Coronavirus updates in Texas: ACLU sues Dallas County to release inmates over 50 years old


The ACLU of Texas and other civil rights attorneys are leading a federal lawsuit against Dallas County, asking for the immediate release of all county jail inmates over 50 or with medical conditions.

As of Tuesday, 23 Dallas County inmates had tested positive for the new coronavirus. The lawsuit, filed Thursday, argues not enough is being done to prevent further spread of the illness and the continued incarceration of more vulnerable inmates is unconstitutional.

In Harris County, officials have wrangled over the release of more jail inmates in a disease-prone environment — arguing over concerns of public safety if more people accused of crimes are freed and equal treatment for those who can and can’t afford to post bail for their release.On Wednesday, the ACLU of Texas filed a related suit against Gov. Greg Abbott for his order restricting the release of jail inmates without paying bail. — Jolie McCollough

Texas Supreme Court delays collection of consumer debt until May 8

Creditors will have to delay collecting consumer debt until May 8, per a Thursday order from the Texas Supreme Court. Courts can issue writs of garnishments — which authorize withholding money from someone’s paycheck or bank account to settle unpaid debt — but debt collection can’t take effect until after May 7. The order is effective immediately until April 30 and can be extended by the chief justice. While the order is in effect, those who are owed debt are not permitted to freeze accounts at financial institutions. No hearings will be scheduled until April 30, but they can request default judgment in the meantime. The Supreme Court order encourages involved parties to reach an agreement on the garnishment, and courts can aid in facilitating this agreement. — By Clare Proctor

Dallas will rent RVs and hotel rooms to quarantine first responders

[5:00 a.m.] The Dallas City Council approved $4.3 million for protective equipment, recreational vehicles and hotel rooms, the later to be used to quarantine first responders, the Dallas Morning News reported. Dallas Police have said at least six officers have tested positive for the new coronavirus; so have nine firefighters.

Numerous confirmed cases at nursing homes in Arlington and Missouri City

[5 a.m] Five cases of coronavirus were confirmed in an Arlington retirement community after all 263 residents and staff were tested, the Dallas Morning News reported. And 28 cases have been confirmed in the Park Manor Quail Valley nursing home in Missouri City, according to the Houston Chronicle. That facility requested testing of all residents and staff after a resident tested positive March 30.

The Texas Supreme Court dismissed a petition Wednesday that claimed Harris County’s stay-at-home order, which closed churches and limited worship services to video or teleconference calls, violates the First Amendment. The three Houston-area pastors and the outspoken conservative activist who filed the petition asked the court to dismiss it after Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week that churches are an essential service and can remain open.

While many churches have moved to online service, Abbott’s order gave them the green light to hold service in-person as long as they follow health guidance to keep patrons six feet apart. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo subsequently modified the county’s stay-at-home order to be in line with Abbott’s order. — Stacy Fernández

ACLU sues for release of four detained immigrants

[3:55 p.m.] The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is suing the Trump administration, arguing for the release of four immigrants detained at the Montgomery Processing Center in Conroe.

The lawsuit alleges that the detainees, whose ages range from 28 to 58, must be released because they have underlying medical conditions that could lead to serious illness or death if they become infected with the new coronavirus. An employee at the processing center tested positive for the virus on March 23.