City address public on COVID-19

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'Not to the point' of shutting down businesses, mayor says

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City of Fredericksburg staff and council members addressed the public about COVID-19 yesterday afternoon.

At 3 p.m., Mayor Linda Langerhans said there are no plans to shut down businesses for the new disease caused by coronavirus.

“We have not gotten to that point, and we may never get to that point,” Langerhans said.

However, she advised businesses might think about limiting the number of people who enter.

“Other than that, don’t be alarmed about us trying to take your businesses away from you,” Langerhans said. “We’ll just see how things go from here.”

No disaster declaration has been implemented.

 

City response

City Manager Kent Myers also clarified what the city is doing to prevent the spread.

Events of over 50 people are not allowed at city facilities for 60 days, as per recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Private businesses are not restricted.

Parks are still open, but some restrooms have been closed.

Myers said the city has focused on sanitation around town. They’ve “beefed up” cleaning in restrooms and at City Hall.

“That’s basically all we can do unless City Council and the mayor grant additionally actions if they choose to do so,” Myers said.

In Public Works, Assistant City Manager Clinton Bailey said staff is following CDC guidelines, and made decisions to divide up crew members’ shifts to prevent infection and keep services operated.

They’ve also added links from official health organizations on their website, which can be found at www.fbgtx.org/1003/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.

Myers also said this is constantly changing situation and more information is always coming in.

“Whatever we do will be evolving over the next several weeks,” Myers said.

The city has appointed Fire Chief Lynn Bizzell as the lead coordinator, who was working closely with the CDC, Hill Country Memorial Hospital and other health agencies.

John Culpepper, the city’s Director of Community Support, is also involved.

 

Bizzell’s address

Bizzell gave some facts about the virus and its impact on the community.

There are more than 167,000 cases worldwide and over 6,600 deaths.

In Texas, there are more than 60 cases.

“It seems like every day I get some new information and some more data,” Bizzell said.

As of Tuesday, no cases have been reported in Gillespie County.

At this point, the disease has mainly been spread through travel, but communicable spread is possible.

There are also a few people in Gillespie County who have traveled, Bizzell said. Those people are self-quarantined.

“From an emergency services standpoint, we get notified that those people are self-quarantined by the Health Department,” Bizzell said. “We get their address and we place that into our dispatch system for all of our units.

For symptoms, Bizzell said they are primarily fever, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.

He also said the coronavirus is nothing new but COVID-19 is what’s being targeted.

“When we first started this process, there were very few testing sites,” Bizzell said. “I will tell you that has been ramped up tremendously over the last week.”

More testing facilities will be implemented, so results can come back quicker.

Bizzell said a vaccination for the virus has been developed and is being used in Washington.

“This is the real deal,” Bizzell said. “I’m not here to cause some kind of panic, but as community leaders, and as business owners and as individual, we have to be careful of the health, safety and welfare of all of the people. As we progress through this pandemic, we need to use caution.”

The Fredericksburg Fire EMS Department will be taking the temperature of each employee every day.

Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or more will be sent home.

He also encouraged social distancing, and said Fire EMS are practicing that when speaking to people who may have symptoms. If they do have symptoms, employees will put on a gown, and then transport those people.

“We only ‘gowned up’ one time, and that was for someone who was being arrested and he said he had the coronavirus,” Bizzell said.

The hospital has isolation areas too.

“As we move forward, my message is caution,” Bizzell said. “Wash hands regularly, clean your service areas, monitor your people. If they any kinds of symptoms send them home. If you’re sick, don’t come to work.”

The Fire Station will be closed to the public.

Should anyone need in, the employees encourage and practice social distancing.

Community leaders are meeting every morning to address the situation.

Bizzell said everything changes if the county gets a case.

 

Questions

City Councilmember Tom Musselman asked Culpepper if a county declaration supersedes a city declaration.

“It could, but I know the mayor and the judge are working together, and I feel very confident that whatever declarations they do would be joint,” Culpepper said.

If a disaster declaration is implemented, the mayor and judge can set any restrictions they deem necessary.

“After seven days, if that declaration is extended, it requires the vote of the city council and county commissioners, so there would have to be a special meeting with both groups,” Myers said.

Officials encouraged residents not to listen to rumors.

Any official information will be on the city’s website.