Jack County, City of Jacksboro declare emergencies
Jack County Judge Keith Umphress made a declaration of local readiness for a public health emergency on Monday afternoon while the Jacksboro city council declared a local disaster for public health emergency and order during their meeting in the same evening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The declaration from the judge states extraordinary measures must be taken to contain the novel virus and prevent its spread.
The declaration from Umphress declares a state of emergency for the county and the implementation of the county’s emergency plan for seven days. It does not add any further restrictions to businesses or residents.
Umphress shared scripture from 2 Timothy 1:7 on Facebook when he posted the declaration.
“For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who give you mighty power, love and self-control,” the post read.
The Jack County Commissioner’s Court is set to meet on Monday, March 30, to ratify the declaration for a longer period of time.
Mayor Alton Morris serves as the emergency management authority for the city while Jacksboro Fire Department Chief Jeremy Jennings serves as the emergency management coordinator for the city of Jacksboro.
“Because this is a medical emergency then the one who would kick-off any type of emergency management plan would be the local health authority, (Dr. Robert Cooper,)” City Manager Mike Smith said.
The council weighed two options in which the Mayor alone could have declared an emergency that only lasts seven days or the council could declare a state of emergency for an indefinite amount of time.
The council ultimately decided to declare a state of emergency as a whole and the declaration will remain in effect until discontinued.
“The fact that Judge Umphress declared an emergency for the county, it covers the city, he has that authority,” Smith said. “However, if the city does not declare an emergency we will not be eligible for any federal or state funds that might come along to help us pay for anything we need to as a result of this emergency.”
The city manager said city hall will be locked to the public except by appointment, but they are still going to be accepting payments, although the public is encouraged to pay online if possible. Twin Lakes Activity Center will also be closed as part of the declaration.
Smith will be authorized to take necessary action regarding fees associated with utility billing including extending time for payment and suspending utility shut offs for customers negatively impacted by job loss or reduced income due to COVID-19 with documentation.
Smith said the police department can fine any violators up to $1,000 or place them in jail for up to 180 days, but he does not foresee those measures needing to be taken.
“We’re certainly not going to go out and start arresting people or writing citations because they are eating at JR’s,” Smith said. “I think for the most part we have seen people are policing themselves when it comes to that. But, certainly it gives us this ability to take some action should there be something really extreme happen.”
He added the declaration does not add anymore restrictions to businesses and activities in town than what has already been placed by Governor Gregg Abbott and President Donald Trump.
Abbot declared a public health disaster for the state of Texas on March 19 to last through Friday, April 3.
The executive order contains four parts: 1. Every person in Texas shall avoid social gatherings and groups more than 10; 2. People shall avoid eating and drinking in bars and restaurants, in food courts or visiting gyms; 3. People shall not visit nursing homes, retirement centers or long-term care facilities, unless to provide critical assistance; 4. All schools in the state of Texas shall be temporarily closed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported there has been a total of 54,453 COVID-19, or coronavirus disease 2019, cases in the United States resulting in 737 deaths. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported a total of 715 cases and 11 deaths in the state.
According to the CDC, steps which residents can take to help prevent the spread of the virus including washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, avoiding contact with their faces, avoiding contact with people who are sick, staying home when sick, covering a cough or sneeze with a tissue and disposing of the tissue in the trash and by cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.