On Thursday, state health data showed the hospital service area that includes Collin County surpassed a caseload threshold set by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The order forces nonessential businesses in Dallas, Denton, Collin, and Tarrant counties to reduce customer capacities.

Under the emergency order, Gov. Abbott declared that if COVID-19 patients take up more than 15% of an area’s hospital beds for seven consecutive days, elective surgeries at hospitals would again have to stop, bars in the area would have to close, and restaurants, retail shops and gyms would have to scale back capacity to 50%.

In response to Gov. Abbott’s rollbacks, some city authorities in Collin County indicated they will work with business owners before citing them when capacity requirements are not met. Officials in cites like Allen are signaling they will use their firefighters and city inspectors to educate business owners about Gov. Abbott’s order rather than dole out citations.

Gov. Greg Abbott | Carrington Tatum / Shutterstock.com

Collin County officials, on the other hand, did not offer a plan for the enforcement, writing in a statement Friday afternoon that they were waiting for further guidance from state officials in the governor’s office, Department of State Health Services and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission before they begin enforcing Abbott’s order.

“The Governor’s Office is responsible for enforcement of Governor Abbott’s executive orders,” they wrote, “and no local executive orders have been issued by Collin County at this time.”

Over the weekend, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins posted to Twitter a photo of a Dec. 5 letter his office received from DSHS that indicated the governor’s order was officially under effect.

McKinney officials said in a statement nonessential businesses should comply with the governor’s order, but the city’s official stance was business owners and managers need to take the lead in enforcing the capacity limits. “The city has the authority to issue citations but prefers to work with businesses to seek compliance,” reads a statement on the city’s website.

Denise Lessard, a spokeswoman for McKinney, said city officials are not keeping track of how many citations authorities have given for non-compliance.

The city of Allen issued an advisory warning business owners of the rollback requirements. City spokeswoman Teresa Warren said residents should call the Allen Fire Department to report any concerns they have about businesses not following the governor’s order. She also noted Allen’s enforcement will be a mix of helping businesses survive the downturn while also working to keep the general public safe during the pandemic.

When it comes to bars, the TABC only has the authority to revoke liquor licenses for non-compliance. Agency spokesman Chris Porter said Friday afternoon the TABC had not been directed to increase enforcement of the governor’s order in the trauma service area that includes Collin County. Porter noted TABC agents would be visiting bars in the area Friday night to warn about the policy changes.

But it may not be a problem for bar owners in Collin County since many reopened in August with restaurant permits.

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney is a freelance journalist based in the Dallas area. His work has appeared in the Dallas Morning News, Dallas Observer, Denton Record-Chronicle, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and the Las Vegas...