The City of El Campo joined Wharton County Monday in declaring a disaster as a result of COVID-19 and its effects.
The move makes the city and county eligible to receive state and federal funding for any staff overtime or other expenses related to emergency response.
The disaster declaration pointing out a public health emergency grants the mayor and county judge the authority to ban public gatherings based on guidelines presented by the Centers for Disease Control.
“We’re doing everything we can to protect our citizens and protect ourselves,” City Manager Courtney Sladek said.
Wharton County Emergency Management Director Andy Kirkland added, “We’re working with groups. Nobody wants to endanger their own members.”
There were no presumptive or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wharton County as of presstime. An elderly man in Matagorda County, however, died Monday of the virus. According to the state, Brazoria County has two cases of COVID-19, Fort Bend County nine, Lavaca County and Matagorda County one each.
The City of El Campo is not telling any businesses to close, but rather trying to follow CDC guidelines to keep residents safe.
County and city staff are monitoring state, federal and health department calls daily.
“There are so many unknowns at this point,” she said.
New federal guidelines call for no gatherings of more than 10 people. This has prompted the city to cancel all Civic Center events and all pavilion rentals at municipal parks.
“They will be fully refunded,” Sladek said, adding “All bookings at the Civic Center will be canceled until the virus has cleared the area.”
She hoped the public would understand, she said.
The Aquatic Center will remain closed for at least the next week as well.
All other El Campo services remain operational as of presstime with all workers being screened for illnesses as they come to work.
Sanitation stations are being established for visitors and staff at city hall, municipal court and public safety headquarters.
Staff dealing with payments will be wearing protective gloves.
Anyone calling 9-1-1 will be asked more questions regarding their health than normal and personnel will wear additional protective equipment depending on responses.
“The steps we’ve taken, we’re working with our citizens for all our citizens,” Sladek said. “We encourage residents not to panic.”
The goal, Kirkland said, is to flatten the curve of potential cases to ensure clinics and hospitals do not become overwhelmed.