As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to mount, Guadalupe County Judge Kyle Kutscher signed a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order Friday that lasts throughout the month.
The action orders county residents to stay at home unless conducting essential business or performing essential activities, which are described in the order.
“This is not a true shelter in place where nobody can go anywhere,” Kutscher said Friday evening. “The intent of this is to limit unnecessary interaction and unnecessary travel.”
The order takes a step further prior initiatives taken by the county. Whereas a prior declaration of disaster order recommended residents stay indoors and keep their distance, the new order mandates those actions. All businesses except “essential businesses” are “required to cease all activities at facilities located within the county except minimum basic operations,” the order read.
One essential activity identified in the order is shopping for groceries. Some in the community have taken to going on shopping trips with multiple family members when guidelines already in place called for social distancing, self isolation and limited exposure.
The stay home stay safe order recommends that a single family member conduct essential activities deemed necessary.
The order also comes with a potential fine of up to $1,000 and up to 180 days in jail for those who disobey, though issuing tickets and rounding up residents isn’t the goal, Kutscher said.
“That’s not the first action we want to take, but a tool that may have to be used if need be,” he said. “We’re going to first, as the county, try to inform.”
Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office deputies, constables, representatives of the county fire marshal’s office and other licensed peace officers will enforce the order, Kutscher said.
Before that’s necessary, though, county officials will go to businesses and notify them of the order, provide information and warnings and allow those who may not know about the order to start following the guidelines.
Sheriff’s deputies have already gone to area businesses and made contact with owners that failed to comply with earlier orders, the judge said. Such contacts will continue and, if business owners fail to comply, they will be subject to enforcement of the order, Kutscher said.
Guadalupe County had seen 26 cases of positive COVID-19 test results as of Saturday afternoon. Health officials identified at least three patients as having contracted the illness through community spread — one in Seguin, two in Cibolo, officials said.
With everyone from the local, county, state, federal and global levels of society working to slow the spread, the county’s order is another way of trying to do the same, Kutscher said. Evidence informed county officials’ decision to order residents to stay home, he said.
“The intent is to try to keep a maximum number of people at home, not traveling unnecessarily or going outside of the residence unnecessarily,” Kutscher said. “The intent of this order is not to hurt anybody. We’re making decisions to protect every citizen in Guadalupe County.”
It is imperative that people take seriously the fight against the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a respiratory illness leading to severe, flu-like symptoms in many people across the world and sometimes death.
Guadalupe County’s order will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday and continue until 11:59 p.m. April 30 or until it is extended, rescinded, superseded, or amended in writing or by Kutscher or the Guadalupe County Commissioners Court, the order read.
Stressing that the order is for the safety of the entire county, Kutscher said he thought that many residents took the earlier declaration seriously. He took time out to thank them.
“One thing I want to say to the public is ‘thank you,’” Kutscher said Friday. “The majority of the public is being respectful and following the guidelines the cities and county have issued.”