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Dallas County Takes Stricter Measures to Stop the Spread of COVID-19: Break the Rules, End Up Behind Bars

By Rebecca Aguilar

Citizens in Dallas County could now face jail time if they don’t comply with new restrictions put in place by Dallas County officials to slow the spread of coronavirus. There is also relief for renters who may face eviction and people who may be without a paycheck if COVID-19 has put them out of work. Wednesday Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins amended mandatory guidelines he made earlier in the month. Now no more than 10 can gather at social events, like barbecues or pick-up basketball games. And only up to 50 can attend any community gatherings. 

He did say, however that restrictions don’t include funerals or memorial services, “I’m not at the point where I’m going to tell a family at this point which one of them can’t go to a loved one’s funeral.” 

Jenkins also asked for help from the public, to report people who are not abiding by the county’s mandated restrictions. “If you see a gathering, a social gathering of 10 or more, please call 211 and report that, because we don’t have officers who can drive through alleys and listen for loud parties.” 

He said, those who are caught breaking the county guidelines face a hefty fine or 60 days in jail.  

The county is also ordering Dallas County Justices of the Peace to suspend eviction cases for at least 60 days. Judge Jenkins said people need to have a home, a place to go to fight this deadly disease. “We can ill afford to have people couch surfing or homeless at a time when the safest way to keep us all safe is for people to limit their trips out of their homes, and to do that they have to have a home.”

Sandy Rollins, the Executive Director of Texas Tenants Union, said stopping evictions, for now, will help renters struggling to pay rent, to survive this crisis. “While suspending evictions won’t relieve tenants of their obligation to pay, we hope this reprieve will provide time for a tenant to obtain unemployment benefits or possibly a federal stimulus check to help them stay housed.”  

Distilleries that usually make alcohol for consumption may help Dallas County fill the need for hand sanitizer. Judge Jenkins is arranging for a local distillery to switch production to help with the shortage of hand sanitizer in the county. “That hand sanitizer will be delivered to us in 55-gallon drums, and we’ll put that in spray bottles for our first responders and our health care workers, because we have a critical shortage.”

Dallas County is reaching out to construction companies that may have supplies of N95 masks. These masks are the most needed by medical staff working with patients with COVID-19. 

Judge Jenkins pleaded with construction companies, “…please consider giving some of your inventory to Dallas County Health and Human Services for use throughout our medical community. We are doing everything we can to keep up that supply chain.” 

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