The long haul is getting longer. Friday morning, Dallas County Commissioners voted to extend the county's Public Health Emergency until May 20. That means all residents of the county will continue to shelter in place for at least the next few weeks, barring intervention from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.
While the disaster order allows Jenkins to extend shelter-in-place rules through May 20, the judge clarified Friday after that he was only continuing those rules through April 30.
Based on the extension of the Declaration of Disaster granted today, I am extending the Dallas County Safer at Home Order to April 30. The Declaration of Disaster is necessary to provide the tools to lead you through this. The Safer at Home Orders are the rules we ask of you.— Clay Jenkins (@JudgeClayJ) April 3, 2020
The extension passed the Commissioner's Court by a 4-1 vote, following a lengthy debate over potentially loosening some of the order's restrictions. Ultimately the only change was the addition of language urging Jenkins to find ways to help businesses without contributing to further spread of the novel coronavirus.
Southern Dallas County representative John Wiley Price voted against the extension. Price wanted Jenkins to reopen pawn shops in order to give his constituents easier access to cash. Many of them don't have bank accounts, he noted, and will be waiting a long time for their federal stimulus checks.
Jenkins said the pawn shops were trying to bootstrap their way into being essential businesses, in the same way that many craft stores have tried to remain open. Jenkins said that just because Hobby Lobby sells materials that you can use to make a mask, doesn't make it an essential business.
"Hobby Lobby is not the same as people who are trying to make it day-to-day," Price said. "I'm not talking about allowing them to be open to sell, I'm talking about giving people an opportunity. I know, in your life, you haven't had to be there. I have."
Dallas County should follow the lead of public health officials, Jenkins said.
"I would ask you, let's put public health over these business concerns," Jenkins said, "and not hastily do something that is in contravention of what all the doctors are asking for."
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Price wasn't convinced. When the time came to vote, he was a resounding "nay." His constituents can't want for access to cash, he said.
"As Dr. King said, wait usually means never," Price said.
Through Friday morning, Dallas County has reported 921 cases of COVID-19 and 17 related deaths.
Editor's note: This story originally misstated the expiration date of the county's shelter-in-place order. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins extended the order to April 30.