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County stops short of ‘shelter-in-place’

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Extends Declaration of Disaster

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HENDERSON COUNTY–Henderson County Commissioners Court March 24 extended the declaration of local disaster due to public health emergency that was signed by County Judge Wade McKinney March 19. The declaration is in effect until April 7 and may be extended. 
Two additions to the declaration as explained by County Attorney Clint Davis are the declaration specifically references Governor Abbott’s order, incorporating it into the declaration, including all revisions. The declaration also references what happens if businesses violate the order. “We want people to know they can’t simply pay a fine and continue to do business as usual…Violation is punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail and every day is treated as a new violation,” Davis said.
Davis also discussed “shelter in place” orders other counties and cities have issued. Davis explained that the orders are not all the same, with cities listing exceptions to the rule, for example to go to work at an essential business, or for doctor visits or shopping for food. Each also lists what essential businesses are. “If we were to look at doing an order, we could look through and decide what businesses are essential and include them in the exceptions or not,” Davis said. Davis also told the court there are exceptions listed for jobs in infrastructure which are very broad, listing such things as commercial or residential construction, electricians and plumbers. “You really have to look at the language in the order,” he added.
As the court considered “shelter in place,” Judge McKinney said, “A lot of people are relying on us to make good, sound decisions, not only for individuals but for our county as a whole. The impact of what we are currently going through is not only personal, it’s economic. Economic becomes personal very quickly.” McKinney considered that although Henderson County does not have the population density of Dallas or Smith County, the lakes are a destination for people in those counties.
Extending the declaration gives the county judge the authority to issue a “shelter in place” declaration in the event there are drastic changes for seven days. “We have the ability to react if things change. This puts us in line with the State of Texas,” McKinney said. 
Davis advocated for graduated steps and said there are currently issues with enforcement of the Governor’s order and that there are businesses defying it currently. “There’s real danger in that…we have other businesses that are paying attention and watching…this is their economic livelihood,” Davis said and they need time to get all the businesses in line.
McKinney concluded, “I believe our order is a good order, that it provides all the capabilities that we currently need due to our circumstances. The measure passed unanimously.
At this time, no confirmed cases are reported in Henderson County.