Effective Thursday, March 26, public access to any Cooke County office is even more limited.
In a move to curb the new coronavirus pandemic, members of the Cooke County Commissioners’ Court unanimously agreed to only allow the public into its facilities by appointment. The vote, which was during an emergency called meeting Wednesday, March 25, came after members of the court reconvened from meeting in closed session for an hour inside the courthouse at 101 S. Dixon St.
Cooke County Judge Jason Brinkley said counties south of Gainesville “are on a lot stricter requirements” to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which is pushing more traffic to the county.
“We’re concerned about the influx of people we have coming up to Cooke County to do transactions and do business from those higher impacted areas at the moment,” Brinkley said. “ … We need to be doing our part and we encourage all businesses to take similar precautions.”
Cooke County Clerk Pam Harrison said the only marriage licenses her office had issued this week were for out-of-county couples.
On average, Harrison said her office typically issues two marriage licenses per day. By 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the clerk’s office had already issued five licenses as well as handled 13 inquiries about them, she said.
County officials believe the increase is because other counties have shelter-in-place orders in effect.
Brinkley said Wednesday afternoon that he doesn’t believe a shelter-in-place order is necessary for the county at this time. He did say that all options are on the table and the county is continuously evaluating the COVID-19 situation.
“I would rather have 90% compliance with our current regulations then 50% compliance with a shelter-in-place regulation,” Brinkley said.
Since March 17, the only unlocked door at the Cooke County Courthouse has been the basement entrance on the south side. Now, all governmental offices will remain open even though doors at the Cooke County Courthouse and Cooke County Courthouse Annex in downtown Gainesville are locked, officials said. When you arrive for a scheduled appointment, you will be asked to call the office of wherever you are visiting to be let in.
All county employees and visitors will still have their temperature checked when entering the county’s downtown buildings — one of the precautionary measures approved by members of the court Monday, March 16. However, temperatures will no longer be taken by Cooke County Emergency Medical Services personnel, according to Precinct 4 Cooke County Commissioner Leon Klement. They will be taken by a Cooke County Sheriff’s Office deputy so medical personnel are not exposed to as much traffic, he said.
Cooke County Tax Assessor-Collector Brandy Carr’s office will have a drop box set up in the hallway of the annex, 112 S. Dixon St., from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. to conduct business. The box will be emptied every hour, according to information provided by Carr.
As of press time Wednesday, there were no reported cases of COVID-19 in Cooke County. There were 64,764 reported cases of COVID-19 nationwide and 919 reported deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. In Texas, there were 1,179 reported cases of the new coronavirus as of press time and 14 deaths, according to the university.