Practicing best practices for social distancing, Fannin County commissioners made history Friday when they held their first session of the county’s governing group by teleconference. More than 80 people attended the emergency meeting by phone.
Several of the court members were in different locations as the meeting started Friday morning. However, a couple were in the same location.
The novel move comes after the county reported the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the county on Thursday. By the time Friday’s meeting was over, the group had updated the judges recent disaster declaration and laid out the plan for moving the county through its response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
That included encouraging Fannin County residents to abide by the guidelines set out by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, including the prohibition of meetings of more than ten people, the closing bars and local gyms, and telling people to limit their use of local eateries to take out services.
The commissioners seemed to agree if the area residents can carry out those things, they can help to flatten the curve of the spread of the virus.
Fannin County Judge Randy Moore said the 336th state District Court in Fannin County has announced there will be no jury trials until May 1. And the judge in that court, Laurie Blake, is planning to hold hearings by Zoom if they would require more than ten people to be in the courtroom at one time.
He said over at the jail, inmate visitation has been shut down for now in an effort to protect that insulated population from the virus.
Going forward for the short term, the commissioners agreed, all Fannin County offices will lock their doors and only see people who have made appointments ahead of time.
Employees who work for Fannin County and can perform their jobs from home will be asked to do so, they agreed. Responsibility for figuring out who can and can’t work from home will be up to the direct supervisors, commissioners agreed. Commissioners canceled all non essential staff meetings and conferences as well as work related travel for county employees. Additionally, they decided to ask employees to tell their supervisors about personal travel that might take them into hots spots for the virus or out of state. Commissioners said they would make an exception, of course, for those employees who live just across the boarder in Oklahoma.
Further, they agreed that Fannin County employees who get sick or who have to be quarantined at home without the ability to do their jobs from there will be allowed to use their sick time first, then accrued compensatory time to keep their paychecks coming. Commissioners agreed that should any employee run out of that, the county would see to it that they keep getting paid.
But employees who are sick will be asked to leave and not return until they have met with the guidelines set by the CDC and Texas Health and Human Services.
Commissioners said they will continue the disaster declaration till their meeting next week and it will be on their agenda each week after that until it is no longer needed.
A few of the things that the commissioners discussed are things people might get tired of hearing, but which are very important for everyone to remember as the communities of North Texas move forward with their efforts to fight off the spread of the virus.
Symptoms of the virus:
Sore throat that is accompanied by a fever and turns into a cough that is sometimes accompanied by shortness of breath.
Seriousness of the illness:
Experts say about 80 percent of the people who get the virus will survive it without lasting impacts. Those most at risk for lasting complications are those over 65 and those with preexisting health concerns like heart disease, diabetes or asthma.
What to do if one thinks they may have the virus:
Commissioners urged Fannin County residents who think they may have come down with the virus to take it seriously, but not to panic. They are asked to call their health care provider first or their local emergency room. They should not go directly to those places because if they are sick, they could spread the virus through out the waiting room. Health care providers have a list of questions to ask to help people determine if they might have the virus or not and will proceed with the resident about what to do next if they think they have it.
How to keep from getting the virus:
Commissioners agreed that Fannin County residents are encouraged to do the things recommended by the CDC like practicing social distancing by staying at home if possible and doing so at all costs if sick. Commissioners said some Fannin County employees are so dedicated to their jobs that they come to work sick and that practice has to stop. Supervisors, they said, must send those employees home for everyone’s sake.
Any employee who has a fever should remain home, the said, until that employee is fever free for at least 24 hours. The CDC is recommending increasing that time period to 72 hours, according to information released recently by Grayson County Health Department Director Amanda Ortez. Those people should be fever free without the use of any type of fever reducing drugs.
Fannin County commissioners will meet again by teleconference at 9 a.m. on Monday. The public is invited to join the meeting.