Tightening mitigation measures

In response to Texas Gov. Abbott's executive order, Bosque County Judge Pool issues Disaster Declaration Friday

The next two weeks will be critical in "flattening the curve" and slowing down the spread of COVID-19, the disease Coronavirus causes.

Following Texas Governor Gregg Abbott’s executive order March 19, Bosque County Judge Don Pool and the Bosque County Commissioners issued a Local Disaster Declaration for the public health emergency, which included increased restrictions to social gatherings to mitigate the spread of the disease.

With the disease confirmed in several cases in Waco, implementing Center for Disease Control and President Donald Trump’s standards for addressing COVID-19 are more important than ever for the Heart of Texas and the state as a whole.

The Disaster Declaration authorizes the furnishing of aid and assistance under the declaration. The declaration also authorizes the County to take any actions necessary to promote health and suppress the virus, including the quarantine of persons and occupied structures, examining and regulating hospitals, regulating ingress and egress from the County, regulating ingress and egress to occupied structures, establishment of quarantine stations, emergency hospitals, and other hospitals, and insuring compliance for those who do not comply with the County’s rules and directives.

Intentional violation of the declaration is considered an offense, punishable by a fine up to $1,000 or jail confinement for a maximum of 180 days.

The county declaration and state order last through midnight on April 3. They are not a quarantine order as Texans are expected to voluntarily observe the executive order.

The order includes the following restrictions:

  • no public gatherings of more than 10 people.
  • All restaurants and bars are closed except for takeout, delivery, and drive throughs. All gyms are closed.
  • to nursing homes, retirement centers, or long term care facilities, except for critical care providers are not allowed.
  • All schools are temporarily closed; instruction will continue though as local superintendents and ISDs implement distance learning procedures.

The State’s message is the following “existence of the challenge is not within our control, but our response to it is!”

Their advice to all Texans is:

  • Keep social distance.
  • Wash your hands at every single opportunity, at least 20 seconds with hot water
  • Be smart, be calm, be proactive.
  • Don’t go out in public areas unless absolutely necessary.
  • Use the social restrictions as a time to enjoy your family, your pets, a book, get some fresh air, sunshine and enjoy the spring blooms.

Dr. John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of the Dept of State Health Services, declared a public health disaster that corresponds with the Governor’s executive order. This is the first such declaration since 1901.

With the increased COVID-19 testing capabilities a rise in diagnoses in the next week or so is expected. With social distancing and health measures DSHS expects to see a leveling off after the rise, hence the pivotal importance on the social restrictions.

Following those directives, many offices are having non-essential employees to work from home.

BOSQUE COUNTY RESTRICTIONS

Bosque County Commissioners acknowledge the fluidity of the situation, which is being monitored daily and is subject to amendment at any given moment. If it is determined that further restrictions are needed in Bosque County, those restrictions will be implemented by the Bosque County Judge and the Commissioners Court.

On March 18, the Bosque County Sheriff’s Office, under the order of the Texas Jail Commission, suspended all inmate visitation until further notice.

The lobby is open and the kiosk is available to anyone who needs to deposit funds on an inmate’s account. But if at all possible, the BCSO asks you call the office at 254-435-2362 instead of visiting the lobby.

Dispatchers are on duty and taking phone calls, deputies are responding to calls for service, jailers are caring for the inmates, and administrative staff are all working to provide support wherever needed. Safety procedures have been implemented to combat this virus within the law enforcement center and in the field.

AREA SCHOOL DISTRICTS CLOSE

The fact that the virus has arrived close to the community, along with many other factors, as well as recommendations from local, state and federal officials, have led Independent School Districts to make the difficult decision to close the districts through Friday, April 3.

“Just as with the decision to close this week, closing school does not come without sacrifice, tears, heartache and regret,” Clifton ISD Superintendent Andy Ball said. “However, we’ve been told the next two weeks in Texas is critical in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and I feel closing school is the best decision at this time for our #TeamCISD students, staff, families and community.”

CISD will continue to provide daily free meals for students, as well as providing instructional support during the duration of the closure.

Meridian ISD also decided to keep their doors shut March 23 through April 5. During this time, the students will be learning remotely. During the district’s closure, they are providing free breakfast and lunch, to any child ages 1-18. They will bring the meals to cars in the Meridian Elementary School gym, beginning March 24.

Cranfills Gap ISD plans to resume classes on Monday, April 6. They will continue to monitor the situation and make any adjustments to plans as needed. Instructional packets and meals will be ready for pickup Monday, March 23, from 9-11 a.m. High School students without a computer can pick up a Chromebook Monday at the school.

“However, please understand that as circumstances change, so must our plans,” Valley Mills ISD Superintendent Mike Kelly said. “We must be realistic that this closure could last until Friday, April 10, with classes resuming after Easter weekend or even later.”

To ensure all VMISD families are able to access the meals provided by the district, they began delivering meals at various distribution locations. They will continue to serve food at the elementary campus as well.

“I realize with this notice and the uncertainty of how the remainder of the year will unfold, there are many questions,” Walnut Springs ISD Superintendent Pat Garrett said. “At this time, there are more questions than answers to such things as upcoming social events, UIL activities, and the effects of the cancellation of STAAR testing. The school administration is working to provide answers to all of those and other questions.”

“We do not make this decision lightly,” Kopperl ISD Superintendent Katrina Adcock said. “We fully realize it presents significant difficulties to working parents. However, we are hopeful that these measures will better ensure the long-term health and safety of children, staff, and the larger community.”

Kopperl and Morgan ISD are finalizing logistics on distance learning options and the distribution of food to address children’s nutritional needs while school is out. More information and guidance will be made available on the districts websites by March 24. They will use this week to further clean schools and buses and restock custodial and nursing supplies.

“We will begin delivering and handing out meals beginning Tuesday, March 24,” Morgan ISD Superintendent John Bryant said. “Please take advantage of these meals. All children in Morgan ISD -ages 1-18- can receive these meals.”

Please access the school district Facebook pages and websites for updated information.

AREA EVENTS CANCELLED / ORGANIZATIONS SHUT DOWN

Both the Clifton and Meridian libraries are closed.

In Meridian, the Meridian Public Library’s annual fundraiser Jewels and Jeans has been cancelled and will be set in the future as time unfolds and we are in the "all-clear.".

The Bosque Museum has decided to close their doors temporarily.

The Goodall-Witcher Fitness Center is closed.

“Bosque County feels these orders are harsh and restrictive” Pool’s press release said. “However, at this point, our County and State now find ourselves in dealing with this deadly COVID-19 drastic and immediate action must be initiated to stem its spread. Hopefully these restrictions are temporary.”

Times may be tough, but so are Texans. And so, residents are expected to roll with the punches and come out of this crisis stronger.

Undoubtedly, the restrictive orders will have a significant negative economic impact on local restaurants and retail businesses. Facebook posts are calling area residents to support local businesses when and however they can.

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