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Dallas County Issues Shelter-in-Place


As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to escalate in severity and sweep the nation, states and counties are increasingly implementing stay-at-home orders. On March 22, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a "Stay Home Stay Safe" order for Dallas County, which follows in the footsteps of other stay-at-home orders enacted in major cities like Los Angeles and New York City.

Understanding what, precisely, the Dallas shelter-in-place order involves and how it affects your everyday life is essential for citizens of Dallas County.

What Does the Shelter-in-Place Order Mean for Dallas Residents?

According to Judge Jenkins, the shelter-in-place order limits the spread of COVID-19 by restricting how much and how often Dallas residents interact with one another. Studies have shown that the incubation period for COVID-19 lasts around five days. In that time, individuals who are not yet displaying symptoms are still infectious. Additionally, many people who contract COVID-19 are asymptomatic. They may not show symptoms, but are still highly contagious.

Limiting contact between individuals reduces the likelihood of asymptomatic and incubation-period coronavirus carriers spreading the virus. Shelter-in-place orders are intended to protect people who are exceptionally vulnerable to the virus, such as the elderly and those with respiratory diseases.

The Dallas shelter-in-place order features some noteworthy requirements for Dallas businesses and residents:

  • Residents must remain at home when not engaging in essential activities or work. Essential activities are activities necessary for the safety or health of residents, such as grocery shopping. Residents must also observe social distancing and remain at list six feet apart from other residents if they do go out. Certain exercises, like running or hiking, are still permitted if social distancing is observed.
  • All non-essential businesses must close. Essential businesses are businesses that provide necessary services to citizens, such as gas stations, food service providers, grocery stores, homeless shelters, and healthcare or childcare facilities. The Dallas County government will fine non-essential businesses that continue to operate during this period at least $1,000 and could jail business-owners for up to 180 days if they violate the shelter-in-place order.
  • Employees of essential businesses are designated as essential employees. At work, essential employees should still observe social distancing.
  • Certain items are restricted for purchasing. For example, bath and toilet tissue are limited to either twelve rolls or one package per consumer. Many grocery stores are also placing limits on dairy items or other items commonly bought in bulk.
  • Individuals who test positive for the coronavirus must stay in self-isolation. They cannot go to work, school, or any other community function. If you believe you have contracted COVID-19, alert a physician and any individuals you recently came into contact with.
  • Facilities that house high-risk individuals (such as nursing homes) must prohibit non-essential visitors from entering the facility.
  • Judge Jenkins suggests that Dallas County residents refrain from using childcare facilities unless absolutely necessary to prioritize the children of essential workers.
  • The shelter-in-place order could last for months. Although it is currently set to expire on April 3, Jenkins specified the order could last for months, depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic escalates in the coming weeks.

By observing the shelter-in-place order and practicing social distancing, Dallas country residents can help reduce the number of coronavirus cases in the county at any given time. By complying with the shelter-in-place order, Dallas residents can help ensure that high-risk individuals who do contract COVID-19 can receive the help they need from healthcare professionals. Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines for coronavirus prevention can help you stay safe and healthy during this period.

How Will the Shelter-in-Place Order Affect Family Law Cases?

There are several ways family law cases could be affected by the shelter-in-law order:

  • Job losses could lead to delayed child and spousal support payments. In the last week alone, a record 3.3. million Americans filed for unemployment. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit a variety of industries incredibly hard, and job losses will only escalate as the pandemic continues. If you or your ex-spouse are unable to make child or spousal support payments, an experienced family law attorney can help you reach a beneficial arrangement that takes into account the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • School closures could cause child custody confusion. Currently, the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that child possession and custody arrangements are unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, school closures (Dallas ISD is shut down indefinitely at the time of this writing) may make it so a parent is unable to care for a child during their possession period. Since using public childcare facilities is discouraged for non-essential workers, some parents may want to renegotiate their current child custody arrangement.
  • Court dates and appearances may need to change. Many courts are closing their doors during the coronavirus pandemic. If you are scheduled to appear in court, you may be asked to appear via a video-conferencing application like Zoom. Your court date may also be rescheduled until later in the year, depending on how your county court chooses to handle COVID-19 or whether Texas Governor Greg Abbott extends the current state of disaster. You can check the status of your county court here.

Here at Mathur Law Offices, P.C., we understand this is a trying and stressful time for many. We remain open and are committed to using tools like video and telephonic conferencing to provide clients with high-quality legal assistance. Our compassionate, knowledgeable attorneys can help you navigate your family law case with confidence.

Contact us online or via phone at (888) 867-5191 to receive a free 20-minute consultation from our legal team.