By Tim Fleischer
Bell County Judge David Blackburn issued a “stay-at-home” directive during a 4 p.m. News conference, the third from Bell County, which will go into effective at midnight tonight (March 23, 2020). The directive requires all Bell County residents should “stay home and stay safe.”
At the time Judge Blackburn issued the directive, the Bell County Health Department listed 16 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the County.
THe directive, according to Judge Blackburn has several exceptions, but is intended to stop “the risk of rapid spread of the virus.”
Those exceptions include residents who are employed in essential businesses, those who provide essential services, essential activities and essential governmental functions.
Even under those exceptions, Blackburns said that residents should all practice social distancing of six feet or more between each person and no more than 10 gathered together in one location at a time,
Residents may leave their home for activities that are considered essential to their health and safety, or the health and safety of their family members, or to purchase supplies that are necessary for the health and safety of themselves and family members.
THe directive lists eight essential businesses categories: healthcare, essential government functions, critical infrastructure and activities, essential retail, services to economically disadvantaged, essential services for homes, news media and childcare services.
THe directive #3 states: “The virus that causes 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) is easily transmitted through person to person contact, especially in group settings, and it is essential that the spread of the virus be slowed to protect the ability of public and private health care providers to handle the influx of new patients and safeguard public health and safety. Because of the risk of the rapid spread of the virus, and the need to protect the most vulnerable members of the community, this Order requires all individuals anywhere in Bell County to shelter in place – that is, stay at home – except for certain essentials activities and work to provide essential business and government services or perform essential public infrastructure construction, including housing.”
THe Directive states the Following:
Effective as of 11:59 p.m. on March 23, 2020, and continuing until 11:59 p.m. on April 3, 2020:
(a) All individuals currently living within Bell County are hereby ordered to shelter at their place of residence. For the purposes of this Order, residences include hotels, motels, shared rentals, and similar facilities. To the extend individuals are using shared or outdoor spaces, they must at all times as reasonably as possible maintain social distancing of at least six feet from any other person when they are outside their residence. All person may leave their residences only for Essential Activities, or to provide or perform Essential Governmental
Functions, or to operate Essential Businesses, all as further defined in this Directive.
(b) All businesses operating within Bell County, except Essential Businesses as defined in below in Section 2, are required to cease all activities at facilities located within the County. For clarity, businesses may continue operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors performing activities at their own residences (i.e. working from home). To the greatest extent possible, all Essential Businesses shall comply with the Social Distancing Guidelines attached, including maintaining six foot social distancing for both employees and
the general public.
(c) All public or private gatherings of 10 or more people occurring outside a single household or
living unit are prohibited, except as otherwise provided herein. Nothing in this Order
prohibits the gathering of members of a household or living unit.
(d) Restaurants with or without drive-in or drive-through services and microbreweries, micro-
distilleries, or wineries may only provide take out, delivery, or drive-through services as
allowed by law.
(e) Religious and worship services may only be provided by video and teleconference. Religious
institutions must limit in-person staff to ten (10) people or less when preparing for or conducting video or teleconference services, and all individuals must follow the Social Distancing Guidelines including the six foot social distancing.
(f) All elective medical, surgical, and dental procedures are prohibited anywhere in Bell County. Hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, dental offices and other medical facilities are directed to identify procedures that are deemed “elective” by assessing which procedures can be postponed or cancelled based on patient risk considering the emergency need for redirection of resources to COVID-19 response.
(a) For purposes of this Order, individuals may leave their residence only to perform any of the
following “Essential Activities”:
i. To engage in activities or perform tasks essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members (for example, obtaining medical supplies or medication, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies need to work from home).
ii. To obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, or to deliver those services or supplies to others (for example, food, pet supply, and any other household consumer products, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences.
iii. To engage in outdoor activity, provided the individuals comply with social distancing requirements of six feet (for example, walking, biking, hiking or running).
iv. To perform work providing essential products and services at an Essential Business or to otherwise carry out activities specifically permitted in this Order.
v. To care for a family member or pet in another household.
(b) For purposes of this Order, “Essential Businesses” means:
i. Essential Healthcare Operations. Healthcare operations, including hospitals, clinics, dentist, pharmacies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, other healthcare facilities, healthcare suppliers, mental health providers, substance abuse service providers, blood banks, medical research, laboratory services, or any related and/or ancillary healthcare services. Home-based and residential-based care for seniors, adults, or children are also considered healthcare operations. Healthcare operations also includes veterinary care and all health and welfare services provided to animals. This exemption shall be viewed broadly to avoid any impacts to the delivery of healthcare. Healthcare operations do not include fitness and exercise gyms and similar facilities. Healthcare operations do not include elective medical, surgical, and dental procedures as established in accordance with Subsection 1(g) of this Order.
ii. Essential Government Functions. All services provided by political subdivisions of the State needed to ensure the continuing operation of those agencies to provide for the health, safety, education, and welfare of the public. Further, nothing in this order shall prohibit any individual from performing or accessing “Essential Government Functions.” All Essential Government Functions shall be performed in compliance with social distancing requirements of six feet, to the extent possible.
iii. Essential Critical Infrastructure & Activities. Work that is necessary to the operations and maintenance of the critical infrastructure sectors as identified by the National Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), Memorandum dated March 19, 2020 (attached to this Directive) including public works construction, residential and commercial construction, airport operations, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, public transportation, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services), financial institutions, defense and national security-related operations, essential manufacturing operations provided that they carry out those services or that work in compliance with social distancing requirements of six feet, to the extent possible. Essential Businesses providing essential infrastructure should implement screening precautions to protect employees and all activity shall be performed in compliance with social distancing guidelines attached.
iv. Essential Retail. Food service providers, including grocery stores, warehouse stores, big-box stores, bodegas, liquor stores, gas stations and convenience stores, farmers’ markets that sell food products and household staples. Food cultivation, including farming, fishing, and livestock. Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences. Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out. Schools and other entities that typically provide free services to students or members of the public on a pick-up and take- away basis only. The restriction of delivery or carry out does not apply to cafes and restaurants located within hospital and medical facilities. Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers. Gas stations, automobile sales, auto-supply, auto and bicycle repair, hardware stores, construction supply stores, and related facilities. Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home.
v. Providers of Basic Necessities to Economically Disadvantaged Populations. Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals.
vi. Essential Services Necessary to Maintain Essential Operations of Residences or Other Essential Businesses. Trash and recycling collections, processing and disposal,
mail and shipping services, building cleaning and maintenance, warehouse/distribution and fulfillment, storage for essential businesses, funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries. Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other services providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences and Essential Businesses. Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities. Businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support of supplies needed to operate.
vii. News Media. Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services.
viii. Childcare Services. Childcare facilities may continue to operate; however, to the extent possible, it is recommended that groups consist of no more than 10 and be
- Any manufacturer who retools so that a substantial part of their business is for the purpose of
manufacturing and producing ventilators may apply for an “essential business” exemption under
- Grocery stores, supermarkets, warehouse stores, hospitals, and medical facilities are experiencing
high levels of demand for a large number of products, requiring more deliveries from manufacturers and distribution centers to serve their customers. A number of Texas cities and local associations have implemented restrictions on delivery hours to stores to mitigate truck noise and traffic. Due to the need to deliver products as quickly and efficiently as possible during this critical timeframe, this Order hereby suspends all delivery hour restrictions for transport to or from any entity involved in the selling or distribution of food products, medicine, or medical supplies in Bell County for the next 60 days.
- If someone in a household has tested positive for coronavirus, the household is ordered to isolate at home and follow the directives from their health care provider. Members of the household cannot go to work, school, or any other community function, provided that workers included in Essential Healthcare Operations may continue to work in accordance with CDC guidance. All persons are encouraged to take advantage of telehealth services offered by healthcare providers, including expanded telehealth services now available to Medicare patients.
- Nursing homes, retirement, and long-term care facilities are instructed by this order to prohibit non-essential visitors from accessing their facilities unless to provide critical assistance or for end- of-life visitation. These facilities are also required to institute temperature checking of all staff entering the facility at least twice per day and limit physical contact between residents in the facility wherever possible.
- For individuals who are 65 and older and individuals with compromised immune systems or
underlying health conditions, the following recommendations are made:
a. Remain indoors
b. Outdoor exercise activities should be solitary
c. Prescreen all essential visitors
d. Do not visit homes or places with more than one person
e. Ask all visitors to wear masks
f. Follow social distancing guidelines
g. Do not use public transit except in an emergency
- Daycare facilities my continue to operate but it is recommended that groups in the facility consist of 10 or fewer in those settings and kept separate to the extent possible.”