Kaufman County Judge issues shelter-in-place order
During a March 24, 2020 emergency meeting, the Kaufman County Commissioners Court met to consider extending Declaration of Local Disaster and a Shelter-in-Place Order:
- Judge Hal Richards called up Public Health Official Dr. Brashear, who said the best thing is limiting contact between people, such as social distancing, but it isn't flattening the curve enough. Don't have enough tests, no easy way to say why, but it's not easy to do in a short time. He stressed using reliable information, especially on the internet: medications, treatment plans, quick fixes. He said the number of beds is not how many cases a hospital can take, that's dependent on staffing levels. Kaufman Hospital has 11 ICU beds and ventilators. Mr. Barber asked why more concern than influenza; Dr. Brashear said because of the novelty of the coronavirus, which hasn't been in the human population, so couldn't predict due to low numbers of cases. Most influenzas infect in similar ways; the H1N1 was unique, but could be contained.
The infectivity, or R0, for flu slightly less than one (one person will infect less than 1 other) - early in covid infection, it appeared to be 3-4. The number of fatalities per infections is very debatable, ranges from 3.5 - 8 %. If the same number of people infected with influenza had covid, numbers would be dramatically higher. We don't know enough about covid to predict. Lack of summer flu is not warmth, but people are more spread out, social distancing artificially simulates that. Mr. Phillips suggested low population counties will have fewer problems that New York city.
Mr. Hunt asked what to expect in Kaufman in next two weeks - there is no firm answer. Being less congested, should be less spread. Due to lack of nation-wide testing, larger populations will show higher numbers. Due to travel, the county is not isolated. There are no current cases in county, probably not because it's not here, but haven't been tested. To wait for a confirmed case is a bit reckless. Mr. Hunt asked about origin of infection; Dr. Brashear said originally it was thought could isolate people in the area. Once there was spread, travel is not important any more, as incubation period is much longer that usual influenza. It's probably spreading quietly in the area.
Mr. Hunt said there are techniques for using protective gear, wearing gloves to handle money is probably a false comfort. Dr. Brashear spoke at length about the need for people to wash their hands, after every interaction. Gloves are not better than washing hands. Medical personell need protective gear, which is single-use. Only people who are sick should wear masks. For other people, masks are worse.
Mr. Richards said the covid is a lurking virus; Br. Brashear said the incubation is 2 - 11 days, hence the 14 day isolation. As time goes on, will get more data about the virus.
Mr. Cates said need to consider limited health care abilities, 50-60% in NW county essentially a Dallas suburb, so their curves will be similar to ours. We also have limited health-care staffing. Geographically isolated, but a large population exist in urban environment. Tied to Dallas on this, as many residents shop and work there. Unlike other counties who have better facilities, need to consider Dallas' restrictions.
Mr. Phillips asked if this will reappear next winter - probably not the same strain. Influenza strains are usually different every year.
Mr. Ray Dunlop with Terrell EDC urged the commission to keep citizens in mind as they try to work and keep their jobs. Many companies are implementing social distancing.
Ms. Brandi Jones of Coopers' Cottage child-care. She asked if would allow daycare - yes. Will they allow exemptions? - yes, must come before emergency management. She said Forney has a waiver process. She said when she came in, no one checked her temperature, asked about symptoms or risks, there were 9 people in the hall in close proximity. At her day care, every person is checked outside for temperature and risks. There are safeguard to put in place. Give businesses a chance to meet protocols, small businesses may not come back. People don't understand about gloves and masks, don't keep them safe. If give businesses steps to take, they can implement and survive.
After a short break, Mr. Richards said they have ordered thermometers, but won't be delivered until Apr. 9.
They recessed the emergency meeting to hold the regular 9 AM meeting, which ended about 10:03. They recessed the emergency meeting until 11.
They quickly reconvened to have a lengthy debate about having two separate orders, and whether the shelter-in-place should be approved by the commission or the judge.
Mr. Hank Murphy of Terrell Tribune asked how the order would be enforced - Mr. Richards said that's something they'll be discussing; Ms. Lundberg said could have a $1,000 fine and/or 180 days of confinement. Mr. Murphy asked about testing in the county; Mr. Richards referred him to Dr. Brashear, currently no cases in the county.
They discussed the proposed agenda items. Mr. Richards said other counties have tried to list Essential Businesses; Rep. Bell sent a homeland security document about critical infrastructure for essential businesses and jobs. Mr. Philips said few things are left out. Mr. Richards said lawn service was discussed in Dallas hearings. Mr. Philips mentioned a garage door business. There was some discussion about whether exceptions should be handled by the Emergency Management Team, or by convening the commission. Mr. Cates said an elected official should be part of the process; Judge Richards suggested language that if precinct-specific should include that commissioner. Mr. Hunt said with shelter-in-place, very few functions are essential. Maybe plant managers could have two shifts instead of one, to keep having income. This isn't very different than what already doing. He is taking this seriously, people aren't aware of what it will be in a couple of weeks. Mr. Richards said this sends an important message, most residents would be in favor.
Mr. Phillips said media coverage is having an effect, much less traffic in Forney. People are understanding need to keep distance. Agreeing with surrounding counties, to break the (transmission) path.
Mr. Cates said should publish a method to apply for exceptions. Paraphrasing the president, can't rebuild a life lost by failing to act. He suggested including fines and jail time for violations. Mr. Richards agreed, law enforcement has discretion. Sheriff Beavers stressed they want to have compliance. Mr. Hunt said what has happened in the rest of the world tells them what to do; this is important that people understand how important this is.
Ms. Lundberg said her staff has been updating the order during the meeting. Mr. Richards said April 28 is too long, they will be having many emergency meetings, and they will soon quit meeting in person. Ms. Lundberg suggested 10-14 days, based on other counties. Mr. Cates said the curve won't be revealed in 10 days. Mr. Richards said should adopt same date as other municipalities; Forney is April 8. Ms. Lundberg said county order supersedes city orders. Mr. Barber suggested asking Chambers of Commerce to help with exemptions. Commissioners mentioned could further restrict if things get bad.
Recessed at 10:45 until 11:45. At 11:50 they reconvened to recess until 2:00 PM.
Returning at 14:09, Mr. Richards said staff did research during the recess; Ms. Lundberg said most other municipalities have used the authority of County Judge, that would probably be best. The declaration of disaster must be extended, then the judge may issue the shelter-in-place order. The court may consider it to rescind. Mr. Barber asked if they could discuss the order before it is issued. She said/agreed they could call a meeting to rescind the order. Mr. Cates asked about procedure to rescind an order; would be done through the judges administration office, including calling an emergency meeting.
Most orders are about 10 pages; they have a condensed version using link to CISA document about essential services. Mr. Hunt preferred longer document, others agreed. The waiver language is on page 4, of 18.
- Approved extending the emergency declaration -
Mr. Steve Howie said extension must be approved today. This allows reimbursement for supplies for protective measures, possibly also for laptops used for remote work. Not all cities have declared emergency; Forney, Terrell, Kaufman & Mabank have. Mr. Cates clarified this is not related to shelter-in-place order.
- Considered a shelter-in-place order, which the judge will sign.
- Adjourned at 1423.
Tuesday, 2020, March 24