MCKINNEY, Texas — While some county judges in North Texas ordered “non-essential” businesses to close to try to stop the spread of COVID-19, Collin County Judge Chris Hill did not.
“All businesses, all jobs and all workers are essential to the financial health of our local economy and therefore they are essential to the health of Collin County citizens,” Hill said Tuesday, while announcing a ‘stay-at-home’ order that stops short of ordering business closures.
Under Hill’s order, Collin County residents should leave their homes for only essential reasons.
But as long as businesses can operate while following the guidelines laid out by Gov. Greg Abbott, those businesses can remain open, Hill said.
Abbott previously ordered all gyms to close and restaurants and bars to move to takeout or delivery orders only. Those orders must be followed in Collin County, but Hill said if an office or a retail establishment can operate without having more than 10 people gathered together, they can stay open.
Entertainment venues are not allowed to operate, he said. But clothing stores can.
“If you are shopping for essential clothes that you need, then absolutely I would say that’s a valid reason. If you are shopping for the latest styles for this spring, I would ask you to stay home,” Hill said.
Some Collin County residents said the order was confusing.
“Yeah, it doesn’t go far enough,” said Gordy Carmona, a Plano resident. “We need to do more.”
Hill said he’s working to strike a balance between the physical health and well-being of his residents, while recognizing that financial health is critical too.
“When we say we are interested in the economic health of Collin County families, I am not interested in their 401(k) balance at this moment,” he said. “That’s not what I’m talking about.”
“We are talking about making sure that, as we move forward over the next two, four, eight, or 12 weeks, that those families have the resources they need to provide food, shelter and health care for their families.”
He defended his actions, saying while the language in the Collin County order may not be identical to what other counties have issued, it’s still a “unified approach” across North Texas.
When Hill announced the order, many mayors from Collin County cities stood behind him.
But by late afternoon, at least one of those mayors revealed he was concerned the county order was confusing and didn’t go far enough.
At a special city council meeting, McKinney Mayor George Fuller said he meant no disrespect to Hill, but that he believed more clarity was needed.
“The order today talked about, 'If you’re open, implement best practices.' But there’s no indication what best practices are. So, in addition to other things, our order must contain what those things are,” Fuller said.
State Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, said she supported Hill’s actions.
“Any way that a business can remain open and employing people and helping them put food on the table, I think is healthy,” Paxton said. “We all need everyone’s best right now and that includes this balance between freedom and responsibility.”
She added, “I’m thrilled to live in a state like Texas where I think people get that. They know they’re free but we need you to use your freedom to choose what’s good and to choose what’s healthy.”