Erath County Commissioners and Stephenville City Council met individually on Wednesday afternoon via YouTube and Facebook Live to discuss action to take following the news that a Stephenville man tested positive for the coronavirus.
Dr. Kelly Doggett, the city’s local health authority, met with the council via Zoom and recommended the council to focus on a shelter-in-place plan.
“I think you’ve done pretty much everything you could, short of shelter in place which I know is going to be disastrous economically but I think eventually it’s coming, whether we do it as a city, the county does it or Governor Abbott does it...but it’s going to happen, so I think what I would probably focus on is developing a shelter-in-place plan,” Doggett told the council.
City council members went into recess while waiting for members of the commissioners court to make their announcement, which involved the order for Erath County to head into a shelter-in-place decree that came into effect at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday and will continue until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1.
Individuals may only leave their residence to perform “Essential Activities” which include:
•To obtain supplies like food and pet supplies for themselves or to deliver supplies to others
•To engage in outdoor activities provided the individuals comply with social distancing requirements of six feet (for example, walking, biking, hiking or running)
•To perform work or travel to and from jobs
•To care for a family member or pet in another household
Childcare facilities can continue to operate under the following guidelines:
•All temperatures must be checked up entrance and taken throughout the day in 90-minute intervals and children will be sent home if fever exists
•Ten or fewer children only in a group
•Each childcare provider must stay with only one group of children and not change throughout the day
A mandatory limit on toilet paper sales is now instituted until the supply chain meets the demand or two weeks, whichever comes first. Toilet paper may only be purchased in a 12 pack or one package, whichever is greater.
All businesses shall comply with social distancing guidelines including maintaining six-foot social distancing for both employees and the general public.
All public or private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited.
Religious and worship services may only be provided by video and teleconference.
All elective medical, surgical and dental procedures are prohibited anywhere in Erath County.
If someone in a household has tested positive for coronavirus, the household is ordered to isolate at home.
Nursing homes, retirement and long-term care facilities now prohibit non-essential visitors from accessing their facilities.
COUNCIL DISCUSSES AMENDMENTS
The council resumed and started making amendments to the order that the commissioners court sent out. Doggett then told the council that residents were making comments on social media saying that the council "didn’t do anything and that nothing is different.”
"I'm not sure this is a real shelter-in-place,” Doggett said. “I tend to agree with what's with on social media. We haven’t really done anything different, other than say, ‘Stay six feet apart, open your front door, make hand sanitizer regular and stay inside,’ but I don’t think that's what we’re shooting for and I don’t think that’s going to flatten the curve. Largely they (the community) feel like the medical community is by and large being ignored and that we’re putting money before health. I think we either need to make a real lockdown or not do it.”
The council then got into a heated debate with Brady Pendleton arguing that closing businesses down would greatly affect the community.
“I will defend the constitution and I think when we start telling people they can’t be in business, we’ve crossed a line,” Pendleton said.
Doggett immediately countered with, “Is it your constitutional right to defy the shelter-in-place order?”
“You can’t lawyer this and you can’t legislate this,” Doggett said. “You have to listen to your medical professionals. You have got to listen to what we’re telling you. I'm not a lawyer, I'm a doctor and I'm an advocate for the community. It’s not your constitutional right to be able to spread COVID-19 throughout the community.”
After a three hour city council meeting, the council came to a decision on which amendments to make to the commissioners ordinance.
CITY COUNCIL AMENDMENTS
All tanning salons, hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, massage parlors and meeting spaces (residential, hotel or outdoor) are closed.
The city of Stephenville will not terminate utility services for the duration of this legislation and will designate funds in the amount of $250,000 to help restaurants and personal service businesses within the city of Stephenville that have been affected by COVID-19.
Business regulations include:
•Monitor body temperatures of all employees
•Disinfect businesses prior to opening and throughout the day
•Encourage employee handwashing on an hourly basis
•Limit travel of employees outside the city limits of the city of Stephenville
•Must provide hand sanitizing station at entrance
•Allow working from home if job function permits
On Friday morning, Stephenville City Council held an emergency city council meeting to make changes to the shelter-in-place ordinance from Wednesday.
The changes are as follows:
Convenient stores where no automatic doors are present, at least one door must remain permanently open during business hours. (This was previously stated as all businesses).
Grocery stores will not be mandated to host special shopper hours but managers may elect to do so on their own.