Officials leading many of Texas’ most densely populated cities and counties have now issued shelter-in-place orders that prohibit unnecessary travel. The orders also require nonessential businesses to temporarily close. These orders represent the strongest measures yet aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus in Texas.
Texas Standard host David Brown spoke with leaders of three communities that have instituted shelter-in-place directives.
Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver says the decision to issue a shelter-in-place order for his city came after hospital leaders reached out across the state, fearful that increased numbers of COVID-19 cases would overwhelm their ability to provide care. Deaver says that when Gov. Greg Abbott chose not to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order, Waco began developing its own.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price says her city issued less restrictive orders last week that limited the size of gatherings. But on Saturday, Fort Worth and other jurisdictions in Tarrant County tightened that order, finally issuing its third order after Abbott’s decision not to institute shelter in place statewide.
“We got on the phone with the seven largest cities in the state, and then the county judges were also talking, and decided that we should come together and issue similar ordinances for those cities. And then many other cities and counties fell in line with that,” Price says.
More than two-thirds of the state’s population are now covered by various shelter-in-place orders, Price says.
“But in the absence of that, under the government code, mayors and county judges across the state are agents of the governor in times of disaster,” Eckhardt says.
Eckhardt says that data models developed by the University of Texas indicate that the only way to ensure that hospitals have the capacity needed to care for COVID-19 patients is to reduce social interactions everywhere by up to 90%.
Deaver says that infection estimates are troubling.
“On Sunday night, when we decided to issue this order on Monday morning, we had a much higher incidence per capita in McLennan County than they did in Dallas County, which had issued [a shelter-in-place order] that night,” Deaver says.
Price says even in areas where reported cases are relatively low, projections of what’s to come make stay-at-home orders essential.
Shelter-in-place orders in Texas’ major cities are currently effective through early April.