing services or community service providers offering childcare services that enable employees exempted in the Order may operate under the following mandatory conditions:

    • Childcare must be carried out in stable groups of twelve (12) or fewer (“stable” means that the same twelve (12) or fewer children are in the same group each day).
    • Children shall not change from one group to another.
    • If more than one (1) group of children is cared for at one facility, each group shall be in a separate room. Groups shall not mix with each other.
    • Childcare providers shall remain solely with one group of children.
  4. Additional Rules and Exceptions
  5. Penalties for Failure to Comply with Order

    The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, the Dallas County Fire Marshal’s Office, and other peace officers, are authorized to enforce the Order.

    A violation of the Order may be punishable through criminal or civil enforcement.

    A violation of the Order is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000 and/or confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one hundred eighty (180) days.

    Applications for Exemptions: Businesses that Retool to Provide Health Supplies or Other Essential Services

    Any manufacturer who retools their business for the purpose of manufacturing and producing ventilators, masks, personal protective equipment, or any supply necessary for Essential Healthcare Operations may apply for an “essential business” exemption under this Order. Submit requests for an exemption to BusinessCOVID19@dallascounty.org.

    Delivery Hour Restrictions Suspended for Grocery Stores, Hospitals, etc.

    The Order suspends all 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 for the next sixty (60) days.

    Toilet Tissue Limit

    A mandatory limit on toilet paper sales is instituted until the supply chain meets the demand or two (2) weeks, whichever comes first. All sales of bath or toilet tissue occurring in Dallas County are limited to the greater of: (a) twelve (12) rolls per purchase or (b) one (1) package per purchase.

    Evictions Suspension

    Eviction hearings and writs of possession are suspended for at least the next sixty (60) days to prevent renters from being displaced.

    Household to Quarantine if Positive Test for COVID-19

    If someone in a household has tested positive for coronavirus, the household is ordered to isolate at home. Members of the household cannot go to work, school, or any other community function, except for workers included in Essential Healthcare Operations who may continue to work in accordance with CDC guidance.

    Nursing Homes, etc. to Prohibit Visitors Except for End-of-Life Visitation

    Nursing homes, retirement, and long-term care facilities are to prohibit non-essential visitors from accessing their facilities unless to provide critical assistance or for end-of-life visitation.

    Return to Classroom Requirements

    Public and private schools and institutions of higher education are required to provide a safety plan to Dallas County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management seventy-two (72) hours before students return to a classroom setting.

    Employees and Paid Sick Leave

    All sick employees are to remain at home.

    Employees of private businesses and nonprofits with six (6) 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.

    Posting of the Order by Businesses

    The owner, manager, or operator of any facility that is likely to be impacted by the Order is strongly encouraged to post a copy of the Order onsite and to provide a copy to any member of the public asking for a copy.


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