updated 11:14 PM UTC, Mar 27, 2020

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Stay-at-Home order issued for Tyler County

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by Chris Edwards
Tyler County Booster Editor 

Tyler County is one of six counties in the area to be issued a stay-at-home order as a response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Jefferson, Hardin, Orange, Jasper and Newton were also issued stay-at-home orders this afternoon. Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette said the order will not go into effect tonight, but he is anticipating it within 48 hours.

The order allows only those businesses deemed essential to remain open, including grocery stores, gas stations, hospitals and medical centers, and others. The order will spell out the businesses allowed to remain open. This typically includes grocery stores, gas stations, any law enforcement or emergency management personnel and a few other businesses/organizations.

Currently, Tyler County restaurants are closed, but are offering carry-out, drive-thru or delivery services.

Blanchette said that Tyler, along with Jasper and Newton counties, are collaborating on a method to put the order into effect. "We want to be sure we can clarify the information to the public," Blanchette said.

During a press conference this afternoon where the order was announced and each of the judges addressed concerns particular to their jurisdictions, an emphasis was placed strongly on implementing the order as soon as possible in the Golden Triangle, where there have been reported cases and one fatality linked to the virus.

As of this afternoon, there are 13 reported cases of the virus in the region, including eight in Beaumont, two in Silsbee, two in Lumberton and one in Orange. Yesterday, there was a COVID-19 death reported. Michael Westbrook, the 54-year-old band director for Hardin-Jefferson ISD, died yesterday from COVID-19 complications.

There are no reported cases in Tyler County, and according to Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Jobe, there have been no confirmed or presumptive positives here. “All tests received so far are negative, with some still pending,” he posted to the county’s Emergency Management Facebook page.

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Officials address COVID-19 concerns

Drive thru only  Restaurants have been ordered to eliminate the dining-in option for the time being, and go to drive-thru, curbside or delivery services only ICHRIS EDWARDS | TCB PHOTO)Drive thru only Restaurants have been ordered to eliminate the dining-in option for the time being, and go to drive-thru, curbside or delivery services only ICHRIS EDWARDS | TCB PHOTO)

 

By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE — With a limited number of officials present in the commissioners’ courtroom and three of the county commissioners attending via teleconference, the Tyler County Commissioners Court had its regular meeting on Monday morning.

Because of the protocol put into place due to coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country, the meeting’s format was changed and there were agenda items pertaining to the virus and preventing it in the county.

Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette said he is a member of several different groups for elected officials that are keeping information pertaining to the virus and governing protocol current. “You may see amended executive orders coming out in the days ahead,” Blanchette said. “We are attempting to try to reduce those things down to absolutely critical items that would provide for the safety and protection of the citizens of the county.”

“The focus is containment and the goal is saving lives,” Blanchette said. To designate someone during the COVID-19 crisis, the court approved Woodville physician Dr. Paula Denson as the county’s public health official. Blanchette said the appointment will speak to a need the county has to address concerns from the public, and Denson agreed to serve in that capacity during the crisis.

The court also approved the ratification of the emergency declaration of disaster and the amended emergency order which were both put into place in their original forms last week. The declaration of disaster recognizes the county as being able to take part of any sort of programs or support available from the state, if there are any available.

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County Judge Issues Amended Emergency Order

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COUNTY JUDGE
JACQUES  L. BLANCHETTE

 

I, Jacques L. Bla nchet t e, duly elected Judge of Tyler County, based on most recent information received from Federal and State authorit ies, Emergency Management personnel,  and Public Health experts issue this ORDER REGARDING THE OCCUPANCY OF PREMISES THROUGHOUT TYLER COUNTY, TEXAS, INCLUDING  M UNICIPA LITIES:

Under the authorit y granted to me by Chapter 418, Texas Government Code, a Disaster Declaration has been issued effective March 19, 2020. Addit iona lly , pursuant to Section 418.108(d) (g), TexasGovernment Code, I hereby issue the following orders in accordance with guidelines issued by theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the President of the Unit ed States.

Events and Gatherings

  1. 1.Anyevent sponsored or permitted by Tyler County shall cease.
  2. 2.Public and private events and gatherings  of greater  than 10 persons  shallcease.
  3. 3.Cit iz ens gathering in groups of any size should practice social distancing of at least six feet apart and good hand hygiene.

Businesses/ Restaurants

  1. 1.Rest aurant s shallclose for dine-in services but may use delivery and t ake -out opt ions. Bars shall close.  Owners  and managers  shall in sure that all cooks and food handlers  are screened  for  illness prior  to  preparing food for sale.
  2. 2.Grocery and convenience stores are encou raged to remain open but citizens are urged to used curbside services to  the  greatest  extentpossible.

Nursing Homes/ Care Facilities

https://www.tylercountybooster.com/f9beed82-943c-4518-9506-99ea4a75e783" width="73" height="13" />Nur sing homes and senior living centers shall limit visitation of the public within their facilit ies.

Curfew

It is hereby ORDERED that a twenty-four (24) hour curfew shall be in place immediately throughout Tyler County for all individuals under the age of 18 who are:

  1. a.not  inschool;
  2. b.not accompanied by school personnel, aparent or guardian; or
  3. c.not going directly to their place of employment or going directly home from that place employment.

School Districts /  Educational Programs

School districts will suspend on-site academic instruction for the period of this order and will implement home-based flexible education programs. This order will not prohibit the preparation and distribution of meals within County boundaries, nor prohibit the essential administrative and maintenance operations of the District.

While there may be more than 10 people within the larger school building, school districts will comply with the regulation that no more than 10 people gather within any self-contained  space, and all persons will comply with social- dist ancing . Citizens should contact their local school districts for more info rmat ion.

Price Controls/ Penalties

A person shall not sell any of the following goods or services for more than the price the person charged for the goods or services before March 12, 2020 :

  1. a.groceries,beverages, toilet articles, ice, cleaning items, et c.;
  2. b.construction and building materials and supplies, and earthmoving equipment and machinery;
  3. c.electricaland gas generating and transmission equipment, parts and accessories;
  4. d.charcoal briquettes, matches, candles, lamp illumination and heat unit carbides, dry batteries, light bulbs, flashlights, and handlanterns;
  5. e.hand tools (manual and power), hardware and household supplies, and equipmentrental;
  6. f.automotiveparts, supplies and accessories;
  7. g.plumbing and electrical tools andsupplies;
  8. h.apartment,duplex, multi-family dwelling, rooming house, hotel and motel rental;
  9. i.gasoline,diesel oil, motor oil, kerosene,, grease, and automotive lubricants;
  10. j.restaurant, cafeteria and boarding housemeals;
  11. k.services of roofing and building contractors, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, tree surgeons, and automobile wreckercompanies;
    1. I.medicine, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment andsupplies;
    2. m.blankets,quilts, bedspreads, bed liners, mattresses, bedsprings, bedsheets, bedsteads, towels, and toilet  paper;and
  12. n.furniture  andclothing.

These price control regulations shall have the effect of ordinances when duly filed with the County Clerk. Any person who violates any provision of these regulations, upon conviction, is punishable by a fine of not more than FIVE HUNDRED ($500.00) dollars.

 

Exemptions

By t his same authority, I hereby exempt the following classes of individuals from this Emergency Order ,PROVIDED that employers are providing appropriate screenings of their employees for COVID -19 as outlined bythe CDC, and sending those home who display such symptoms:

  1. 1.Those employees of hospitals, trauma cent ers, nursing homes, convalescent facilities or other healthcare providers who are essential for, and who are actively involved in providing medical treatment and/or housing for persons who are ill or infirm and who are not evacuated;
  2. 2.Those employees of Federal, St at e, and Local Governments, Political Subdivisions, and Special Purpose Districts who are deemed essential by their employer for law enforcement activities,  emergency  response  operat ions, and including jury operations;

This order does NOT extend to law enforcement act ivit ies, emergency response operat ions, court operat ions, including jury  operat ions, and to  the Tyler  County  Hospital District.

The Mayor of each City within Tyler County shall determine the scope of operations of municipal employees .

All Tyler County employees must report for work as required by t heir supervisors. All work­ related travel of County  employees  shall cease .

This order shall take effect at 12:01 a.m. on March 20, 2020, and shall remain in effect for 30 days, and may be extended as needed.

in accordance with Government Code Section 418I 08(h}after a declaration of local disasteby thCounty Judge, the jurisdiction  and authority of the County Judge includes the incorporated  and unincorporated areas of the County.  Under Government Code 418.173violat ions of thdeclaratioof disaster and orders may be punishablby a fine not to exceed $1,000 or impriso nment in the jail not to exceed 180 days.

 

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Coronavirus concerns hit Tyler County

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By Chris Edwards
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With the World Health Organization proclaiming it a pandemic and President Donald Trump declaring a national state of emergency, the worries continue to grow over the novel coronavirus (COVID-19.)

On Monday, Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette issued an emergency order for all events with greater than 50 people, sponsored or permitted by the county, to cease immediately for a duration of 30 days, and “may be extended as needed.”

The order also states that nursing homes and senior living centers should limit visitation within their facilities.

One area where the coronavirus impact has hit hard, nationwide, has been with the cancellation and/or postponement of festivals. Both the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Austin’s South by Southwest have been cancelled. The upcoming Dogwood Festival, which was set to begin this weekend with the Festival of the Arts at Heritage Village, followed by Western Weekend and Queen’s Weekend, for the two succeeding weekends, was postponed by the festival’s operating directors, who met on Monday to make the decision.

Although the directors have stressed that the festival is being postponed, with dates to be made public later, this is only the second time in the festival’s 77-year history that a rescheduling or cancellation has been made. It was cancelled from 1942 through 45 due to American involvement in World War II.

Blanchette, who recently hosted a workshop on the virus, along with Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Jobe, said the county is receiving updates on a daily basis from Austin on the matter.

There are no reported cases of the coronavirus in Tyler County. At this time, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 69 reported cases in Texas and 4,490 confirmed cases, nationwide. There have been 87 deaths reported across the country.

Last week Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference to update the public on the status of the virus and what the state is doing to protect the health of the public.

Abbott declared a State of Disaster in all of Texas’s 254 counties and said that “no matter how this situation unfolds, Texas will be ready.”

Abbott said that various state agencies are working hand-in-hand to monitor the situation, and that Texas Public Health Labs now have the capacity to test more than 270 people per day.

At the municipal level, Woodville, Chester and Colmesneil mayors Paula Jones, Floyd Petri and Don Baird, respectively, issued emergency orders for their respective cities. The order issued by Jones follows closely with the county’s order, and Petri’s refers to the state and county efforts to contain the virus, and states penalties for those who violate the declaration in Chester.

As of Monday, all school districts in the county announced class cancellations. A statement from Woodville ISD notes a judicial decree allowing it to “put a flexible education program in place to be used from home.” Colmesneil ISD reported that it would re-evaluate its situation on April 3, and Spurger ISD made a statement that it would put a flexible schedule in place on Monday, March 23, which would operate until April 3.

Last week, Texas Education Agency commissioner Mike Morath held a conference call with superintendents across the state to address the matter. Morath recommended a decision-making model provided by the CDC, which suggests that any events including 50 or more people be cancelled or postponed.

In a letter from WISD Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg, it is noted that all non-essential travel and field trips have also been cancelled until further notice, and all extra-curricular activities under the University Interscholastic League guidance are suspended for at least two weeks, beginning Monday.

Morath told educators and lawmakers to be prepared for possible long-term school district closures, potentially through the end of the academic term where incidents of the virus have been confirmed.

In another statement from TEA, made public on Monday, the agency stated that the STAAR testing requirements have been waived after an announcement from Abbott, who also said he would ask the federal government to waive federal standardized testing requirements for this school year.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has suspended all volunteer visitation to its facilities, according to TDCJ official Rene Hinojosa, who issued a memo last Thursday.

At the Tyler County Jail, Sheriff Bryan Weatherford issued a statement on Saturday suspending visitation until further notice. “Visitation will resume once the suspension is terminated by the Governor’s office or the statewide disaster declaration is lifted,” Weatherford said. Attorneys, as well as probation and parole officers will still be allowed in the jail to see their clients but will be screened before entering.

Weatherford said that during the weekend, an individual made a false report on social media that they tested positive for COVID-19 at Tyler County Hospital, an incident he said was “promptly investigated by the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office and delivered to the District Attorney’s office,” resulting in a Class A Misdemeanor charge of filing a False Alarm/False Report.

Although the above information is current at press time, with regard to closures, please keep abreast of any new developments via the Booster Facebook page and the Tyler County Emergency Management Facebook page.

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