The Moore County Commissioners issued a declaration of disaster for the county due to the "public health emergency" of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic late Friday afternoon in a special, emergency meeting in the second floor court room of the Moore County Courthouse. The move follows similar moves by both the federal and state governments and makes it easier for the county to obtain funding assistance for expenses incurred as a result of the pandemic, according to Moore County Judge Rowdy Rhoades, who signed the declaration into law. "We need to be calm. We need to be prepared, not panicked," he said Friday. "We will get through this." He reiterated that, as yet, there has been no case of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Moore County. The closest cases are two in Amarillo that Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson announced late Wednesday evening. Those cases were both travel related.
Moore County officials have been meeting on a regular basis with officials of the Cities of Dumas, Sunray, and Cactus as well as the leadership of the Dumas and Sunray Independent School Districts, the Moore County Hospital District, and Moore County Emergency Management to come up with a coordinated response to the pandemic and a joint disaster declaration. The joint declaration is more efficient than having each of the cities file separate declarations, Rhoades said.
The declaration follows the guidance set out by Texas Governor Greg Abbott's executive order on Thursday and, among other things, prohibits "social gatherings" of 10 or more persons in confined spaces, closes bars and restaurants, except for takeout, prohibits price gouging, and closes lounges, taverns, theaters, massage businesses, arcades, private clubs and gyms that are open to the public. The declaration instructs nursing homes, retirement homes, and long-term care facilities to prohibit non-essential visitors, except to provide critical assistance or for end-of-life visitation.
The declaration applies to all of Moore County. Those who violate the orders set out are subject to punishment of up to $1000 or confinement in jail for a term that does not exceed 180 days.
The declaration goes into affect at 11:59 pm on March 20 for seven days. On Monday, March 23, during the regular meeting of the Commissioner's Court, the declaration will be renewed for 30 days until April 19.
Rhoades and the other commissioners stressed that the 10-person limit did not apply to employees at businesses, though he said businesses should take steps to institute the hand washing, sanitizing, and social distancing practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. All of the commissioners emphasized that there is no threat to the food supply and that hoarding of such items is both unnecessary and damaging to the community as a whole. All of the commissioners urged people to use common sense.
The full text of the declaration will be available on the Moore County website. Fuller coverage of this developing story will appear in the print edition of the Moore County News-Press.