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Collin, Denton, Tarrant counties issue 'stay at home' order to stop spread of COVID-19

Collin County's order allows for businesses to stay open and is not as restrictive as the current shelter-in-place order in Dallas County.

This story has been updated throughout to reflect all county measures. 

Collin, Denton and Tarrant counties have joined Dallas County in issuing some variation of a "stay at home" order to limit gatherings and nonessential travel. 

County leaders announced new measures Tuesday in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Hundreds have been sickened in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and at least six people have died, according to health officials. 

Local county and city leaders have issued a variety of complicated legal orders telling residents to limit their movements outside the home. 

Dallas County's order went into effect at midnight and appears to be the most stringent of the local restrictions. The shelter-in-place order prohibits gatherings and tells people to stay home unless they absolutely need to leave their house. 

In Tarrant County, people are told to stay home, all gatherings are prohibited and nonessential businesses are closed. 

In Collin County, residents are also told to stay home but County Judge Chris Hill said "all businesses, all workers are essential to our local economy." 

RELATED: Do I have to stay inside? Here's how North Texas counties are handling COVID-19

Collin County's order does not distinguish any particular business as "essential" as other county and city orders have. Hill said that businesses should stay open as long as they comply with the statewide executive order put in place last week.

The statewide executive order limits gatherings to fewer than 10 people and order the closure of all bars, theaters, gyms and dine-in restaurants.

In Denton County, residents are told to stay home and only essential businesses are open. 

Denton County Judge Andy Eads said the measure "can save your life, the life of a friend or a family member." 

Most of the county orders define essential businesses as including health care workers, grocery stores, gas stations and news media, such as WFAA. 

RELATED: What are the 'essential' jobs listed in county stay at home orders?

Collin County approach

Collin County has 45 confirmed cases, eight of whom have recovered. Three patients remain hospitalized, the county judge said. 

Hill said one "has expired," referring to a person's death from COVID-19 in Collin County. 

The county judge said that he believes the order is part of a "unified approach" across North Texas, despite being one of the laxest "stay-at-home" orders. 

"I've tried to strike a very balanced approach," Hill said of his decision to tell people to stay home while also encouraging businesses to remain open. 

The Collin County order tells all residents to stay home except for "essential activities." The order clarifies that "entertainment activities are not considered essential activities." 

Several judges and mayors agree that counties can be more restrictive than the state and cities like Frisco can be more restrictive than Collin, but counties can't force cities to be less restrictive. 

All people who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 are ordered to stay home unless they are seeking medical care, and anyone who has come in contact with them is also ordered to stay home. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

“The intent of this order is to protect the physical health and well-being of Collin County citizens, to protect the financial health and well-being of Collin County citizens, and to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the maximum extent possible," the order says.

Under the new order, Collin County businesses and employers are required to increase social distancing and provide a safe and healthy work environment.

“Persons who are employed need to stay employed. Persons who lack employment need to gain employment. Businesses that are able to remain open need to remain open,” Hill said. 

Denton County approach 

Denton County officials joined neighboring counties Tuesday in further restricting people to their homes to try to limit the spread of the new and deadly coronavirus.

“Each individual has the responsibility to stay at home and limit their actions to the necessities of getting supplies, handling medical issues and, for some, going to work to keep essential businesses in operation,” Denton County Judge Andy Eads said at a noon news conference announcing the new restrictions.

The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. on March 25 and is in force until March 31. Violators could be fined up to $1,000, officials said.

Eads gave some examples of what not to do under the new order: plan play dates at the park; hang out with friends on the basketball court; go to friends houses for dinner; go to in-person study groups for online classes; birthday parties; go to lakes or other outdoor venues.

“All social events must stop, period,” Eads said.

Denton County has 36 confirmed COVID-19 cases, mostly in Denton. Those sick include people of all ages, including young people 20 and up.

The county judge said the measure will help stop community spread. 

"We must ensure the health and safety of our medical professionals and first responders who are on the front lines," Eads said. "Our shared sacrifices will help all of us to get through the situation as soon as possible." 

Officials on Tuesday also announced expanded testing at the Denton State School, which has had a rash of cases among the population of 440 intellectually and developmentally disabled residents and 1,400 staff.

“Nothing is more important than protecting the safety and well-being of our community,” said Denton Mayor Chris Watts. “During this unprecedented time, it is on all of us to do what is necessary to flatten the curve and minimize the spread of this virus.”

Tarrant County approach

Tarrant County County Judge Glen Whitley issued a stay at home order on Tuesday. 

"We simply must flatten the curve and save lives," Whitley said during a meeting of the county commissioners. "No amount of economic activity is worth loss of life."

Earlier in the day, Mayor Betsy Price urged people to stay home unless they are picking up medical supplies or groceries. And she said people should work remotely if they are able. 

She said the measure is crucial to ensure the novel coronavirus doesn't spread. 

Price said Tarrant County has 5,300 hospital beds, about half of which are full at any given time. She said if local leaders do nothing, as many as 12,000 people could need care. 

She said the order prohibiting gatherings and keeping people home will stop the spread of the disease so hospitals aren't strained. 

"Everyone's lives matters no matter how old or how young you are," Price said. 

The Fort Worth order is in effect until April 3, before the Tarrant County order expires. The City Council will meet Thursday to confirm the stay at home declaration. The end date may be moved back at that time.  

Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said the city is working on a similar order to reflect what Fort Worth is implementing. 

All Fort Worth schools will remain closed indefinitely, officials said. 

Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks said the spread of the disease can be slowed if everyone can work together and hunker down for two to four weeks. 

“We have a chance of getting ahead of this virus and knocking it down quickly so that it doesn’t take root in our community and threaten to do permanent damage to our health, the health of our families, the health of our community, the health of our economy," Brooks said. 

Dallas mayor calls for 'regional approach'

In Dallas, Mayor Eric Johnson issued on Tuesday a stay-at-home order to reflect the countywide order. 

The regulations now cover parts of the city that do not fall in Dallas County. 

RELATED: Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins orders shelter-in-place from Monday night until at least April 3

Johnson said the measure is to "clarify any confusion among Dallas residents about the many emergency orders they may have been hearing about." 

"Going forward, absent statewide emergency regulations, I hope that our county judges and mayors will adopt a regional approach for dealing with this pandemic," Johnson said in a video statement. 

On Tuesday, Dallas County Commissioners voted to implement a fine up to $1,000 and 180 days in jail for those who violate the county's order. 

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson: 

Full City of Fort Worth order: 

Full Collin County order: 

Full Dallas County order:

Full Denton County order: 

Denton County issued an executive order March 24 in response to COVID-19.

Full Tarrant County order:

WFAA reporter William Joy contributed to this report.