On March 22, 2020, the Chief Executive Officer of Dallas County, Texas (County Judge Clay Jenkins) issued a “Stay Home Stay Safe” order for residents of Dallas County.  The Order takes effect at 11:59 p.m. on March 23 and continues until midnight on April 3rd.

 Coronavirus,

The major effect of the Order is to prohibit Dallas County residents from leaving their residence (which includes homes, hotels, motels, shared rentals and similar facilities) unless they are engaging in an activity (an “Essential Activity”) or a purpose (working for an “Essential Business”) allowed by the Order.  Moreover, all public or private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are specifically prohibited.  And, the Order prohibits all elective medical, surgical, and dental procedures in Dallas County.

Additionally, all businesses operating within Dallas County are required to cease all activities at facilities located within the County, unless the business is an “Essential Business.”  Importantly, however, even non-essential businesses are permitted to continue operations so long as those operations are conducted by employees or contractors performing activities at their own residences (i.e. working from home).

The Order creates specific rules for households where a person has tested positive for COVID-19.  In particular, if someone in a household has tested positive, the entire household must isolate at home; they cannot go to work, school, or any other community function.

While at first blush the Order appears restrictive, the reality is that it allows for numerous and diverse exceptions across a variety of commercial operations.  By way of example, “dry cleaners” and “liquor stores” are considered “Essential” and, therefore, are allowed to remain open during the restricted period.  The Order also allows individuals to use “shared or outdoor spaces” so long as—to the extent reasonably possible—they engage in social distancing practices; including staying at least six feet from any other person while outside their Residence.

Individuals may leave their residences only in the following instances:

  • For purposes of performing Essential Activities; or
  • To operate one of eight categories of Essential Businesses.

The above terms—and the numerous exceptions contained within—are more fully explained via the chart below:

Term Definition Examples
Essential Activity Tasks essential to one’s own health and safety or that of a family/household member, including pets. Obtaining medication for oneself or others, visiting a doctor, obtaining supplies needed to work from home, obtaining household consumer products.

 

Obtaining food and other necessary services or supplies for oneself or one’s family or household members.

 

Engaging in outdoor activities, such as walking, biking, hiking, or running—provided social distancing of 6 ft. or more.

 

Performing work providing essential products and services at an Essential Business.

 

Caring for a family member or pet of another household.

 

Essential Businesses (1) Essential Healthcare Operations Healthcare operations such as hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, dentists, laboratory services, etc.

 

Also includes home-based and residential-based care.

 

This exemption is to be viewed “broadly” so as to mitigate impact on the delivery of healthcare services.

 

This category does not include gyms, fitness centers, or elective surgical or dental procedures.

 

Essential Businesses (2) Essential Government Functions Services provided by local governments necessary to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies that provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

 

All such functions are to be performed—as reasonably possible—in accordance with social distancing requirements.

 

Essential Business (3) Essential Critical Infrastructure Work necessary to the operations and maintenance of the critical infrastructure sectors.

 

Businesses engaged in public works construction, residential and commercial construction, airport operations, water, sewer, gas, electrical, financial, defense and national security operations, etc.

 

Businesses engaged in telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications), financial institutions.

 

All such functions are to be performed—as reasonably possible—in accordance with social distancing requirements.

 

Essential Business (4) Essential Retail Food service providers including grocery stores, warehouse stores, big-box stores, liquor stores, gas stations, convenience stores, and farmers’ markets that sell food products.

 

Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food may remain open, but only for delivery or carry out.

 

Laundromats, dry cleaners, auto and bicycle repair, hardware stores and related facilities.

 

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

 

Essential Business (5) Providers of Basic Necessities for the Disadvantaged Facilities that provide food, shelter, and social services for the needy.

 

Essential Business (6) Essential Services Necessary to Maintain Essential Operations of Residences or Other Essential Businesses

 

Includes trash and recycling collection and related activities.

 

Mail and shipping services, as well as warehouse/distribution fulfilment and storage.

 

Building cleaning and maintenance, warehouse distribution.

 

Funeral-related businesses.

 

Professional services such as legal or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities.

 

Businesses that supply other categories of Essential Businesses with the support of supplies needed to operate.

 

Essential Business (7) News Media Newspapers, TV, radio, and other media services.

 

Essential Business (8) Childcare Services Facilities providing services that enable employees exempted in this Order to work as permitted.

 

Notably, the Order contemplates that—as part of the current pandemic—businesses may retool their operations so as to produce ventilators.  Consequently, a company may apply for an “Essential Business” exemption under the Order if that business has sufficiently modified its operations so that a “substantial part” of its business  comprises the manufacturing of ventilators.

The Order also addresses the current run on toilet tissue.  On that issue, the Order institutes a two-week restriction on the purchase of toilet tissue that limits sales to a greater of (12) rolls or (1) package per purchase.

The Order provides no further guidance to employers regarding other developing issues such as WARN Act notices, sick leave, or the newly enacted federal Families First Coronavirus Act.  Employers are encouraged to reach out to their Sheppard Mullin attorney with questions or for further information and guidance on these developing issues.

For more legal insights visit our Coronavirus (COVID-19) page.

As you are aware, things are changing quickly and there is no clear-cut authority or bright line rules.  This is not an unequivocal statement of the law, but instead represents our best interpretation of where things currently stand.  This blog post does not address the potential impacts of the numerous other local, state and federal orders that have been issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including, without limitation, potential liability should an employee become ill, requirements regarding family leave, sick pay and other issues.

*This alert is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice and is not intended to form an attorney client relationship.  Please contact your Sheppard Mullin attorney contact for additional information.*