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Members of the Cooke County Commissioners’ Court unanimously agreed Monday, April 6, to extend the county’s public health emergency declaration related to COVID-19.

The vote came about after commissioners reconvened into open session from meeting in closed session for 45 minutes. They’d planned to discuss personnel matters, consult with an attorney and talk about security measures behind closed doors. All members of the court were present.

The public health declaration reflects the latest order set forth by Gov. Greg Abbott on March 31, Cooke County Judge Jason Brinkley said.

Abbott’s order states schools are to be closed until May 4 and “every person in Texas shall, except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services, minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.”

Essential services are defined on the Texas Division of Emergency Management website at www.tdem.texas.gov/essentialservices.

Eating or drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts or visiting gyms, massage establishments, tattoo studios, piercing studios or cosmetology salons is prohibited through April 30, Abbott’s order states. However, pickup, drive-thru and delivery for food and drinks from restaurants is allowed and “encouraged.”

Violation of either the governor’s or county judge’s orders carries a fine of up to $1,000 or confinement in jail.

Brinkley said even though Cooke County did not have anyone test positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, as of Monday morning, that doesn’t mean the county shouldn’t be complacent because it’s “very likely in the community given the proximity to the metroplex.”

“People need to be taking these restrictions very seriously,” Brinkley said. “Not only for yourself but for your community. We’re all neighbors here, we’re all in this together. The more seriously we take this now the better off we’ll be in the long run.”

As of press time Monday, no positive cases of COVID-19 had been reported among Cooke County residents. However, there have been two health care workers in Gainesville that reportedly tested positive for the disease. Those two people do not live in the county, officials said. The state’s reporting system goes by residence, not place of work.

According to the Cooke County COVID-19 Joint Information Center, 122 county residents have been tested for the virus as of noon Monday. Of those, 84 are negative and 38 are pending results.

Kristi Rigsby, spokeswoman for the JIC, said it takes about five days for test results to come back after lab specimens are sent.

On Friday, April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it’s recommending that people wear homemade masks when visiting public areas like grocery stores and pharmacies in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (‘asymptomatic’) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (‘pre-symptomatic’) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms,” the CDC explained in a page on its website. “This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity — for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing — even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.”

Because of that, the CDC is recommending cloth face coverings for people who go into public settings where other social distancing measures, like remaining 6 feet from other people at all times, are hard to maintain. It’s still advising that other measures like social distancing and diligent hand washing are the paramount ways to slow the spread.

“Since most of our facilities have limited to no public access at the moment, we are not currently requiring our employees to wear masks; however, [some] have chosen to do so,” Brinkley said when asked about the new mask recommendation.

He did say Monday that the county is “strongly encouraging everyone follow CDC recommendations, which include wearing a mask if you are in a situation that social distancing measures cannot be maintained.”

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