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    The National Guard set up a mobile testing unit at Young County Arena on April 29. Jack County Judge Keith Umphress discussed his decision to turn the offer from the Governor to do the same during a city council meeting. Photo/Madalyn Heimann

Umphress discusses decision to decline Abbott’s help

During the May 11 Jacksboro City Council meeting, Jack County Judge Keith Umphress spoke to the council about his decision to decline the offer of Governor Greg Abbott to station the National Guard in Jack County for a mobile testing site.

Abbott activated the Texas National Guard at the end of March to assist communities with COVID-19 testing using mobile testing teams. They were activated to counties designated as hotspots or viewed as more rural.

“We received a call that Jack County, and obviously Jacksboro would be involved in this, was identified as one of the mobile testing sites desirable locations,” Umphress said. “ (…) One of my first questions was ‘why do we have this privilege? why Jack County?’ and the word were ‘it’s based on your geographic location’ and I stopped them and said ‘location to what’ and they said ‘the metroplex.’”

He added as they got further into the discussion, he was told they were going to send a team with 11 medical staff members and 34 uniformed soldiers.

“They were going to come to Jacksboro and identify a location and set-up a mobile testing location that would receive 60 individuals,” Umphress said. “They could do it every 10 minutes and they would be here for 10 hours. These individuals had to be symptomatic. (…) They would come to our city and our community and go through this mobile testing line.”

The judge said he was trying to negotiate with the Governor’s office to be able to select the 60 individuals who received the testing.

“Maybe it would be a good thing to give peace of mind to our first responders, our police officers, our medical staff, those that deliver the home meals for our schools,” Umphress said. “Anyways, there was no negotiation in that, we were going to absolutely 100% do a publication blitz to where 60 individuals could be identified to come to Jack County to be tested.”

Umphress said JISD Superintendent Dwain Milam said he only identified four or five individuals who wanted to be tested. Umphress added the county decided to respectfully decline the testing site. 

He said he also asked Local Health Authority Dr. Robert Cooper to accommodate and have testing available for those who wanted it.

The judge said he knew Young County would take the opportunity, which they did, and they tested on April 29, but only had seven tests given.

“I think we made a really good decision, we really didn’t know how that would play out,” Umphress said. “(…) I could not justify symptomatic individuals traveling to Jacksboro. You know how they would do, they would stop for just a few minutes after their testing and say ‘I bet you they have toilet paper there at Dollar General’ and go expose more of our community.”

 

 

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