Hays County issues new COVID-19 order, closing daycare centers, encouraging social distancing

Hays County has issued a new order in relation to the coronavirus, mirroring Gov. Greg Abbott's public health order but with some differences.

On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a public health disaster, the first in Texas since 1901. The executive orders, which take effect at midnight Friday, March 20 and go through midnight on Friday, April 3, will bring the state in line with CDC guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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The public health disaster orders schools to be closed statewide until at least April 3. The disaster also orders a ban on dine-in eating and gathering in groups of more than 10 as the state ramps up efforts to battle the coronavirus. Abbott's order also will shut down gyms and bars. It also bans visits to nursing and retirement homes unless there is a critical need.

Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra's order signed Wednesday includes closing daycare centers throughout the county for the time period and encourages social distancing for events exempted from the gathering requirement.

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“The County’s new COVID-19 Order was a collaborative effort with mayors of cities within Hays County,” Judge Becerra, said. “We met via conference call to discuss and gathered input on these serious changes to our way of life. We came to agreement on what would best serve all our residents.”

The order prohibits any public or private community gatherings anywhere in Hays County, including weddings, religious gatherings, parties, funerals, sporting events, social events, conferences, and other large gatherings.

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The prohibition does not include office spaces or residential buildings; grocery stores, gas stations or banks; hospitals, medical offices and facilities; and essential business or governmental functions. For these, Hays County makes the following social distancing recommendations:

Vulnerable populations: Limit outings

  • Vulnerable populations include those 60 and older and those with certain health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and weakened immune systems
  • Don't go to gatherings of 10 or more unless essential
  • Telecommute if possible
  • Avoid those who are sick

Workplace and businesses: Minimize exposure

  • Suspend non-essential employee travel
  • Minimize number of employees working within arm's length of one another, including minimizing or canceling large in-person meetings and conferences
  • Urge employees to stay home when they're sick
  • Maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits
  • Permit sick employees to stay home without providing doctor's notes
  • Consider use of telecommuting options
  • Some who need to be at work to provide essential services can take steps in their workplace to minimize risk

Large gatherings: Cancel nonessential events

  • Recommend canceling or postponing large gatherings
  • Do not attend any events or gatherings if sick
  • Events that aren't canceled should have hand-washing capabilities, hand sanitizers and tissues available; frequently clean high-touch surfaces like countertops, doorknobs and handrails; and find ways to create physical space to minimize close contact

Schools: Safety first

  • Do not have your child attend school if sick
  • Consult child's doctor about school attendance if you have a child with chronic health conditions
  • Frequent re-education of students and staff regarding personal hygiene measures and ensuring that appropriate signs are posted
  • Equip all classrooms with hand sanitizers and tissues
  • Recommend rescheduling or canceling medium to large nonessential events, even if events would otherwise comply with the order
  • Explore remote teaching and online options to continue learning
  • Develop a plan for citywide school closures




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