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Fort Worth, Tarrant County issue stay-at-home order in response to coronavirus

Fort Worth and Tarrant County joined Texas’ most populous regions in telling residents to stay home except for essential travel, officials announced Tuesday in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The combined orders account for 70% of the state’s population and follow a decision by Gov. Greg Abbott to leave shelter-in-place orders at the discretion of local authorities. The order is effective at midnight Tuesday.

It is the harshest level of restrictions imposed since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus began early this month and follows a similar order from Dallas County. The declaration is enforceable through fines and possible jail time, officials said. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price made the announcement Tuesday morning with Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams and Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley.

“Today’s announcement is not meant to be alarmist or cause panic,” Price said, urging residents not to flood grocery stores in an effort to hoard food.

The stay-at-home order runs through April 3 in Fort Worth. Tarrant County’s decree expires April 7.

The decision to restrict travel came after a call with mayors and county judges from at least six of the state’s largest cities, Price said. Fort Worth Latest News She alluded to the possibility of a shelter in place order Monday during her daily Facebook Live briefing. Harris, Travis, Bexar, El Paso and Collin counties have prepared similar decrees.

They come after a steady increase in coronavirus cases in Texas.

On Monday, Tarrant County announced 10 new cases of the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, bringing the total to 57. At least 14 of the cases came from an unknown source, indicating the virus is spreading in the community. There are more than 700 cases in Texas.

The new coronavirus causes a severe respiratory disease similar to the flu that can lead to pneumonia.

Michael Sanborn, president and CEO of Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center and a member of Price’s medical advisory committee, said he believed the restrictions imposed Tuesday would lessen the burden on hospitals.

“This virus is there. It’s breeding illness” he said. ”But the more we can do to prevent the spread, the better off the entire public is going to be, and the better off the health care system is as well.”

Conservative estimates say as many as 12,000 people in Tarrant County will need hospital attention if the spread of the virus is not slowed, Price said. County hospitals have about 5,300 total beds, she said.

The order discourages travel outside of essential errands and bans gatherings of any kind, except those within a household. Residents are permitted to go outside and engage in outdoor activities as long as they keep a wide distance from each other.

If someone in a household has tested positive for COVID-19, the household is ordered to isolate at home, according to the order, which did not specify the length of the mandated isolation. Members of the household cannot go to work, school, or any other community function until cleared by a medical professional but may seek medical services as needed. Whitley furthered this part of the declaration by saying if a person feels sick he must stay at home.

Price said residents should not engage in social functions or travel between homes unless absolutely necessary.

Whitley said violators may spend time in jail. Price took a less aggressive approach, saying Fort Worth officers would first provide stern warnings to violators and ramp up to fines if needed.

Essential services include grocery stores, medical facilities, pharmacies, liquor stores, auto repair and parts, laundromats, cleaners, social service and charitable organizations, essential government functions, media, financial institutions and child care services. Houses of worship should close except for staff needed to produce streamed services. Restaurants can offer delivery and takeout.Submit Your Press Release Through Press Release Distribution Service .

Any work that can be done from a person’s home must be, Whitley said.

Williams reinforced that residents should stay productive, even when working from home.

“This is not to say we are shutting down,” he said. “We need you to be productive because it will help us when we come out of this to have a stronger economy.”

The declaration made Tuesday empowers the city to regulate ingress and egress from the city and allows officials to commandeer private property, temporarily, for emergency shelters.

Since an original disaster declaration March 13, Fort Worth and Tarrant County officials have been slowly increasing restrictions meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Over the weekend, both entities imposed new restrictions, closing non-essential businesses and limiting crowd sizes to 10 or fewer people. But they had stopped short of issuing a stay-at-home order as Dallas County did.

Whitley as recently as Sunday pushed back on the need for such an order, arguing the county should wait to see how the new business restrictions worked.

“We want you to go home and to rest,” Whitley said.

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