Greenville Mayor David Dreiling took exception with the Hunt County disaster declaration issued in response to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Dreiling attended Monday’s meeting of the Hunt County Commissioners Court, at which time he said he was opposed to the stay at home order included under the declaration, as the county had yet to report a confirmed case of the virus as of Monday morning.
“We’re a rural county,” Dreiling said, as opposed to the more urban centers of Dallas and Denton counties, which had also issued disaster declarations. “We’re spread out. I don’t know how we can say we’re the same as they are. We’ve never been the same as they are.”
Dreiling was addressing the commissioners during the “public testimony” portion of the agenda, during which the court usually does not respond directly.
When contacted Monday afternoon, County Judge Bobby Stovall insisted the declaration was in response to local medical officials who asked the county to take precautionary measures.
“I think we just took a prudent position,” Stovall said.
The commissioners spoke during Monday’s meeting of preparing letters to offer individuals who operate in essential services which will be exempt from the stay at home order.
Dreiling said he wondered if the letters will be needed to allow individuals to visit those services, such as grocery stores and health care centers.
“Does everybody have to have a letter to get out of their house to do anything?’ Dreiling asked. “I’m not sure that’s realistic.”
He also warned how it might be impossible to realistically and legally enforce the declaration.
“If a police officer sees someone driving down the street does he have the right to stop that person for nothing else than to say, ‘Let me see your papers,’” Dreiling said. “If so I think we’re getting close to martial law, and I don’t think that’s justified.”
Dreiling said he believes the county should consider preparing for such a declaration.
“But I think implementing it at this point is an overreach and I don’t think the county needs it,” Dreiling said.
Stovall said Hunt County is at a disadvantage when it comes to more urban areas, which are also struggling to meet the emergency.
“We’re the low man on the totem pole,” Stovall said, noting the county may fall behind other larger communities in receiving assistance for the rapidly spreading virus, which is the main reason to act to prevent it from starting locally.”
“We need to take care of ourselves. We’ve got 150 beds in our hospital, and I’ve been told this thing doubles every three days.”