In wake of county’s first case of COVID-19, officials consider possible order to shelter in place

Updated: Mar 25


By SARA VANDEN BERGE

Following Monday’s news that a Stephenville man has become the first person to test positive for COVID-19 in Erath County, city and county officials are trying to decide what steps should be taken next to stop the spread of the virus.

“If we take no action at all we could be well over 100 million cases of COVID-19 in a matter of months with over a million deaths,” Dr. Kelly Doggett, the city’s official health authority, told BTS News. “If we implement only good social distancing practices it will decrease the number, but there will still be a massive and overwhelming amount of cases.

“I believe the only non-pharmacological intervention that can potentially flatten the curve sufficiently is to implement shelter in place.

“I firmly believe this is on the horizon on a statewide level. This situation is going to get worse before it gets better.”

WHAT THE COUNTY IS CONSIDERING

County Judge Alfonso Campos

County commissioners plan to meet at 2 p.m. Wednesday to discuss making adjustments to the current orders that are in place.

“I’m on board with the city and county being very proactive in this,” County Judge Alfonso Campos said. “Our next step is to talk about sheltering in place. We just can’t ignore everything that transpired over the weekend.

Commissioner Dee Stephens said he is not sure whether he will support an order to shelter in place on Wednesday, saying more information is needed before making a determination.

“But I do agree that people need to stay home,” Stephens said. “They shouldn’t go out in public if they don’t have to.”

Commissioner Joe Brown agrees.

“The tighter we batten down the hatches right now, the quicker we are going to get through this,” Brown said. “I am not completely opposed to sheltering, but I would rather not.”

Campos said he will spend the next couple of days talking with the mayor and other city officials to determine the best course of action.

“We have to be united in this because in my book, everyone is a county resident,” Campos said. “Our actions right now are very important and the next two weeks are critical. We don’t want to overburden our hospital. It’s important we take proper precautions to keep this thing from spreading.”

WHAT CITY OFFICIALS ARE SAYING

Mayor Doug Svien

Stephenville Mayor Doug Svien said he has not made up his mind on whether he will support an order to shelter in place.

“We have to choke out this disease and the only way to do that is to limit exposure,” Svien said. “But I need more information before making that decision. I want to encourage people, especially the younger generation, to act responsibly.

“This is a terrible disease and we are going to have to make some tough decisions. I don’t want to jeopardize the health and well-being of our citizens or cripple the local economy.”

Mayor pro tem Brady Pendleton said the city is monitoring the situation around the clock.

“It changes hourly,” Pendleton said. “My hope is that we fall in line with the governor’s comments and continue to make decisions on a local level that are best for our community. I believe the current declaration in place ensures the safety of our citizens, but we have to be willing to strengthen or loosen restrictions as there are new developments.”

The Stephenville City Council is set to meet at 2 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the situation.

“As I have stated from the beginning, listening to our medical professionals is the most important thing we can do along with working with other government officials to protect the citizens,” councilman Brandon Huckabee said. “I think that all measures, including an order to shelter in place, should be on the table to proactively prevent further exposure to this virus.”

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Beneath the Surface News. sara@beneaththesurfacenews.com