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The west side of the Denton square was deserted Monday, March 23, 2020.

Denton County law enforcement won’t stop residents to check if they’re out doing essential business, said Jody Gonzalez, director of Denton County Emergency Services.

A countywide stay-at-home order to limit the spread of COVID-19, which went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, states residents can leave their homes only to buy food and other needs, or to go to work for essential businesses. The order states that people who disobey the mandate could be fined up to $1,000 or go to jail for up to 180 days.

While the order has led to people seeking letters and documentation from their employers, Gonzalez said this isn’t necessary.

“There’s nothing in the declaration to have documentation to travel,” Gonzalez said. “We’re not stopping vehicles to see if someone’s doing essential business.”

Gonzalez said the goal is to educate residents and hopefully allow a grace period to make sure they understand. At a press conference Tuesday, Gonzalez said officers will be looking for compliance before enforcing.

“If someone is continuing to do something after being educated, then we would seek a criminal violation,” Gonzalez said.

The order can be enforced by any peace officer in the county within their jurisdictions. Unless a city’s local government has outlined how to enforce the stay-at-home order, Gonzalez said it would fall to the local law enforcement agencies regarding citations and jail time.

“We would first simply ask for compliance, and would like to stress to the community that there is a responsibility on each and every person to keep one another safe,” Denton police spokeswoman Allison Beckwith said regarding the department’s participation.

The countywide stay-at-home order will be effective for seven days unless Denton County commissioners vote to extend it. The city’s order will last for seven days unless Denton City Council votes to extend it.

The Denton County Sheriff’s Office did not answer requests for comment.

ZAIRA PEREZ can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at

@zairalperez.

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