Gregg County judge issues voluntary ‘Shelter-at-Home’ order

By Suzanne Bardwell

With a growing threat of the spread of COVID-19, Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt issued a voluntary shelter-in-place directive on Tuesday at a 1 p.m. press conference at Gregg County Courthouse.

“This threat has caused us to take unprecedented actions,” Judge Stoudt said. “Every county around us has at least one confirmed case, some many more. We are a city and a county in the middle of a hot spot and we need to address the situation.”

At 2:30 p.m. Gov. Gregg Abbott also held a press conference where he expressed concern about how many Texans are failing to respond to the guidelines to limit the coronavirus pandemic and even suggested the imposition of stricter guidelines soon. With a limited number of tests, gloves, masks and other supplies one primary concern is for first responders and the medical community treating those with the virus.

“Just 120 miles west to Dallas County and 45 miles east to Louisiana, those communities are scrambling for health care resources and to flatten the curve,” Longview Mayor Andy Mack said. “They have warned us to move faster than they did to try to have a fighting chance to save our residents and not completely crush our health care systems.”

Mack said that the public was being asked to voluntarily comply but if there was one more confirmed case, whether travel related or community spread, that the shelter-in-place directive will become mandatory.

“The projections are that 40-70 percent of the population will eventually be affected and that 80 percent of those will be fine,” Mack said. “But, 20 percent will require hospitalization and five to 10 percent will require ventilators.”

Mack said that there were only 52 ventilators available at Longview hospitals.

“This crisis requires sacrifices from each of us to save lives,” Mack said. “The most vulnerable population is the Greatest Generation, the least we can do is stay home and give them a fighting chance.”

Mack also pointed out that there were a growing number of cases of young people who were becoming critically ill. He said that everyone should be practicing the guidelines of maintaining a six foot distance with others, washing hands properly, avoiding touching the face, no gatherings of more than 10 people and staying home as much as possible.

“If ever there were an example of a team sport in play, the joint efforts of the communities within Gregg County in the mitigation of the spread of COVID-19 would be it,” Gladewater Mayor JD Shipp said after the press conference which he and Gladewater City Manager Ricky Tow attended. “County Judge Bill Stoudt, Gregg County Health Authority Dr. Lewis Browne and the members of the COVID-19 Task force have done a great job in creating a plan and implementing it as necessary in response to the pandemic.”

Stoudt said that there was a delicate balance of keeping citizens safe and maintaining a strong economy and emphasized the need for public awareness and participation in that plan. The directive is not saying people should not go to work but does encourage health guidelines while there.

“We currently have limited testing available,” Judge Stoudt said. “Each person must take personal responsibility. We need to take extreme caution and take the voluntary shelter-in-place very seriously. We are fighting an enemy we can not see. This is a real threat to this community, this state and our nation. There are still too many people who are not taking it seriously.”

Shipp emphasized that the new Gregg County guidelines urge individuals to leave home only out of necessity.

“We will move beyond this pandemic together,” Shipp said. “There will be a tomorrow in which life returns to normal. How we address this pandemic today will dictate when that tomorrow will come.”

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