Addressing county commissioners

Hunt County Civil Attorney Daniel Ray speaks to the Hunt County Commissioners Court Tuesday concerning the issuance of a disaster declaration for the county in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Hunt County Commissioners Court issued a disaster declaration for the county, which will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measure, approved unanimously by the commissioners court during a Monday morning meeting, is similar to the order issued Sunday afternoon in Dallas County, under which anyone not working under an essential service must stay at home. Essential services include health care operations, grocery stores and pharmacies and businesses providing critical infrastructure.

Hunt County had not yet had a confirmed case of the virus as of Monday morning.

But County Judge Bobby Stovall said the disaster declaration was designed to help prevent the virus from overtaking the county’s resources.

“We’re in dire straits if this thing breaks out in Hunt County.” Stovall said. “It we don’t do something to pre-empt a tsunami of illnesses, it is just going to overrun our hospital.”

Services such as the Meals on Wheels program through Senior Center Resources and Public Transit will remain open, as will trash collection, child care centers, electric and other utilities.

Monday’s decision also implements the Hunt County Emergency Management Plan, under which individuals caught violating the oder can be cited and face a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a sentence of up to 180 days in jail.

County Civil Attorney Daniel Ray noted that law enforcement officers were dispatched Sunday night to a party which included more than 10 people, which was in violation of the emergency order the county issues on March 16.

“Without an enforcement section like this in the plan, the county could be faced with potential issues of deciding to just not do it,” Ray said.

Restaurants may remain open, but only provide drive-through, delivery or curbside service.

The Greenville Independent School District indicated that it will continue to provide breakfast and lunches, as feeding students is considered an an essential government function under the order.

Monday’s declaration will remain in place through April 3, by which time the commissioners expect to meet again and will address whether to extend the measure.

The formal disaster declaration resolution, which details the county’s stay at home order and lists which types of essential services are allowed to stay open, is included at the county’s web site at: www.huntcounty.net/upload/page/9857/docs/Disaster%20Resolution%20STAY%20IN%20PLACE.pdf.

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