Guadalupe County Commissioners Court unanimously extended the state of disaster Tuesday morning during a special meeting of the court.
The extended declaration allows the county to continue to track expenses in the hopes of receiving state-funded reimbursement of expenditures related to battling the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The court steered clear of considering any shelter-in-place or similar orders to confine county residents to their homes during the pandemic.
“All the governments are doing and have done everything we can do,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Judy Cope said. “This is going to be up to the public to police yourself to say ‘do I feel safe going to the pet shop?’ Do I feel safe going to the grocery store?’ If not, stay home because we all have to make personal decisions in our lives.”
Commissioners called the special meeting Friday following announcement of the county’s first confirmed positive test result for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a respiratory illness leading to severe, flu-like symptoms in many people across the world and sometimes death.
Days later, a second patient was identified and as of Tuesday morning the county had four positive-test patients, authorities said.
County officials said that a person revealed to have tested positive on Sunday had spent some time at an H-E-B store in Schertz nearly a week earlier, possibly exposing customers and staff members. Guadalupe County authorities provided few additional details about the patient.
While officials in other counties and municipalities have revealed demographic information about positive patients, members of Commissioners Court said they will offer no such details.
Guadalupe County leadership will tell the public whether the patient is being quarantined at home or in a hospital, if the case is a result of community spread or travel related, whether the patient violated orders intended to help stop the spread of the virus and any location of possible exposure, County Judge Kyle Kutscher said.
State health officials warn against providing too many details, he said.
“We want to do the best we can to inform the public of what’s going on,” Kutscher said. “We’re always going to be open and honest with you but that’s the information we have and the information we’re going to give out to you.”
An overload of information is leading to panic in the community, Kutscher and some commissioners said. Residents are being inundated with a constant stream of news and talk about the virus, they said.
It’s overkill, Kutscher said.
“If the media spent as much time focusing on fatal car accidents, nobody would drive a vehicle,” he said. “I think if the media spent as much time focusing on obesity, nobody would eat anything fried. That’s the media nationally, locally, we need to make good decisions.”
Members of the court acknowledged the situation is severe but called for calm, opposed to panic. People in this community are afraid, they said.
However, fears can be lessened if people think about their actions, listen to precautionary guidelines set out by health officials and use their heads, Precinct 3 Commissioner Jim Wolverton said.
“A little bit of common sense and proper hygiene can go a long way,” he said. “Use common sense. Stay away from sick people.”
County officials expect the number of positive cases here will continue to rise, just because more people are being tested in the area, Guadalupe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patrick Pinder said during an update he gave commissioners court.
He provided numbers from the state Tuesday morning.
A total of 10,055 coronavirus tests had been completed in Texas as of Tuesday. Of those, 8,480 were at private labs and 1,575 were in public labs, Pinder said.
He said 352 Texans had tested positive and eight had died in COVID-19-related cases, one of them in Bexar County.
Guadalupe County’s disaster declaration has his office busy holding conferences with health officials, mayors and others to stay on top of the situation, Pinder said. He continues to recommend the social distancing and for people to avoid contact with those who feel ill, the emergency manager said.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Drew Engelke commended residents for coming together and heeding the advice. Engelke, too, called for calm to prevail over panic.
Ignoring the recommendations could possibly lead to Guadalupe County ordering residents to shelter in place or other drastic measures, Engelke said, though commissioners are nowhere near considering any such steps.
“To reiterate, be calm, common sense — that’s my motto — be calm and use common sense,” Engelke said. “Everybody’s on board, everybody’s working together. I think that’s the key, not just for the county but the state and the entire nation.
“Let’s just be calm.”