Collin County asks residents to stay home if possible, deems all businesses 'essential'

Collin County residents were ordered to stay at home if possible, effective immediately on Tuesday, but businesses in the county will be allowed to stay open.

Unlike in Dallas County, Collin County Judge Chris Hill said all businesses are considered "essential" for the county’s financial health. They may remain open if they comply with the county's ban on gathering over 10 people.

“All businesses, jobs and workers are essential to the financial health and well-being of our local economy and therefore are essential to the financial health and well-being of Collin County citizens,” the order said.

The seemingly contradictory order said people should stay home, except for "essential" activity.

“All persons in Collin County are hereby ordered to stay home except for travel related to essential activity,” Judge Hill said. “All businesses and all employers are ordered to take action necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their workplace.”

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The order, which focused heavily on the local economy, said people should be allowed to remain employed and unemployed people should be allowed to look for work.

“Businesses that are able to remain open need to remain open,” the order said.

It was a welcome statement to businesses in the McKinney square.

Linda Marshall, a barber, is hopeful after hearing Judge Hill’s new order.

“I thought he was right on target,” she said. “He’s letting us stay open because we need to make money.”

Marshall said she’s not worried about getting COVID-19.

“I’m not going to live my life like that. Run scared,” she said. “I know the Lord upstairs will take care of me.”

On Sunday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins explained the purpose of his strict shelter at home order. It is so the county does not run out of hospital beds in a matter of weeks.

In contrast to Dallas County’s order which listed the only essential businesses that could remain open, Judge Hill’s order is much more open-ended.

“We are all concerned about the strain on the healthcare system, workers who are working heroically around the clock to keep us healthy. Dallas County has taken approach no businesses except essential may operate,” he said. “We’ve taken the approach that all businesses are essential and may operate according to the guidelines we’ve prescribed. If they can’t, they will have to close or find a creative way to stay open.”

Hill says if a business can comply with social distancing, limit gatherings to under 10 people and serve a purpose other than entertainment, it can stay open.  He says the reason is for the financial wellbeing of families.

“We are not talking about making their stock market portfolio strong tomorrow,” he said. “We are talking about making sure as we move forward over 2-4-8-12 weeks, those families have the resources they need to provide food and shelter, and healthcare for their families.”

While the Collin County order requires people to stay home, except for essential business, the definition of essential is broad and could include things like shopping for clothes.

“If you are shopping for essential clothes you need, absolutely. I would say that is a valid reason,” Hill said. “If you are shopping for the latest styles this spring, I would ask you to stay home.”

Hill says while Collin County’s order is worded differently, in the end, it will likely still achieve similar results to the more strongly worded Dallas County’s shelter at home order. For example, businesses that are solely for entertainment purposes are not permitted under the order.

“I would think it would be difficult for a bowling alley to stay open under these guidelines,” Hill said. “The order says any entertainment is not essential business.”

While Judge Jenkins usually has a doctor at his briefings, only elected leaders were in the room at Collin County’s press conference.

Anyone who is sick or currently experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 is also ordered to stay home until fever-free for 72 hours.

Hill said if any person in any household tests positive for the coronavirus, every person is ordered to stay home until cleared by a medical professional.

“We are all in this together and must take necessary measures to prevent the spread and transmission of COVID-19 in our community,” Hill said.

Because the Collin County judge did not issue a stricter order, cities like McKinney are now taking it upon themselves to step up and do that.

McKinney Mayor George Fuller says Judge Hill’s press conference left more people confused than informed.

“People don’t understand what was said at that press conference,” Fuller said.

Matt Hamilton owns market and restaurant Local Yocal in downtown McKinney.

“It was a very wide-ranging statement, so it was not crystal clear by watching,” Hamilton said.

“We’re not supposed to hold a press conference and confuse people,” said McKinney City Councilmember Frederick Frazier. “We’re supposed to hold a press conference and give action.”

Mayor Fuller says the judge left it wide open for cities to have to come in with their own mandates. He convened his council Tuesday evening to decide on further restrictions.

“We don’t want to decimate our city economy and we want this to be behind us as soon as possible. So how do we get there?” Fuller asked.

McKinney Councilman Charlie Philips voiced concerns that the economy is already taking a hit and the number of cases in the county is doubling almost every three days.

“Are we not prolonging the agony by doing something more severe at this time?” he said.

Hamilton has ensured his business is essential by creating $40 produce boxes with the food he’d typically cook for guests. He’s sold 450 so far and has lowered the number of people he’s had to lay off because of it. He’s hopeful these shelter at home and stay at home orders are not necessary for long.

“There are still less than 50 cases in Collin County, a county of a million people,” he said. “We do want to stop the spread, obviously.”

The McKinney City council made motions Tuesday to review what Dallas County, Plano and Richardson are doing. Each council member is giving input to the mayor overnight Tuesday, and the mayor is expected to make his declaration Wednesday.

The city of Frisco is in both Collin and Denton counties. Frisco says because Collin county did not define essential, Frisco will apply the definition that Denton County is using.

The Collin County stay-at-home order lasts seven days unless it is continued.


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