As Texas taxpayers face increasing financial hardships during the coronavirus shutdowns, some local officials want to continue clamping down on residents’ ability to feed their families.

Dallas residents are desperate to get back to work.

But Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Tuesday he is not ready to lift restrictions in his stay-at-home order, in effect through April 30—even though local medical professionals say data shows the number of COVID-19 cases is flattening and the “surge” of hospital patients is now expected weeks earlier than previously predicted.

“We’re looking at peak now that’s at the end of this month or maybe next month,” Jenkins said. “It’s coming up on us fast.”

“We’re in the middle, we’re not in the end,” Jenkins added. “So we have to stay focused on the mission, and the mission for everyone is personal responsibility, make good choices.”

Yet Jenkins’ executive order leaves many Dallas residents with no choices. The order forced businesses he deemed “non-essential” to close their doors—leaving thousands of workers unemployed and driving some employers out of business permanently.

At the last regular commissioners court meeting on April 7, several Dallas residents waited hours on the phone so they could urge county officials to let them get back to work as quickly as is safely possible.

“People need the opportunity to earn a paycheck before they can cash them,” said one caller, referring to a proposal to deem checking-cashing businesses as essential.

“We taxpayers are still paying taxes,” said another, “and we expect you to be careful in making decisions about our livelihood.”

“Job seekers are not as scared of the virus as of unemployment,” added a woman who helps Dallas residents find jobs.

Over 1 million Texans have filed new unemployment claims since March 14, the day after Gov. Greg Abbott declared a public health disaster due to the Chinese coronavirus. That’s over 7 percent of the state’s labor force thrown out of work in one month.

And it’s not only “non-essential” workers losing their jobs. Healthcare workers are being laid off in droves due to bans on elective medical procedures that have idled staff at area hospitals and clinics.

Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch said Tuesday it’s time to start easing up the county’s restrictions before April 30.

County officials delayed opening an overflow medical facility at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, as local hospitals now say they can handle the expected caseload.

“We are not going to reach our hospital capacity or our ventilator capacity,” Koch said. “It’s logically now time to start taking the steps to [bring] those non-essential businesses back online in places where it can be done safely.”

Dallas County officials have yet to address back-to-work strategies. Instead, commissioners spent the morning debating Jenkins’ latest order requiring residents to wear face coverings in public. Commissioners approved 3-2 Koch’s motion to make it explicit that there is no punishment for violating Jenkins’ face-covering order and to reopen craft stores that sell mask-making supplies. Commissioners John Wiley Price and Theresa Daniel voted with Koch on the measure.

In neighboring Collin County, Judge Chris Hill has already tasked a team of local business leaders with developing strategies to revive the economy and get local families safely back to work as soon as possible.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced today new orders to start reopening the state’s economy as early as next week and appointed a task force to prepare a “phased-in strategy to reopen businesses” that will be announced April 27.

It can’t come soon enough for Dallas residents.

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.