On the night of March 24, I found myself staring at the empty stores and parking lot of McAlister Square in Burleson, TX, my hometown that sits an hour southwest of Dallas.
I wasn’t sure what made the barren parking lot eerier: the fact that it was nearly empty at around 8:30 p.m. or that the lot had the occasional car left unattended as if someone had parked them and forgotten they were there.
It felt hauntingly surreal to be photographing the nearly deserted lot, a lot that had likely been filled with families shopping for their spring break trips from the local Academy Sports and Outdoors store just a few weeks before.
At 11:59 p.m. on March 23, Dallas County’s safer-at-home orders went into effect for the approximately 2.6 million citizens in the county in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic. On April 3, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins lengthened the order to last until April 30.
Under Dallas County’s safer-at-home orders, people are only allowed to leave their homes for walks, to get items for basic survival like groceries and medicine, to care for sick family members and to go to work. Only businesses that provided essential services are allowed to stay open.
Essential businesses include essential healthcare, essential government functions, essential infrastructure, essential retail, businesses that provide social services, food and shelter for those in difficult financial situations, services necessary to providing essential societal functions such as trash collection, news media and childcare services.
At 11:59 p.m. on March 24, Arlington and Fort Worth started their own stay-at-home orders, covering approximately 1.27 million Texans. With Arlington being about 30 minutes away from my hometown and Fort Worth only 20, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before Burleson was under the same lockdown.
At 11:59 p.m. on March 25, the following night, Burleson was also put under stay-at-home orders covering approximately 46,000 citizens until April 13.
By April 3, Burleson’s orders had been updated to include allowing only one family member to enter stores at a time, all park amenities were left to the discretion of the city manager as to whether or not they would stay open and the city complied with Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-14.
Under GA-14, essential services have been expressly stated as part of the Department of Homeland Security Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce List. The list includes communications, chemical, commercial facilities, critical manufacturing, dams, defense industrial base, emergency services, energy, financial, food and agriculture, government facilities, nuclear reactions, material, waste, water, information technology, transportation systems and healthcare and public health.
Churches and houses of worship were also told to go online if possible but are still able to meet if they are unable to so long as they follow CDC and federal guidelines.