In response to the burgeoning COVID-19 public health crisis, both the City of New Cordell and Washita County last week formally declared states of emergency for their respective jurisdictions.
Cordell Mayor Jerry Beech declared the city’s emergency state Wednesday, March 18. Under the terms of the emergency declaration, the city has revoked all pending event permits for events scheduled on any public park, street, sidewalk, facility, or property. It also includes a moratorium on the granting of any new permits. The Cordell Chamber of Commerce Easter Egg Hunt, scheduled for April 11, 2020, has been canceled, according to chamber president Jennifer Cary.
The declaration further orders the closure of all local gyms, exercise facilities, movie theaters, and libraries. Restaurants, convenience stores, and other privately owned gathering places are allowed to remain open, but are only allowed to serve food on a carry-out basis. Dining rooms have been ordered closed.
Local restaraunteurs were supportive of the announcement, despite its negative impacts on their businesses.
“I’m glad our city is doing everything it can to help prevent the spread of the virus,” said Tonya Venable, owner/operator of Shorty’s. “I’d rather see us overreact and do too much than to not do enough and be regretful later. We’ve closed our dining room, but are trying to help keep things as normal as possible by offering curbside pick-up, drive-through service, and delivery. Together, we’ll all get through this.”
Terry Jones, owner of Cordell’s Sunshine Cafe, echoed Venable’s sentiment.
“We’re doing what we can to fight the spread of the virus and to continue to serve the people of Cordell,” he said. “We’re doing take-outs and delivery and we’re even hoping to expand our hours, maybe even open up on Sunday.”
The city is also “strongly discouraging” in-person gatherings of 10 or more people for any “social, spiritual, or recreational purposes including, but not limited to community, civic, public leisure, faithbased, or sporting events; parades, concerts, festivals, conventions, fundraisers and similar activities.”
City Council and other city board meetings will continue as normal, although measures will be put in place to prevent close contact among attendees. Members of the public wishing to ask questions about agenda items are encouraged to do so by phoning city staff at 580.832.3825. The city has also imposed a moratorium on utility cut-offs if prior arrangements are made with the city office.
The state of emergency is set to remain in place until further notice, but will be reevaluated in 30 days.
Washita County fol lowed suit on Friday, March 20. The Board of County Commissioners held a special emergency meeting to discuss the emergency declaration and how best to implement measures to limit access to the courthouse and government offices while still maintaining essential government services.
After discussion with the other county elected officials, the commissioners decided to lock the courthouse doors to public traffic, but all county employees are still required to report to work as scheduled. Individuals needing to enter the courthouse in person to conduct their business will need to make an appointment in advance and check in with the county’s emergency manager at the north entrance of the courthouse to gain access.
All county travel has been suspended for all employees. Personal travel is subject to a 14- day quarantine before returning to work at the discretion of the employee’s supervisor. All public meetings are being continued as scheduled, although anyone wishing to attend those meetings will need to contact the county clerk’s office for access to the building.
“Every effort is being made to ensure a safe, clean, and sanitized working environment for our employees,” the commissioners wrote in a statement. “We are monitoring the situation and will notify the public immediately of any changes, when necessary. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your understanding of this matter.”