Grimes County Judge Joe Fauth III met with local officials from incorporated towns within the County via conference call.
Grimes County received notice of its first confirmed case of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Wednesday, March 18. Judge Fauth stated the point of contact for notices involving COVID-19 updates goes through Grimes County Emergency Management Coordinator David Lilly.
Lilly explained why information is being relayed to him. “DSHS (Department of State Health Services) explained that if we do not have a county health authority which we do not at this time, then the way the protocol works is that the county emergency manager is the one that receives this type of information. I am held by the same laws that healthcare workers are on how this information is disseminated so the only people that will learn about the actual location, by law, will be the EMS supervisors so their people know if they have to wear PPE (personal protection equipment) and dispatch because they need to put it in their dispatch console to flag it. It won’t have words to the effect of COVID-19, but it will show that EMS needs to respond accordingly with PPE.”
According to Fauth he originally called the meeting to implement restrictions to non-incorporated areas of the County and was going to allow individual entities to implement their own restrictions as they deemed necessary.
“I had an order today that was going to go into effect at 4 p.m. that was going to affect all the unincorporated area of Grimes County which would leave out all the businesses and residences and so forth within any of the city limits within Grimes County because I was not going to usurp your authority as mayors and public officials,” stated Fauth.
While Fauth was preparing for the meeting set to begin at 2:30 p.m., Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order for the State of Texas.
Fauth read a summary of the order that goes into effect Friday, March 20, at 11:59 p.m. and extends through 11:59 p.m., Friday, April 3.
- No dining rooms, bars or gyms open.
- Drive-thru, food pickup, delivery orders are encouraged.
- No social gatherings or events of 10+ people which includes churches; however, it is not intended for essential services or businesses.
- Workers should work from home if possible.
- This is not a domestic travel ban.
- This is not a shelter-in-place.
- Retail stores and offices are not included in this restriction.
- Public schools are to remain closed.
- No visitors allowed in retirement, long-term type care facilities.
- This order affects only restaurants, bars and gyms. Everything else can remain open (daycares, barber shops, grocery stores, etc.) although it is encouraged to keep as many people home as possible.
Brad Stafford, Navasota City Manager, told about a scare the city had. “I just wanted to let y’all know this is real,” said Stafford. “The city of Navasota had a little experience over the last few hours that really got the attention of our staff. We had an employee that we thought was exposed to something and we were really unsure, but through our research and our investigation I think we’ve about determined that everything is going to be okay. For precautionary measures we sent a large majority of our staff home. We will be bringing part of them back tomorrow and we’ll be doing what the governor suggested with a lighter shift for each day. Just remember because we have had multiple conversations with our employees about this, about what to expect, about how to handle it and y’all all know as cities and counties we have a lot of folks who are essential. They keep talking about essential employees and that’s the majority of our staff.”
Stafford explained because this is new to everyone and no one has really lived through this type of health scare, that people still forget and tend to go ahead about their own business. “We all go to work with a cold, or we all go to work if our spouse has a cold but today it’s a little different,” explained Stafford. “Remind your staff really often how important it is right now because without our staffs being healthy, we can’t serve the citizens we’re supposed to be serving.”
A question was asked from Iola Mayor Christina Stover as to if city and school elections would be postponed and her thought is that it would be a good idea if everyone did the same thing.
Grimes County Elections Administrator Lucy Ybarra responded to the question. “The ideal picture would be yes for you all to do the same thing,” Ybarra told the mayors. “However, you each can make your own decisions. If one entity says yes, we want to host it, but the other five decide not to then that’s fine, we will have an election for one. It is completely up to you and unfortunately, I cannot tell you that you have to do this unless something comes down that mandates it from the governor.”
Ybarra said there are safety measures in place if entities decide not to postpone elections. She also reminded the entities that she needs a decision next week to ensure ballots can be ordered in time if there is an election.
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