Another North Texas county has ordered residents to restrict their movements to contain the spread of the Chinese coronavirus (COVID-19), but unlike other counties is encouraging businesses to stay open if they can do so safely.

Collin County Judge Chris Hill issued a “Stay Home, Work Safe” executive order Tuesday morning that directs all people in the county to stay at home except for travel related to “essential activities.”

People who are sick, at higher risk for severe illness, or in the same household as someone diagnosed with COVID-19 are ordered to stay home except to seek necessary medical care.

Unlike similar directives issued by other Texas counties, Collin’s order does not automatically shutter businesses. Instead, the order says all businesses are “essential” and may continue to operate if employers take actions necessary to provide a safe and healthy work environment and prevent the spread of COVID-19, including increased social distancing.

“Here in Collin County, we are placing the highest priority on the physical health and well-being of our citizens,” Hill said at a press conference this morning. “But we are also concerned with their economic well-being … their ability to provide food, shelter, and healthcare for their families.”

“To protect the financial well-being and health of our Collin County economy, it is critical that we keep people at work,” he said. “Businesses that are able to remain open need to remain open.”

Hill said some companies may be able to operate within safety guidelines by changing their business model, such as restaurants switching from dine-in to take-out service. But he emphasized not all businesses will be able to stay open.

“We are all in this together, and we must all do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Hill added.

Collin County’s order took effect immediately and will stay in place for seven days, at which time county officials will re-evaluate. It specifies that entertainment activities are not considered essential.

The county’s directive is in addition to an executive order issued by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on March 19, which are in effect statewide through April 3. The governor’s restrictions prohibit gathering in groups of more than 10; eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts; and visiting gyms or massage parlors.

Takeout and delivery options for bars and restaurants are encouraged by both the state and county.

Dallas, Tarrant, and Denton counties have issued similar orders. Mayors of some Collin County cities have said they may impose additional restrictions on their residents, though Hill said the county’s order would supersede city measures in cases of conflict.

Hill issued a public health disaster declaration on March 16, and on March 20, he ordered county offices closed for unscheduled in-person services.

As of March 24, Collin County reports 45 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases. Of those, eight have recovered, three are hospitalized, 33 are in home isolation, and one has died. Another 90 people are under monitoring in the county.

Residents can keep up with all the latest public health news on Collin County’s healthcare services webpage.

Judge Hill’s full order can be read here.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.