Guadalupe County Commissioners Court will discuss extending the county’s emergency declaration that was signed by the county judge last week following the county’s first confirmed case of COVID-19.
The commissioners will meeting during a specially called meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the courthouse. As of Monday evening, Guadalupe County had four confirmed cases.
Since Texas, the county and city are in states of emergency, the meeting room will be physically closed to the public. However, community members will still have the opportunity to virtually attend the meeting.
“The governor has now issued an order suspending certain provisions of the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) with conditions and modifications,” read information attached in the meeting agenda. “The governor has suspended various TOMA provisions that require government officials and members of the public to be physically present at a specified meeting location. This will allow the members of the commissioners court to participate remotely without a quorum being physically present at the meeting and will allow a meeting to be conducted without public attendance at the meeting.”
Guadalupe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patrick Pinder will provide an update on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
The agenda’s only action item pertains to commissioners’ discussion and possible motion regarding extension of the county’s declaration of disaster, which County Judge Kyle Kutscher instituted Friday as an emergency procedure.
Kutscher’s emergency declaration of disaster lasts only seven days; however, commissioners can vote to extend it.
“The court could take action to extend that,” Kutscher said. “That was really the purpose of that (meeting). Now, since we have the second confirmed case as of Sunday, Patrick can go ahead and update us on that.”
The county’s disaster declaration took effect immediately upon Kutscher’s signing it and authorized the county to take “any actions necessary to promote health and suppress disease, including quarantine and regulating hospitals, regulating ingress and egress from the county,” and locating those who do not comply with county rules, read the declaration.
It also allows the county to receive additional funding and resources from the state and federal government, Kutscher said.
Signing the declaration also enacted the county’s emergency management plan.
He believes Commissioners Court is allowed to extend the declaration until the county judge waives it, Kutscher said. But on Monday he had county legal personnel verifying the rules governing such an extension.
Officials on Friday announced Guadalupe County’s first confirmed positive case of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a respiratory illness that causes sometimes severe, flu-like symptoms that has spread across the globe and continues to take lives.
On Sunday, county officials announced a second patient here had a confirmed positive test result as the pandemic spreads and communities take actions in hopes of stopping the spread.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott suspended the Texas Open Meetings Act’s requirement of a physical gathering space for people to watch the meeting and ask questions last week.
While social distancing practices are in place, governmental bodies — like commissioners courts and school boards — are expected to conduct meetings by phone or video conference, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.
Virtual meetings were always an option, but a public space to watch or listen to the meeting was required. This suspension nixes that.
Virtual meetings must still have 72-hour written notice online with a public toll-free, dial-in number or a free-of-charge video conference link; an online copy of agendas; means for public participation, like two-way audio or video; and public access to recordings of the meetings.
According to Guadalupe County Commissioners Court’s special meeting agenda, the court appears to be in compliance with the rules.
The court set up ways for the public to participate in the meeting. Remote participation is available by calling toll-free dial-in numbers: 1-346-248-7799, 1-669-900-6833, 1-253-215-8782, 1-301-715-8592, 1-312-626-6799 or 1-929-205-6099 and using meeting ID 822 932 664.
The county’s agenda is available online at www.co.guadalupe.tx.us/commcourt/granicus.php .