Grayson County Commissioners have extended the state of emergency declaration that Grayson County Judge Bill Magers issued Monday evening until next week when they will meet again about it at their weekly meeting.

The court will then consider the declaration each week until it is lifted.

The declaration still discourages, but does not forbid, gatherings of more than 50 people. It also allows the county to apply for and receive emergency supplies from the state and federal government.

As of noon on Tuesday, there were still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Grayson County. However, Grayson County Health Authority Jerry Bennett said there are liable to be cases out there, there just have not been enough tests performed to identify those cases.

Both Fannin and Cooke counties were expected to follow suit with declarations of their own Tuesday.

Magers said the declaration is important to keep the flow of supplies critical for fighting not only the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus, but other diseases as well in local hospitals, nursing homes, and for first responders.

“When we try to order those things (like masks and gloves) today in the United States of America, we are all getting back order notices,” said Grayson County Office of Emergency Management Director Sarah Somers. That includes the people at our health department, our jails, our home health providers, our nursing homes, and our hospitals, she said.

She said PPE or personal protective equipment like masks and gloves and gowns keep the health care workers safe while they work to save the lives of our local residents.

Somers said a week ago, she sent off a request for the county’s fair share of those supplies to the state. Monday, she got word that the federal government had shipped into Arlington a large delivery. Making the disaster declaration, she said, meant that Grayson County could get some of what was in that first shipment.

After hearing from Grayson County Health Department Director Amanda Ortez and Grayson County Health Authority Dr. Jerry Bennett, about the spread of COIVD-19 being mainly due to respiratory droplets in the air, Commissioner Jeff Whitmire asked they why don’t we all need masks?

Ortez said there are not enough of the masks available for everyone to have them so they need to go to the people are mostly likely to be able to put them to the best use. She said in a critical situation if there are not enough masks, they put them on the sickest people to keep those people from making others sick. Then they put them on the people helping to care for sick people so they don’t get sick themselves. Then they mask the people who are coming into contact with at risk populations or populations that the greatest risk. And it continues to work down from there. Healthy people won’t need masks if they will follow the guidelines set out by the Center for Disease Control and referenced in the county’s declaration.

Those are to limit gatherings of more than 50 people and to stay at least six feet away from people when out and about. They also advise people to wash their hands completely and often and to avoid touching their face. Additionally they ask that people follow the recommendations to stay home whenever possible including from work, and school. And definitely to stay home if sick.

There is no doubt that following those guidelines is going to cause some people some financial strain and almost everyone some sort of inconvenience. Somers said the details are not clear yet, but there are some things in the works from the federal level to help people recover some of those losses and the declaration and the records her office will be keeping about the impact of those restrictions locally will help locals seek those provisions if and when they become available.

In the meantime, Ortez said the best thing the local community can do is to continue to try to “cocoon” the most fragile in our society by following the CDC recommendations. That means people who are over the age of 60 and who have unrelated but ongoing medical concerns like heart disease, diabetes, asthma or other things.

Those people are the most critical but they are not the ones best posed to block the spread of the virus. That group is the younger and healthier people who will come into contact, in various ways, with that compromised population.

Magers said people ask him what is he going to say when all of this passes and some of the provisions put in place are deemed to have been overdone or done too soon. He said he is going to be happy and relieved to hear that. That will mean that not as many local people were made ill or even worse killed by the virus because everyone who could did their part to stop the spread.

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