FORT WORTH, Texas - The stay at home order issued Tuesday in Tarrant County is not as strict as the one issued in Dallas but goes further than the one issued in Collin County.
“Ya’ll stay home,” Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price told residents Tuesday morning.
The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and lasts through April 3. It means no gatherings of any kind and businesses in Tarrant County, if possible, need to work virtually from home. Only businesses deemed essential are allowed to remain open to the public.
“Any business who can work virtually should. Everyone else, when you’re home, stay home. Don’t be out on playdates at the park. Don’t be out in big gatherings. Don’t go see friends for dinner parties at home. Stay home. We mean it when we say you’re safer at home,” Mayor Price said.
If there is activity inside a business that is closed to the public that needs to maintain security or facilitate people working from home, it should involve minimum operations and social distancing must be practiced.
People should only leave their homes for essential activities such as running errands for necessary supplies or medical services, to care for family or to work at an essential business.
RELATED: What's considered essential?
Price said the rules in the county were already tight, but this will help slow the spread of COVID-19 even more as to not overwhelm the healthcare system.
“We’re going to flatten this curve and it will get us back to work faster. Get you, who are suffering from lack of work back on the job quicker. It isn’t lost on us that these are incredibly hard times. But if you’re sick and we can’t treat you in hospitals, we will really be in trouble. We believe closing for a short amount of time we can stop that and make it easier. It will save lives and save jobs and everyone’s lives matter,” she said.
Fort Worth also announced an update for senior citizens and pregnant women. There are now additional hours at Albertson, Tom Thumb and Whole Foods for them to shop with fewer people.
According to Tarrant County's order, “all businesses operating in Tarrant County, except essential businesses, are required to close to the public.”
Arlington and Fort Worth’s orders have nearly identical language.
The mayors of Fort Worth and Arlington joined Tarrant County's judge to announce a county-wide stay at home order. The two cities also issued their own.
Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said his city was more than willing to go along with the new rules.
"In Arlington, our city council will be following this strong action that Tarrant County is announcing today and we'll be meeting to discuss an expansion to our own local disaster declaration to reflect this stay at home, work smart order," Williams said. "By implementing this stay home order, work safe order for Tarrant County we are sending the message to all of our citizens that we want to defeat the virus and get back to business as usual and sooner rather than later."
Enforcement of the order is something officials are discussing as well.
"We're not out here trying to find people to fine. But if folks just want to ignore what we've set in place, we'll go out and warn them and ask them to disperse,” said Tarrant County Judge Glenn Whitley. “If they choose not to do that, then they'll either visit their jails or my jail."
Essential businesses that will remain open to the public include grocery stores, pharmacies, health care facilities, food service providers, restaurants, gas stations, auto repair shops, childcare facilities and news media - among others.
Other businesses can still operate, but only with staff that can maintain upkeep, security or help people who are working from home. Social distancing must be practiced.
On Tuesday afternoon, Fire Chief Jim Davis said community needs will still be met.
“We will continue to respond to your 911 calls,” he said. “We may be responding differently: telemedicine, solving over the phone, through teleconferencing.”
Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus says officers will also make adjustments, including the use of webcams, to interact with people in certain situations. To enforce the order, he says police will focus on education rather than making sweeping arrests.
“By staying home, you are freeing up the police officers to interact with those willfully not obeying this order,” he said.
Fort Worth ISD says all schools will remain closed until at least May 15. Online instruction will continue.
District spokesperson Clint Bond says the district is prepared to provide hotspots and computers to families in need so they can continue to minimize the learning disruption for students.
“We have our teachers individually calling every one of their students’ homes this week and explaining to them what the expectations are,” Bond said.
There is no word on graduation, the district is still discussing it. It’s supposed to be at the end of May. A city spokesperson explained that even though Tarrant County issued a stay at home order, it was necessary for Fort Worth to issue one as well. That’s because parts of Fort Worth are in Parker, Denton, Johnson and Wise counties.