North Texas took several more steps down an uncharted path Wednesday, attempting to further stem the tide of the novel coronavirus. Gatherings of more than 10 people are banned in Dallas County, Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax will have emergency powers until April 29 and most city meetings are canceled until further notice.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson wanted the city's emergency declaration extended indefinitely, but a majority of the City Council successfully pushed to check in on the declaration in three weeks, before voting to renew it in six weeks.
"I want to refresh your memories that we're a council/manager form of government," City Council member Lee Kleinman said. "We must uphold the responsibilities that have been given to us."
David Blewett, who represents portions of downtown, Uptown and Oak Lawn, said the Dallas residents hit hardest by the economic impacts of coronavirus need a deadline to which to look forward, even if the deadline could change.
"I'm hearing from my small-business owners, my restaurant [owners] that they're concerned about the indefinite nature of this," Blewett said. "I think it's important for them to hang on to that hope."
Johnson argued unsuccessfully that passing the delay would create a problem that otherwise wouldn't exist.
"It's only going to get more fluid," Johnson said. "It's more work and more debate for the sake of more work and debate. I would be shocked and astonished if we're going to come back in three weeks and say we don't need to be in a state of emergency anymore."
Dallas' ongoing emergency order limits gatherings in the city to fewer than 50 people, bans restaurants from providing dine-in service and closes bars, health clubs and the city's recreation facilities.
The county one-upped the city, cutting the size of allowed recreational gatherings to 10 people. Community gatherings like weddings, religious services and funerals are still limited to 50 people. The county also established a 60-day eviction moratorium and lifted all restrictions on delivery hours for food, medicine and medical supplies. The county's tax office is also closed for in-person business.
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