Restaurants, retail stores, movie theaters, museums and libraries in Erath County are now allowed to open at 50% occupancy due to the county having fewer than five active cases of COVID-19.


Erath County Emergency Management Coordinator Susan Driskill sent out a news release Wednesday providing an update on the number of coronavirus cases for the county.


“According to the Dept of State Health Services we are still showing 12 cases with 1 death and 10 out of isolation,” she stated.


The first COVID-19 case in Erath County was confirmed on March 23. Within the next 16 days, the number of confirmed cases rose to 13. There have been no new cases since April 9.


The lone Erath County death attributed to COVID-19 was previously reported, having been announced by local authorities on March 30.


In another local developments, mobile drive-through testing will return to Erath County on May 6 at the Cornerstone Church at Highway 67/Loop 377. It will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but Erath County Judge Alfonso Campos asked those seeking testing to call the appointment hotline call center beforehand, at 512-883-2400.


ABBOTT’S NEW PLAN


Gov. Greg Abbott updated his COVID-19 policy Monday afternoon to start Phase I in re-opening some businesses in Texas starting Friday, May 1.


Retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls were permitted to reopen Friday, but the services had to limit their capacity to 25% of listed occupancy.


According to Abbott’s ruling, if the number of active cases remained at or below five in a county on April 30, some local businesses would be allowed to open at an increased occupancy of 50% capacity beginning on May 1.


Campos affirmed and certified to the Texas Department of Health Services on Wednesday that Erath County had fewer than five active COVID-19 cases, which allowed many restaurants and other businesses in the county to open at 50% capacity on Friday.


First unveiled on April 27, Abbott’s plan had other standards that the county was required to meet. Campos addressed each of the standards individually to affirm that the county was in compliance, and that the county wished to increase the capacities from 25 to 50% for dine-in restaurants, retail in-store occupancy, movie theater occupancy, museums and libraries.


The complete list of standards related to increased capacity is contained on pages 44-45 of the governor’s Open Texas Report https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/organization/opentexas/OpenTexas-Report.pdf and includes:


1. The county had five or fewer COVID-19 laboratory confirmed cases on April 30, 2020 or, at a later date, five or fewer active COVID-19 cases as verified by DSHS.


2. The county has created a list of testing opportunities in the county or the area.


3. The county has been in contact with its designated regional advisory council to ensure the community is prepared for any needed health care transfers.


4. The county has provided public notice to the residents of the county.


5. The county has contacted each of the following types of facilities located in the county to ensure they are complying with guidelines regarding COVID-19: nursing homes; assisted living facilities; industrial, agricultural or business facilities with a significant number of employees; or city or county jails.


6. The county has documented procedures to be activated if a resident becomes COVID-19 positive, including procedures to take appropriate measures as necessary in line with the plan to open Texas.


7. The county has contacted DSHS in order to create a plan to ensure contact tracing will occur within 48 hours of a positive test reported to DSHS. It is understood that if the county exceeds the threshold for COVID-19 cases or fails to meet any of the standards, the governor could order the county to revert to 25% capacity for the businesses listed above.


“We want to remind everyone that your doctor can help you make the decision if you should get tested for COVID-19,” Campos said in a news release. “For information about testing, you just need to call your doctor or healthcare provider the way you usually do.”


Residents can call the Stephenville Medical & Surgical Clinic for COVID-19 Tele-Screening at 254-968-6051 if they have:


1. Fever, cough, shortness of breath or other respiratory symptoms; and


2. Traveled within the past 30 days; or


3. Have known exposure to someone diagnosed with or currently being tested for COVID-19 (coronavirus).


Abbott stated that public swimming pools; bars; gyms; cosmetology salons; massage establishments; interactive amusement venues, such as bowling alleys and video arcades; and tattoo and piercing studios will remain closed through the end of Phase I.


If Phase 1 proves successful in terms of maintaining public safety, Abbott said he would follow up with Phase 2 to allow additional loosening of business restrictions.


For detailed information, consult the Texas Department of State Health Services https://www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/.


COUNTY OFFICES


Campos noted that the Erath County Courthouse doors and the County Annex Building will be unlocked as of 8 a.m. Monday, but some individual offices may still be closed to walk-in traffic.


Campos emphasized that anyone with business-related matters involving any of the county offices should call ahead to schedule an appointment. The judge said that some of the county offices will have a dropbox outside their door to leave a detailed message or other paperwork.


Campos added that the County Commissioners Court’s next meeting, on the second and fourth Monday of each month, will be open to the public, but seating for members of the public will be extremely limited.


“We’re still going to do social distancing,” Campos said, explaining there will be no more than 10 people in the courtroom — counting the four commissioners, Judge Campos and the county’s court reporter — which leaves only four spots available, to those who show up first.


The door to the courtroom will remain open during the Commissioners meetings, so that others who attend can stand near the doorway and listen, he said.