The Glen Rose City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an order — continuing its declaration of a state of local disaster — due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic.


The Council approved the order for the city of Glen Rose by a 5-0 vote. The wording in one passage (Section 2) states, “All persons in the city of Glen Rose are hereby ordered to stay home, except for travel related to essential activities. Entertainment activities are not considered essential activities.”


It also states that, “If any person in a household has tested positive for COVID-19, all persons in the household are hereby ordered to stay home. Members of the household may not travel to work, school, or any other community function until cleared by a medical professional. This order does not prohibit any person from leaving his or her home to seek necessary medical or emergency care.”


That order became effective as of 8 a.m. on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. It will continue through April 30, 2020, “or until it is either rescinded, suspended, or amended pursuant to applicable law.”


The order amended a March 23 declaration of a local disaster issued by Glen Rose Mayor Pam Miller, while also clarifying some of the key points.


In addition, a passage in Section 3 of the new order notes that persons at higher risk for severe illness “have a responsibility to take actions necessary to protect their own personal physical health and well-being and to mitigate their own risk and potential exposure to COVID-19.”


It also states, “Any person who believes he or she is at higher risk for severe illness and who believes he or she may be compromised from exposure to COVID-19 is hereby ordered to stay home as long as this order remains in place or until the person determines he or she is no longer at higher risk for severe illness. This order does not prohibit any person from leaving his or her home to seek necessary medical or emergency care.”


Tuesday’s City Council meeting, which was available to the public to hear via telephone or through a link from the city’s website, lasted about 80 minutes. The Council had also met on Monday to discuss the same issue, but no vote was taken until Tuesday.


Dr. Steven Vacek, the designated medical health official for Somervell County, joined the meeting to give his input.


A BALANCE


Vacek indicated that the current situation in Somervell County does not warrant more severe public restrictions. If the situation did worsen to the point that it might overwhelm local medical capabilities, he said, that could potentially indicate that “it’s time for us to crank it down. That’s not happening right now.”


Vacek addressed one key issue that has been prominently discussed throughout the nation — the balance between public health and the health of the overall economy in the wake of business shutdowns.


“I think we have to be careful in how we balance those things,” Vacek told the Council. “It appears the Texas numbers (of COVID-19 cases) are leveling a little bit. I would argue that the stay-at-home (initiatives) are helping. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”


He added, “But, it’s still a very dangerous disease.”


To those who have said that COVID-19 is nothing more than another variety of the seasonal flu, Vacek warned, “It’s not. It’s more dangerous. This is 100 times more deadly than the flu was last year. In the long run, I think we’re moving in the right direction.”


Last weekend, Glen Rose Medical Center announced that it had its first positive test for the COVID-19 virus. It was a man who resides in nearby Hood County, according to officials, but no other information was made available due to federal HIPPA privacy laws.


Vacek noted, “As of right now, we have plenty of testing capability for people who come in and are sick. Within the next two weeks, our test capabilities will substantially increase.”


TERMINOLOGY


Council members discussed some of the specific terminology that would be most suitable to be included in the motion. The definition of the phrase “shelter in place” — widely used in more and more communities and counties making similar decisions — was questioned because its meaning could be vague or misinterpreted.


City Administrator Michael Leamons stated during Tuesday’s meeting that previous use of the phrase “shelter in place” had “created a huge amount of concern in the community. I had several calls for clarification. (There were) people that were listening to the meeting (Monday) that were confused, who were worried.”


Leamons said on Wednesday that the new order “is a little more restrictive” than the first one, “but we are basically following Gov. (Greg) Abbott’s guidelines.”


ABBOTT’S ORDER


Earlier Tuesday, Abbott gave his latest statement about the virus concerns and issued Executive Order GA-14, implementing Essential Services and Activities Protocols for the state.


The official state of Texas website says that the latest Executive Order (GA-14) “renews and expands the Governor’s previous directive to minimize social gatherings and minimize contact with people who are not in the same household. It also renews the Governor’s directive to avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts, and visiting gyms or massage establishments, and it expands the order to include tattoo studios, piercing studios and cosmetology salons.”


That explanation on the website also says, “In accordance with federal guidelines, people are still prohibited from visiting nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term facilities unless to provide critical assistance.”


Gov. Abbott also announced that schools will remain temporarily closed to in-person classroom attendance through at least May 4.


The governor’s order includes exemption for religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship.


It also specifies, “All critical infrastructure will remain operational, and government entities and businesses will continue providing essential services.”


For more information on the “essential services” as defined by the Texas Executive Order GA-14, go online (www.tdem.texas.gov/essentialservices/). A link on that website offers guidance to identifying essential critical infrastructure work during the COVID-19 response. There is also a form to apply for a determination of essential business status by the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM).


Among other topics, that link states that “the use of drive-through, pickup or delivery options for food and drinks “is allowed and highly encouraged throughout the limited duration of the executive order.”


Other services may be added to the list as essential, with TDEM approval.


The governor’s current order were to become effective at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, April 2, 2020, and end on April 30, 2020. The order date could be subject to extension based on the status of the COVID-19 situation in Texas, and with federal recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control.


COUNTY SITUATION


County Judge Danny Chambers also gave an update during the meeting. He noted that the Somervell County Expo Center has already been temporarily closed as a health precaution.


Chambers has noted that offices are still functioning with workers still on the job. However, anyone needing essential services provided by Somervell County departments should call ahead to set up a time if they have urgent business with either the district or county clerk office, the justices of the peace, or others.


“Call ahead,” Chambers said. “They have tables set up in the hallway. We are still open down here.”


Chambers had told the newspaper that his advice for local residents is, “The main thing is to use common sense, take care of yourself, and be safe.”