COVID-19 Update: Schools closed to April 6
Liberty Hill ISD announced Monday that students would not return to class until April 6, joining a rapidly growing list of districts that have called off all school activities through the end of March.
During this time, all Liberty Hill ISD facilities will be closed for instruction, including UIL events, athletics, rentals, field trips and after-school activities.
Early Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the State would waive STAAR testing requirements for the current school year.
Other area school districts including Leander, Georgetown, Round Rock, Hutto and Austin are closing through April 3.
Mayor Rick Hall signed a disaster declaration Monday for the City of Liberty Hill. Liberty Hill joins the City of Georgetown and Williamson County locally in making the disaster declaration.
“It sets us up in case anything escalates with Coronavirus so that we can receive federal and state funds when they are allocated,” Hall said. “Judge Gravell issued a disaster declaration and we are adhering to his declaration 100 percent. There will be no mass gatherings over 50. people and we are cancelling all public meetings excluding City Council, the Economic Development Corporation and Planning and Zoning up to May 11.”
Hall added that two downtown music events slated for Friday and Sunday this coming weekend had been cancelled. At the present time the Whimsy & Wonder Festival downtown planned for May 16 is still scheduled. The Liberty Hill Fair and Rodeo and the Panther Pit Crew BBQ Cookoff have been postponed with a new date yet to be determined.
According to the City of Leander website, the city has closed public access to athletic fields at Benbrook Ranch Park and Bledsoe Park. This may impact games and practices organized by Leander Little League, Leander Youth Soccer, and other team-based youth and adult sporting activities.
The city has also postponed all scheduled Active Adult (ages 55+) programs and activities until further notice. Park open spaces remain accessible to the public, and no other regularly scheduled city programs, events, meetings or activities are affected at this time.
Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell has issued an order stating community gatherings of 50 people or more anywhere in Williamson County have been prohibited for the next eight weeks to slow the transmission of COVID-19.
The COVID-19 virus is contagious and spreads through person-to-person contact, especially in group settings, and the CDC recommends a community-wide approach using “social distancing” to reduce illness and death, while minimizing social and economic impacts.
The ban on public or private gatherings took effect March 16, and will continue until May 11, unless otherwise extended or terminated by the Williamson County Judge or by action of the Williamson County Commissioners Court.
“Williamson County is dedicated to keeping all of our people safe and healthy,” Gravell said. “Extraordinary measures had to be taken in order to limit the possible spread of the Coronavirus in Williamson County, potentially overwhelming our healthcare system. In Williamson County, we are dedicated to being prepared, not scared.”
The order specifically states there will be no large events or mass gatherings such as conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings and other types of assemblies of 50 people or more held in the County. In addition, organizers should cancel or postpone in-person large events or mass gatherings that consist of 50 people or more. Events of any size can only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing.
This Order does not apply to the day to day operations of organizations such as daycare facilities, schools, institutes of higher learning, private sector businesses, and public sector business.
The Williamson County Jail has suspended visitation until Governor Greg Abbott’s state disaster declaration is lifted or expires.
LH Library closure
The Liberty Hill Public Library announced Sunday that it will be closed through March 22 and the situation will be reevaluated at the end of the week. All library programs have been cancelled until April 1.
LH Youth League
All LHYL facilities are closed effective immediately and all scheduled practices, on and off-site, have been suspended until March 22.
Operation Liberty Hill (OLH) made a call for assistance to the community Friday. The pantry is limited on the food available to distribute and Executive Director Susan Baker said if the client base increases over the coming days and weeks OLH will not be able to keep up with the demand. Monetary donations are needed to purchase meat and necessity items. A tax-deductible donation can be made online at operationlh.org or by mail at P.O. Box 1081, Liberty Hill 78642.
The following donation items are needed to increase stock:
• Bottled water (gallon or smaller)
• Canned meats (tuna, chicken, Vienna sausage, spam, etc.)
• Dry pinto beans
• Canned beans
• Shelf stable milk
• Toiletries (shampoo, body soap, deodorant, toothpaste, toilet paper)
• Dish soap
OLH can also use more hand sanitizer, Lysol spray and Lysol wipes for workers. The plan is to increase deliveries to those over 60 and or those with compromised immune systems. Anyone interested in delivering food and have $100/$300/$100 thousand in liability insurance are welcome as volunteers. Many OLH volunteers are over 60 and may not be coming in to work so volunteers will be needed in the food pantry and thrift store also. To volunteer, call (512) 778-4175. The thrift shop will be closed this week.
State Disaster declaration
Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced several new actions March 13 that Texas is taking to mitigate the spread of the virus, including declaring a State of Disaster in all Texas counties.
“The State of Texas is prepared, and we continue to take proactive measures along with the support of our federal and local partners to contain this virus and keep Texans safe,” Abbott said. “Declaring a State of Disaster is a key component of these efforts because it allows the state to effectively serve the people of Texas without hindrance or delay. When Texans come together, there is nothing we can’t overcome—and it is up to all of us to work proactively and collaboratively to respond to this challenge and protect public health.”
Declaring a State of Disaster triggers a number of action, including:
• Authorizing the use of all available and necessary state government resources to help manage this situation.
• Activating the state emergency management plan and the State Operations Center to enhance the state’s planning and response capabilities.
• Giving Texas Department of Emergency Management the ability to reassign and fully utilize appropriate personnel where they are needed most.
• Providing the immediate ability to move resources around the state, including resources obtained through the Strategic National Stockpile.
• Empowering the Office of the Texas Attorney General (OAG) to pursue cases of price-gouging and ensure that offenders are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Abbott also directed state agencies to restrict visitations at certain facilities. This directive allows limited exceptions for situations like end-of-life visitations and requires all individuals to go through proper screening.
Agencies will be restricting visitation at the following facilities:
• Nursing homes
• State-supported living centers
• Daycare facilities
• Prisons, jails, and juvenile justice facilities
Abbott is also directing state agencies to take any action necessary to facilitate telemedicine. In addition, he is directing state agencies to provide flexible work and tele-work policies to employees to give them the ability to care for their families, while ensuring the state government continues function at full capacity and provide all necessary services.
Texas Public Health Labs now have the capacity to test over 270 people per day according to Abbott, with more private labs coming online every day. Additionally, the City of San Antonio has announced the opening of the first drive-through testing facility in Texas. This facility will serve first responders, healthcare workers, operators of critical infrastructure and key resources, and certain high-risk patients. Other major cities are working to implement drive-through testing sites that will be run and managed at the local level.
In response to public school concerns, Abbott said Texas is pursuing waivers for federal regulations for the school lunch program to give districts flexibility to provide students food should districts shut down due to the coronavirus.
Texans who suspect a case of price-gouging in connection to the potential coronavirus threat should file a consumer complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General or call the hotline at1-800-621-0508.
The DSHS has verified 59 total cases of COVID-19 in Texas as of March 16. The first two were announced in Travis County Friday. Harris County (Houston) has the highest number of cases with 10. Fort Bend County has nine and Dallas County has eight. Cases of the virus have been declared in 17 counties across the state, including one each in Bell and Hays counties. No cases have been announced in Williamson County to date.
There are simple steps everyone can take to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses like COVID-19:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Minimizing exposure is especially important for people who are 65 or older or who have an underlying health condition like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer. People in those groups have a higher risk of developing severe disease if they do get COVID-19, and the safest thing for them during an outbreak will be to stay home as much as possible and minimize close contact with other people. To get ready, they should talk to their doctor about getting additional prescription medications and have enough household items and groceries on hand to stay home as needed.