Coronavirus overview for Cross Timber counties

Students in news gathering and reporting classes at Tarleton State University have spent the last week contacting city, county, school district and public health officials in the Cross Timbers’ nine counties to find out how many cases of COVID-19 have been reported and how local governments are responding to the crisis.

As the situation changes day-by-day, the information will be updated for Bosque, Comanche, Erath, Eastland, Hamilton, Hood, Palo Pinto, Parker and Somervell counties and their main cities and school districts.

COMANCHE COUNTY

Comanche: Out-of-county cases test positive at medical center, school district working from home

Reporting by Adrianna Figone, Kathryn Hill and Treyson Hardin

UPDATE: As of Wednesday, April 1, two more COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, according to Hood County Public Health Authority Dr. David Blocker. That brings the county’s total to eight confirmed cases. Two patients are hospitalized in critical but stable condition. The others are self-isolating at home. The number of cases could rise because 45 tests are pending. 

UPDATE: Comanche County reported its first COVID-19 case on March 30. County Judge Stephanie L. Davis and local public health authority, Dr. Paul Livingston, disclosed the patient who tested positive had recently traveled and is quarantined at home. 

Comanche ISD Superintendent Gary Speegle said that as of Wednesday, March 25, no one from Comanche County had been reported to have the coronavirus.

“We have been told that the coronavirus test is available at our local hospital, Comanche County Medical Center,” Speegle said in an email interview. “I am not privy to any confirmed cases tested at CCMC.”

However, County Judge Stephanie L. Davis said that three cases have been confirmed for people who live outside the county but tested positive at Comanche County Medical Center. She declared a local disaster due to a public health emergency.

The judge has not issued a shelter in place order or stay at home order for the county.

“I firmly believe that Comanche County citizens have generally complied with all of the recommendations and guidelines the medical providers, mayors and I have suggested along with the CDC and Gov. Abbott’s executive orders,” she wrote in her most recent public statement posted on her Facebook page. “In many cases, people, businesses and churches in this county have gone above and beyond those guidelines. I think that what has been done so far will have a tremendous impact on stopping the spread of the virus.”

She said health care providers, emergency management and mayors in the county are assessing the situation “minute-by-minute with our first priority being public health and safety, while also keeping in mind that people have families that must be fed. Bills that have to be paid. If we get to the point we feel more restrictive measures need to be taken, we will be prepared at that time.”

Comanche ISD currently is working from home.

 “Our board of trustees passed a resolution to pay our non-exempt employees during this emergency situation even though they are at home,” Speegle said. “We are trying to do our part by keeping all our employees away from each other and hopefully keeping the virus away from Comanche County.”

DeLeon: No cases, online learning in place

Reporting by Katie Perkins and Rylee Nordberg

According to Facebook posts, the primary need in the county is protective face masks for medical professionals. The DeLeon Primary Care Center is the closest medical facility and Comanche County Medical Center is the closest large medical facility available to DeLeon residents. Local healthcare professionals and first responders are preparing by making information and preventative care accessible and preparing for an influx of patients and testing.

Residents are being asked to limit activity and social contact. DeLeon ISD is closed until at least April 3. Remote and online learning is being used to ensure student and public health/safety.

EASTLAND COUNTY

Eastland reports fourth COVID-19 case

Reporting by Nick Ratcliff and Alli Roberts

As of March 23, Eastland had one confirmed case of COVID-19. Eastland County Judge Rex Fields said the confirmed case came from a test at the Comanche County Hospital on a Cisco resident. The person’s name and gender were not disclosed.

“This person is reported to be sheltering at home and isolating from others as is the standard protocol for the situation,” Fields said in a prepared statement. “I anticipate that as more test results are sent back to Eastland Memorial Hospital and other medical facilities, the total of confirmed cases will rise.”

Unfortunately, he was right. As of Friday, March 27, four cases had been confirmed. The geographic locations of the people who tested positive was not disclosed.

“As the availability of testing kits increases, we will see an increase in the number of positives across the country,” Dr. Robert DeLuca of Eastland Memorial Hospital said in a statement. “It is still very important to continue with social distancing and good hand washing.”

Eastland County officials urged anyone who suspected they might have the virus to call first before going to the primary care physician’s clinic and/or Eastland Memorial Hospital to conserve limited resources.

 “Patients who are mildly ill with coronavirus are able to recover and manage their symptoms at home,” Dr. DeLuca said. “If you have symptoms including a fever of greater than 100.4°, cough, sore throat and/or shortness of breath, you don’t need to be seen by a provider immediately.”

He asked those people to self-quarantine their entire family at home.

“Eastland County officials stress the importance of this community-mindedness by staying vigilant with social practices and hygiene,” the statement continued. “Stay home if possible and practice social distancing to stop or slow the spread of contagious illnesses, such as COVID-19. Avoid shaking hands, cancel large events, avoid large crowds, and keep a 6-foot distance between you and others.”

The Eastland County Commissioners Court unanimously voted to issue a declaration of local disaster for the county.

The county has restricted foot traffic in the county courthouse, annex, county barns and sheriff’s office. Anyone needing access to the buildings must make an appointment, Fields said. Officials and staff at all offices will continue to work.

“These folks will be processing documents by eFile, responding to emails, regular mail, telephone calls, enforcing laws, maintaining roads, and will be seeing people in person when appropriate,” Fields added.

The Eastland County health authority has advised that avoiding social gatherings will be “very helpful in the effort to stop the virus,” Fields said.

“Finally, please pray for the people affected by this new disease,” the county judge concluded. “We need prayer now more than ever before.

Ranger: No cases, school district conducts online survey

Reporting by Landon Davis

Ranger ISD has not reported any cases of COVID-19, but the school district extended its spring break to March 23 to allow the teachers to prepare for the move to online teaching. In addition, Ranger ISD is providing breakfast and lunch for students to pick up either at the Ranger Elementary campus or the Ranger Public Library parking lot, with breakfast going from 9-9:30 a.m. and lunch from noon-12:30 p.m.

The school district also published an online survey that will be used to “collect information on technology access at home and screen preliminary health related concerns and travel over spring break,” which not only gives information about where the students went in regards to possible COVID-19 exposure, but also gives the school district an idea of what types of technology students have at home.

In a memo posted on Facebook, Ranger city officials asked citizens not to meet in groups larger than 10 and that any payment for the city such as utilizes must be made online or by mail. The memo also declared Ranger City Hall lobby closed and only City of Ranger personnel allowed in the building. Any business that a citizen needs done in regard to city hall must be done over the phone.

The public library will have changed hours of operation and patrons will be questioned before entry. Public restrooms will be closed, and only emergency situations will be acted upon by the Ranger Police and Fire Departments. The Ranger Municipal Court will also only except payments over telephone, mail or internet.

Also, any employee who handles money must take extra precautions, extra cleaning supplies will be provided in the buildings, and more attention to cleaning will be done to objects that come in to contact with a lot of people like doorknobs, handrails and bathrooms.

Hamilton EMS and Hamilton Fire came together on Wednesday, March 25, for a skills training session in hazardous materials and infectious diseases. Photo courtesy of Hamilton EMS

HAMILTON COUNTY

Hamilton and Hico: No cases, but “this is serious”

Reporting by Allison Richey, Morgan Sanders and Meghan Murkin

Dr. Randy Lee, the county health official at the Hamilton General Hospital, said that as of March 24, Hamilton County does not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19. He urged compliance with Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for social distancing.

County Judge Mark Tynes had not called for a disaster declaration, telling the Hamilton Herald-News that he didn’t want to restrict citizens’ liberties.

“I don’t want to panic people, but this is serious,” he told the Herald-News. “It is very important to comply (with the social distancing order) in order to protect the public.”

Tynes added that “noncompliance will further limit liberties and individual rights, put others at risk and spread the virus. Please don’t be that person.

Hamilton ISD and Hico ISD issued a joint announcement that they will extend the suspension of normal district operations through April 3 “in an effort to support our nation’s need to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19,” the districts said in the joint statement. 

“Hamilton and Hico will continue to coordinate with each other, as well as other school districts in the region, and will use the week of March 30 to make any decisions on whether there is a need to extend the suspension further,” the districts said in their statement posted online.

Hamilton ISD is using the Google Classroom platform. Superintendent Clay Tarpley and Jennifer Zschiesche, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said in a website update that their main goal is to make sure children continue learning.

“We miss your children in our classrooms at HISD, and we hope that everyone stays well as we continue living in this new normal,” they said. 

Hamilton EMS and Hamilton Fire came together on Wednesday, March 25, for a skills training session in hazardous materials and infectious diseases. Photo courtesy of Hamilton EMS

HOOD COUNTY

Granbury reports first case, issues stay-at-home order  

Reporting by Kaylee Pippins, Blair Phillips and Ismenia De La Cerda

UPDATE: Two Hood County residents have tested positive. Both had traveled overseas and remain isolated, officials said.  

In Granbury, on March 23, COVID-19 tests had been administered by to 39 Hood County residents, said Michael Ross, Granbury deputy city manager. Out of those, 12 tested negative and 27 are pending.

On Wednesday, March 25, one of those tests came back positive.

“The person, who is in their 50s, was tested Monday because their symptoms were consistent with COVID-19 — fever, cough and congestion. The person recently returned from an overseas cruise and has been informed that another passenger tested positive for the virus,” according to a press release issued by Hood County Health Authority Dr. David Blocker.

After being tested, the Hood County resident was sent home with guidelines for self-isolation.

“The patient is being treated and remains isolated with family members,” the press release said.

Hood County Judge Ron Massingill has issued a “Declaration of Local State of Disaster,” which includes sections that allow Hood County to take actions to suppress COVID-19 by potentially quarantining people or places; limiting gatherings to 10 or less people; only allowing restaurants to use take-out, delivery, or drive-through services; prohibiting non-essential visitors from visiting nursing/retirement homes; and following subsequent orders from Gov. Greg Abbott. It also encourages social distancing by limiting outings, minimizing exposure and cancelling non-essential events.

On Wednesday, March 25, the Granbury City Council amended its own disaster declaration, ordering citizens to stay home except for “traveling to work at an essential business, traveling for the health of yourself or another person, leaving to get food and supplies, or getting outside to exercise.”

People must main social distancing of at least 6 feet in public, and essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies and others must enforce that as well. The order also banned in-house dining, and required all businesses to close except those deemed “essential.”

As far as food and supplies, Ross said local stores “are doing a pretty good job keeping up with restocking and we have an active group in town (Mission Granbury) that is making sure all have adequate food and drink. The largest needs in our area are currently hand sanitizer and the N-95 masks.”

Daily life in the community has changed because Granbury is a tourist town.

“All the events and festivities have been cancelled and the hotels are empty,” Ross said. “Most of the businesses in town are closed and restaurants are take-out only. The social fabric of Granbury is on pause.”

For more information, visit www.granbury.org/covid19.

Granbury ISD provides for virtual learning, food needs

Reporting by Nadya Zamora

Granbury ISD has shut down its schools through April 3 and has switched over to virtual learning at home.

“By closing, the school district is helping send a message that we believe people should be following all guidelines in order to make this time as helpful as possible and minimizing local and regional impact,” said Jeff Meador, the school district’s director of communications.

The closing date could be extended “depending on what the conditions are in this county, and so everything has been changed dramatically because we’ve shifted to virtual learning at home,” Meador added. “Our teachers have reached out to students and parents, providing some instructional materials to work on and complete so that the kids are still learning even though they’re not allowed in the school building.

The district is moving everything online and communicating through email or social media.

“We are doing a lot of Zoom conferences with all grade levels,” Meador explained. “They are meeting virtually and getting to talk with their students that way. It’s a big hurdle for teachers who are used to having kids in front of them. Technology has become a big part of K-12 instruction, so a lot of our teachers are tech savvy and are able to adjust easier. Trying to find ways to contacts each student individually to check in, see if there’s things they need or speak with them and give some instructional coaching, so they’re not falling behind.”

Granbury ISD has dispersed about 2,600 Chromebooks so students can access to Google classroom applications and other resources.

In addition, “we have provided low tech options to complete assignments or get some instruction available through packets they can take home and complete,” Meador explained. “Some of our campuses are sending out general activities that students can do on their own. They are communicating through our Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as text messages. There are both opportunities for those who do and do not have internet.”

Granbury ISD also is providing meals for students through the school district’s Child Nutrition Department and through local community organizations and churches.

“We are providing meals through a drive-through service at our high school and got about 11 or 12 community sites where we’re delivering meals every weekday,” Meador said. “We are also doing home deliveries of those lunches to people that have transportation issues and cannot get to the high school or community sites.”

The nonprofit Mission Granbury and local churches have collaborated to provide additional food that Granbury ISD is delivering on Fridays to help cover the weekends.

“I think food is definitely a big issue, but hopefully we’ve been able to address those in need,” Meador said.

Some people have lost their jobs for the time being or their workplace has been closed, he added.

“I’m expecting that a lot of people are filing for unemployment,” Meador said. “I think by and large the community has come together meeting the needs of people as they reach out and share their specific needs with us.”

Custodians are working to make sure buildings are clean and cafeteria workers are preparing food for the drive-through service, community sites and home delivery, Meador said. The office staff also is taking care of administrative functions such as “receiving mail that still comes in and completing everything that we need to send to the Texas Education Agency and others so that we continue to receive funding during our closure.”

Meador added that it’s “a trying time for every single citizen as our whole world and community are adjusting. Schools have reacted very quickly and have adjusted our whole organization to continue to meet the academic and other needs of or students. Teachers and school staff deserve a lot of credit for still being cheerleaders for our students even when we can’t physically meet in the school building.”

Lipan feels “almost like a ghost town”

Reporting by Tyler Barabas

Lipan has not reported a positive COVID-19 case yet, but the community and school district are urged to take precautions — clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching the face, covering a cough or sneeze and getting a flu shot.

“While these measures seem simple, they work and will also protect against getting the flu,” Lipan ISD Superintendent Ralph Carter wrote in a letter to the school family.

The district’s custodial and transportation staff are taking “proactive steps to clean and sanitize campuses and our buses,” Carter added. “COVID-19 information from the CDC has been shared with staff and all staff is working to disinfect common areas as well a discussing preventative personal hygiene with all students.”

Buildings and buses were “thoroughly cleaned and disinfected during spring break,” Carter said.

In an email interview, he noted that the district is providing meals for students on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. “The biggest need is paper products,” he added.

Asked how the pandemic is impacting the community, Carter said, “It is starting to affect small businesses in our area. Almost like a ghost town with everyone staying inside.”

SOMERVELL COUNTY

Glen Rose ISD makes smooth transition to online learning

Reporting by Madi Reed

UPDATE: Glen Rose Medical Center disclosed on March 29 that a person who is not a resident had tested positive for COVID-19 after coming to the hospital for testing. No further details about the person were provided.

Glen Rose ISD Superintendent Wayne Rotan said the school district has spent the past three years transferring students’ work to online platforms such as Canvas, “which has made the transition from face-to-face classes to online learning earlier easier for everyone.”

GRISD had a device pickup for their sixth to 12th grade students last Thursday. Cars lined up with parents and students as teachers handed out the students’ devices in bags.

The students resumed classes on Thursday, too, through remote learning online. They have used Zoom for teachers to continue teaching students.

 “It has been a great transition,” Rotan said.

The first day back teachers had big plans for the students’ schoolwork, but it ended up being more like a reunion for all the teachers and students. They were all excited to see other once again.

Glen Rose ISD also has been providing breakfast and lunch for students at five delivery sites  throughout the county.

One day earlier this week, 500 students received breakfast and lunch, with around 1,000 meals handed out. Rotan said he expected that number to grow.

Rotan said wants the students and teachers to be able to return soon, but said he doesn’t want to jeopardize anyone’s health. As of now, the school has not decided to finish the year online. However, the decision of when to resume face-to-face classes is being considered and evaluated week by week.

“The health and safety of students and staff is our top priority,” Rotan said. “I am proud of our students and staff who have embraced this challenge with optimism.”

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1 Response

  1. Kent Berry says:

    Great reporting the facts on COVID.19 in the surrounding counties. We are in good hands with these outstanding journalists

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