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Collin County commissioner says residents, not government, should define what’s essential

Essential is going to be vastly different for different people, said a Collin County commissioner.

ALLEN, Texas — Collin County told residents to stay home.

But it didn't tell businesses to close.

Denton, Tarrant, and Dallas Counties did.

Those three counties have ordered non-essential businesses to shut its doors in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in North Texas. 

“We’re giving freedom to allow people to decide for themselves what is most essential to them versus having the government tell them this is the things we deem essential for you,” said Collin County Commissioner Darrell Hale.

Hale was criticized for posting pictures and videos on Facebook Wednesday, of a busy Home Depot parking lot that he wrote “excited” him. 

After complaints that he was encouraging people to go out instead of stay home, Hale removed the posts. 

“For me, as part of my duties as a commissioner, I am supposed to be out and about, because I need to see the effects of an order. Seeing the first-hand effects of an order is important,” he said.

“It could have given the wrong impression that I’m encouraging people to get out and about, but the people that were there would have said, ‘Yes, this is essential for us to be here.’ And that’s the question every single person has to ask themselves, ‘Is it essential?’”

Without a blanket definition of essential, you risk mattress stores, nail spas, and craft stores staying open and drawing customers as happened on Thursday in parts of Collin County.

Allen High School’s athletic facilities – both the track field and tennis courts – were open and in use by people who were, in some cases, touching each other.

Hava Johnston, a lifelong Collin County resident now running for Frisco City Council, has been critical of Collin County’s actions.

“You’re dropping the ball. Human lives are at stake,” she said via a Facebook video message on Thursday.

Hale sa hide was trying to use his Facebook posts as proof that things are not that different in Collin County.

Hardware stores have been deemed essential in other places, so a Home Depot could be open and busy in another county.

“There were a lot of people upset, saying it was about money over people and that we were supporting businesses over people and dollars over people. It couldn’t be anything further from the truth,” he said. “We’re supporting people to make the decisions that are essential to them.”

Plano, Richardson, McKinney and Frisco – all of which are partially or fully inside Collin County - decided the county order did not go far enough, so they used their local authority to define non-essential businesses and force them to close.

Friday, Allen ISD will lock up all athletic facilities that can be locked to keep people from gathering on courts and fields.

“I want every Collin County resident to know that I feel every job is essential, every business is essential, but every life is essential, too,” he said, “and it’s up for every individual to decide what is essential to them.”

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