County

County commissioners discussed an interlocal disaster declaration Tuesday, which will extend until April 3 at 11:59 p.m.

Health officials comfirmed late this morning a City of Brenham employee is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 coronavirus in Washington County.

The confirmed case comes one day after county commissioners approved extending the local state disaster for public health emergency until 11:59 p.m. April 3 during commissioners court Tuesday.

The declaration was a collaborative effort between commissioners Candice Bullock and Kirk Hanath and city council members Keith Herring and Clint Kolby.

According to the declaration, “This declaration does not prohibit people from visiting a variety of places, including grocery stores, gas stations, parks and banks, so long as the necessary precautions are maintained to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

“This declaration does not mandate sheltering in place. All critical infrastructure will remain operational, domestic travel will be unrestricted and government entities and businesses will continue providing essential services.

“For offices and workplaces that remain open, employees should practice good hygiene and, where feasible, work from home in order to achieve optimum isolation from COVID-19. The more that people reduce their public contact, the sooner COVID-19 will be contained and the sooner this declaration will expire.”

The commissioners strongly felt this collaboration between the city and county was a good one.

“Between the four of us, we were able to knock it out in two hours,” Bullock said. “We all feel confident this is the document wanted to put out there.”

“At this time when we have trying times and people in fear, it’s good to see our elected officials work together,” Hanath said. “We can always extended (the declaration) if things worsen. What needs to be understood is the county commissioners court is doing what they can legally do in the sense of reducing the exposure.”

Commissioner Joy Fuchs felt this declaration was more “commonsense” since it ended April 3 in accordance to Gov. Greg Abbott’s declaration.

“This in no way means we are panicking,” Fuchs said. “We hope we can make it though this without any cases. This is all done to make sure we are ready for whatever happens.”

Hanath said local government cannot stop residents from contracting COVID-19 but asked residents use commonsense, like not traveling to counties with confirmed cases.

Commissioners updated resources in the community for COVID-19 question, such as the 1-800 collaborative call center between the city, county and Faith Mission. See our COVID-19 hotline report for more information.

For an online screening, visit the Washington County EMS website and click on the COVID-19 screening button under education.

Commissioners approved the AirMedCare Network municipal site membership for Washington County Tuesday. This item provides air medical services to county residents in Washington and surrounding counties.

Hanath pointed out 90% of medical transport by county EMS occur in Washington County, and providing the service in surrounding counties was the court’s “due diligence.”

“Helicopter service is something that could devastate people financially,” Hanath said. “If we only covered them when they were in our county and that service was needed (in an adjacent county), they would probably feel like our due diligence wasn’t done.”

Those without insurance can utilize this service and will be billed for medicaid rates by the county. Residents can also sign up for a membership for the service, which Fuchs said is cheaper than most insurance and service can be provided in more than just Washington County.

An ordinance was passed in conjunction with a city ordinance that Washington County EMS will be the preferred care provider contacted for ground transportation. This agreement between the county and Baylor Scott & White will keep rates low for Washington County EMS and is a “great partnership” according to Kevin Deramus, director of EMS.

All other items on the agenda were approved, including:

• Allocating about $11,000 to IT machinery and equipment for the purchase of a network attached storage device for video storage. This item was to increase storage for body cam footage.

• The appointment of County Judge John Durrenberger and Fuchs as co-agents to make decision regarding the Tom Green County school lands and Concho Valley Solar.

• Monthly county reports.

• Fairgrounds management’s rental regulations contracts.

• Accounts payable.

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