TARRANT COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley issued an executive order extending shelter at home directives until April 30 and county commissioners ratifies the orders during a meeting Tuesday morning.

Whitley said emergency management teams in the county have been preparing for an uptick in COVID-19 cases for weeks and that they are ready for the surge.

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“I believe that everyday, as we talk and as we look at the numbers that are evolving, we’re working very closely again with our hospitals, with our healthcare providers… I feel good about where we are in the plans right now, but the plans are ever changing,” Whitley said.

The new orders will affect 41 municipalities in the county — including Arlington, Colleyville, Grand Prairie and parts of Flower Mound.

The move simply extends the disaster declaration currently in effect for the county — which already limits gatherings and shuts down places like gyms, nightclubs, and the dine-in areas of restaurants — but expands the definition of essential businesses.

Part of that original order said –

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“All individuals living in the City of Fort Worth are ordered to stay at home consistent with the direction and guidance in this declaration. To the extent individuals are using shared or outdoor spaces, they must at all times as reasonably as possible maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from any other person when they are outside their residence. All persons may leave their residences only for Essential Travel, Essential Activities, or to provide or perform Essential Governmental Functions, or to operate Essential Businesses.”

Judge Whitley did leave the door open, if ever so slightly, to pull back on orders before the last of the month. “I’m hopeful that we may be able to begin to lessen some of those restrictions if people will do what we’ve asked them to do now ,” he said. “Stay at home. If you’re working, after you finish work go home. If you go into a Walmart and it’s packed, back out and come in later on.”

Health Director Vinny Taneja did express some frustration about the number of people out and about, seemingly performing non-essential activities.

Tuesday morning Tarrant County Public Health confirmed the death of five more residents due to the coronavirus — bringing the total number of deaths since the outbreak to 18.

Forty-percent of the positive cases have involved people between the ages of 45 and 64. Only 21% of the positive Tarrant County cases there were among people 65 and older.

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The 2019 novel coronavirus causes respiratory illness with cough, fever and shortness of breath, and may lead to bronchitis and severe pneumonia.