Breckenridge Texan

Breckenridge and Stephens County officials issue shelter-in-place order

Breckenridge and Stephens County officials issue shelter-in-place order
March 23
17:20 2020

Effective at 11:59 p.m. tonight, Monday, March 23, the City of Breckenridge and Stephens County will be under a “shelter in place” order by Stephens County Judge Michael Roach and Breckenridge Mayor Bob Sims, in response to the ongoing coronavirus situation. The order will be in effect until it is rescinded by the Stephens County Commissioners Court and the Breckenridge City Commission.

The order was announced at a meeting Monday afternoon at the Stephens County Courthouse. It was developed by Roach, Sims, County Attorney Gary Trammel, City Manager Andy McCuistion with input from County Commissioner Mark McCullough and Police Chief Bacel Cantrell.

The new order is actually an amendment of the March 16 order and came about following this past weekend when several large groups got together at local venues and public places, after being asked last week to voluntarily practice social distancing and limits on gatherings. According to local officials, they are awaiting the results of nine COVID-19 tests that have been sent to a lab in Fort Worth; however, no local cases of the disease have been confirmed, at this time.

Additionally, earlier in the day the Breckenridge City Commission closed the city parks after voting to extend the city’s Declaration of Local Disaster Due to Public Health Emergency. The Breckenridge Texan will have more on that story as soon as possible.

Roach said one of the issues that prompted the shelter-in-place order is that, under the executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott last week, restaurants have been required to close or offer only take-out and delivery. Yet, many people in the community were not abiding by other parts of the governor’s order.

“You can see the sacrifice these people are making to keep everybody safe, and we have not had buy-in by the community,” he said. “People are still not treating this as the threat that it is, so this order takes it up one notch and says … we’re going to require that it happens…”

The order is eight pages long and includes a variety of definitions of terms, exemptions from the rules, and suggestions practicing social distancing. Click the link at the end of this story to read the complete order.

“A lot of people have a misconception that they can’t leave their houses for any reason (under a shelter-in-place order), and that’s simply not the case,” Roach said. “If you look over this order, you can leave your house for a variety of reasons. Those include medical reasons, to buy supplies, take your animals to the vet, buy groceries. … Our main point is that we want the community not to leave their residences unless they have a good reason to do that.”

Specifically, the order states that local residents are required to shelter in place – or stay at home – except for certain essential activities and work to provide essential business and government service or to perform essential public infrastructure construction, including housing. Those activities that are allowed include shopping for necessary services or supplies, such as food, pet supplies, household products, etc.; visiting health care professionals; obtaining supplies to work from home; work at an “essential business”; care for a family member or pet in another household; and engage in outdoor activity while complying with the social distancing requirements.

Social distancing is defined in the order as maintaining a distance of at least six feet between you and any other person when you are not in your residence. Retail stores that stay open to customers must enforce the social distancing rule. For most small businesses, that means that the number of customers in a store at one time must be limited.

Some of the larger businesses in town have exceptions listed in the order, based on the size (square feet) of each building. Specifically, United Supermarket will be limited to 50 customers at a time; Walmart will be limited to 100 customers at a time; and CVS will be limited to 15 customers at a time. All other retailers who sell groceries will be limited to 10 customers at a time. Barber shops and beauty shops can have only one customer per barber/operator unless the customer needs assistance.

Additionally, the retailers will be required to enforce that only one family member is inside the store at one time, unless an individual requires assistance or child care is not available.

The order requires that businesses that are not considered “essential businesses” must cease all activities unless the employees work from home.

Businesses that are considered essential and are exempted from the order to cease operations include:

  • Essential healthcare operations
  • Essential government functions
  • Essential critical infrastructure – construction work, internet/telecommunications systems, utilities, oil refining, airport operations,
  • Essential retail – Grocery/household goods sales, automotive sales and repair, gun sales and repair, bait and tackle, liquor stores, gas stations and convenience stores, furniture and appliance sales, farmers markets, hardware stores, restaurants (take-out or delivery only), laundromats, and others. For a complete list of businesses that are considered “essential retail,” click the link at the end of this story to read the order.
  • Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations
  • Other essential services – funeral homes, mail and shipping services, building cleaning and maintenance, storage facilities, and others. Also included in the exemptions are service providers, such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, etc.
  • News media
  • Childcare services

For certain products, the order also puts limits on the amounts that people may buy. Specifically:

  • Bath or toilet tissue is limited to 12 rolls per purchase or 1 package (even if that package is more than 12 rolls)
  • Hand sanitizer is limited to 1 container per purchase
  • Tissue/facial tissue is limited to one box per purchase
  • Baby wipes or sanitizing wipes are limited to one package per purchase.

The order states that if someone in a household has tested positive for COVID-19, the entire household must isolate at home. Members of the household will not be allowed to go to work, school or any community function.

Additionally, the order specifies penalties for violating the order. Although Police Chief Bacel Cantrell and City Manager Andy McCuistion said that first-time offenders will likely be given a warning, subsequent violations could result in tickets. The possible punishment is listed by the order as including fines not more than $1,000 and a jail term of not more than 180 days.

“Nobody wants it to come to this, and I think that’s exemplified by how many hoops we jumped through before we got here,” Roach said. “Eastland has a confirmed case. Our local health authority has told us … to assume that we have active cases. I think, as a community we’ve got one chance to get this right. One chance not to overwhelm our local healthcare system.

“People voted for me to make these kinds of choices, and sink or swim or otherwise, I think this is in the best interest for our community,” he continued. “I’m doing what I would do for my own family. … I believe this action is absolutely necessary.”

Following Monday afternoon’s announcement, Roach hosted a live question-and-answer session on the Stephens County Facebook page. Click here to watch visit that Facebook page and watch the video.

Click the following link to read the complete shelter-in-place order: ShelterInPlaceOrder

To read more about the local response to the coronavirus situation, visit the Breckenridge Texan’s Coronavirus News page.

Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Stephens County Judge Michael Roach, right, and Breckenridge Mayor Bob Sims sign the shelter-in-place order for the community. The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 23. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)


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