Eighth COVID-19 case announced in County
By Mike Eddleman
Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD) announced a new positive COVID-19 case, bringing the County’s total to eight, two days after the first four cases were announced. The individuals is a female in her 40s with exposure to an area with community spread.
So far, officials have not identified where each of the eight individuals reside in the County, but County Judge Bill Gravell said Friday afternoon that he hoped soon the limited information made public with each case would include the city of residence.
“We’re trying to work with our medical staff. I need to get clearance from our medical doctor,” Gravell said in reference to identifying more on the location of those testing positive.
The number of cases will be updated by the County at noon each day.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), as of March 20, 5,277 Texans have been tested for the COVID-19 virus. The DSHS reported 194 cases in the state and five deaths, the first being a male in his 90s in Matagorda County on March 17.
Reports may vary between jurisdictions and from DSHS numbers. The numbers reported by DSHS may differ from what’s being reported at the local level for two reasons. Local jurisdictions receive the initial laboratory results and may report them publicly before reporting those cases to DSHS. Some jurisdictions may report cases diagnosed or treated in their area, even if the person lives in another county.
Governor Greg Abbott gave city and school districts the option earlier this week to postpone their May 2 elections until Nov. 3. Both the Liberty Hill ISD Board and the City Council have the issue on their March 23 meeting agenda for discussion.
“I can’t tell you what the cities may or may not do, and I can’t tell you what the governor may or may not do about the May elections, I’m just telling you today we’re solving the problems with the resources we have,” Gravell said.
Speaking of the County Elections Office, Gravell touched on what he said demonstrated the flexibility of county and other local officials, pointing to the temporary reassignment of some of the staff and repurposing of much of the equipment in the department.
“Our Elections Administrator, Chris Davis, is currently been moved out of that office and he is operating a call center,” he said. “His Deputy Director has moved to be part of the PIO team and they’re staff is continuing to do their work even though they’re not open to the public. All of our laptops that were used at voting locations have now been wiped clean and transitioned to be used in our health department and other urgent areas.”
On Friday, Abbott postponed the May 26 Primary Runoff Election to July 14.
Both the Liberty Hill City Council and Liberty Hill ISD Board of Trustees have meetings scheduled for Monday night, but neither has indicated as of yet whether the meeting format would be different than normal.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott approved the suspension of certain open-meeting statutes this week, allowing for telephonic or videoconference meetings of governmental bodies that are accessible to the public in an effort to reduce in-person meetings that assemble large groups of people.
Requirements for holding a telephonic or videoconference meeting include: allowing the public to to participate and address the governmental body during any telephonic or videoconference meeting; the governmental body must post a written notice that gives the public a way to participate remotely, such as a toll-free dial-in number, and that includes an electronic copy of any agenda packet that officials will consider at the meeting; and the governmental body must provide the public with access to a recording of any telephonic or videoconference meeting.
“I certainly want to encourage and promote safe distancing,” Gravell said. “In the days ahead I will tell you might be able to expect any variation of that. Our intent right now is to have Commissioners Court Tuesday to deal with urgent matters and then my plan as of now is to not have court for two weeks then to go to a two week schedule. I can’t speak for the cities, but I would encourage all cities to do the same.”
Abbott issued the following statement after the Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order suspending residential eviction proceedings through April 19, unless there is a threat of physical harm or criminal activity: “This decision by the Texas Supreme Court offers a lifeline to many Texans who are beginning to feel the economic impact of COVID-19. Temporarily suspending residential eviction proceedings will provide Texans whose personal income has been affected by the spread of this virus with greater flexibility to meet their housing needs and provide for their families. I thank the Texas Supreme Court for its swift action on this matter.”