During an emergency meeting on Wednesday, Calhoun County commissioners enacted several provisions aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, including a curfew.
The curfew begins Thursday, March 26, at 10 p.m. and ends at 4 a.m. and will remain in effect until changed or renewed by the court.
In addition, the commissioners approved closing the Calhoun County Courthouse at 3 p.m. daily and allowing the various departments to run skeleton crews.
“I think we need a curfew,” said Commissioner Vern Lyssy to get the conversation rolling.
Calhoun County Sheriff Bobby Vickery agreed. “Most businesses are closing by 8 or 9 p.m. and by 10 p.m. most people are done,” said Vickery, noting there needed to be a stipulation for essential travel such as going to work.
Vickery said he expects a rise in “cabin fever” type assaults and domestic disturbances. He also said the curfew would give him the teeth to stop larger gatherings on the beaches after 10 p.m. The curfew includes the $1,000 fine levied by Gov. Greg Abbott in his emergency declaration.
“We need to do this now before it gets bad and breaks the curve on this thing,” said Lyssy.
Vickery asked the court to work to keep people calm as an outbreak of panic buying could happen again now that there are cases in Calhoun County. He also urged the public to follow the guidelines – wash hands for 20 seconds, maintain social distancing of six feet and not touch the face with unwashed hands – and stay safe.
Also, to combat the virus, the courthouse started closing at 3 p.m. and will continue for the duration.
Department heads will be allowed to set up skeleton crews for each department with those staying at home. The Administrative Order allowing pay for employees sent home for a crisis was approved during the court’s regular meeting Wednesday morning.
The court also renewed the Declaration of Local State of Disaster Due To A Public Health emergency and extended it for 120 days during the court’s meeting Wednesday morning.
Calhoun County Treasurer Rhonda Kokena said when employees are sent home, they need to know they are to stay home and not socialize and that this is a quarantine-type situation.
Enforcement of the curfew and the “no gatherings larger than ten people rule” on private vs. public property was addressed. Vickery said he and his deputies could not go onto private property without probable cause. However, Assistant District Attorney Sara Rodriguez said although it would not be immediate, such incidents can be reported to law enforcement or emergency management, and they would be investigated.
“This is uncharted territory for us, and one I hope we don’t have to use again, but we have to be prepared,” said Calhoun County Judge Richard Meyer.
And that includes following the guidelines on handwashing, social distancing and staying at home.