By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer
The City of Waco issued a shelter in place order to combat the spread of COVID-19. Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver announced the order in a press conference Monday.
Per the order, all residents in Waco “are ordered to shelter at their place of residence” unless leaving their residence for “essential activities, essential governmental functions or to operate essential businesses.”
The order is likely to last through April 7, but its duration is not yet official. The City Council will hold a virtual meeting tomorrow to discuss how long to maintain the order.
Essential activities include “obtain[ing] necessary services or supplies” such as groceries or seeking medical care or supplies, working at an “essential business” or performing “minimum basic operations” at other businesses, taking care of pets or family members in different households, and outdoor activity and exercise that adheres to social distancing guidelines.
Essential businesses includes a myriad of businesses and industries. Healthcare, grocery stores and similar food or household good stores, gas stations, banks, hardware stores, plumbing, electrical and exterminator services, laundry services, mail and air travel are among those classified as essential.
Deaver said he received numerous complaints from workers unhappy with working in “unsafe” conditions during the pandemic at nonessential businesses which remained opened.
“I can tell you that I have gotten lots of emails and calls over the last few days from people … talking about working in unsafe conditions and asking that their businesses be closed. Several of those businesses will be closed with this,” Deaver said.
Currently there are 17 cases in McLennan County, one of which has required hospitalization, out of the roughly 250,000 person population. McLennan County has a higher per-capita rate of reported COVID-19 cases than Dallas County, which issued a shelter-in-place order Sunday to its 2.6 million residents and has reported 131 cases of the virus. Because of this, Deaver said now is the right time to enact the shelter-in-place order in Waco.
“I know that many will say that we are taking this action too early, and that is always the question, when should you act,” Deaver said. “I have been convinced by the healthcare professionals … that it is more important to act early than to wait. I think this action is inevitable and the sooner we take it the better chance we have of getting ahead of this.”
Noncompliance with the order will be a Class C misdemeanor and enforcement will be carried out “primarily on a complaint basis.” Deaver said the decision to issue the shelter-in-place order was a difficult one, but that sacrifices must be made to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“This is not easy. It’s not easy for any of us. We are Americans and we’re Texans and we’re used to our independence and our freedom. And I hate taking that away from us, but we must do this together if we’re going to get through this quickly,” Deaver said.