Copperas Cove city council extends disaster declaration, votes down shelter in place order
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Copperas Cove City Council voted not to implement a Shelter In Place order during their emergency meeting held Thursday evening.
The council met at the Technology Center, with public participation provided through Zoom and teleconferencing as well as written comment submissions prior to the meeting. The meeting was also broadcast on Facebook Live and the Local Channel 10 on Spectrum.
Mayor Bradi Diaz opened the meeting with a statement sharing what has happened since the last council meeting on March 17, to include the issuing of executive orders by Gov. Greg Abbott on March 19, and then a city disaster declaration on March 20, which was set to expire on March 27.
The executive order implemented the CDC standards and the President’s coronavirus guidelines to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people; avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts; use drive-thru pickup or delivery; do not visit nursing homes, retirement or long-term care facilities; avoid discretionary travel; work from home where possible; and practice good hygiene.
“The [city’s] declaration is to protect the interest and safety of all citizens and enables the city to implement measures to prepare for, mitigate against, respond to and recover from the coronavirus COVID-19,” Diaz said.
The disaster declaration must be extended by council.
On Tuesday, it was confirmed that a Copperas Cove resident tested positive with COVID-19 and voluntarily self-quarantined at home.
Diaz said that even prior to being notified about the positive case, she had requested a Shelter in Place requirement be added to the Disaster Declaration ordinance for consideration by the council.
“Even though at the time of this discussion, we had no known cases, there were numerous cases in Bell County and several of those are through community spread,” Diaz said.
Bell County has already implemented a Shelter in Place, as has McLennan County and the city of Lampasas.
“We know that there are cases here, they have just not been identified,” Diaz said. “The purpose of this declaration is not to close businesses. It’s to protect the residents. We need residents to stay home. If you are not driving to work, to medical appointments, to shop for groceries or performing tasks essential to the health and safety of yourself or your family, you should not be on the road.”
The Shelter In Place Order would have allowed for residents of Copperas Cove to only leave their homes for essential activities, essential government functions or to operate essential businesses as defined in the ordinance.
Several city council members voiced their concerns for the shelter in place order.
Jay Manning said he saw the order as infringing upon constitutional rights granted by both the Texas Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.
Dianne Yoho Campbell said she felt that if given the proper information, Copperas Cove residents would “stand up and do what is right,” regarding actions to take following recommendations outlined under the disaster declaration.
“In our present circumstance, with one case reported, I do not believe that our situation warrants a shelter in place at this time,” Campbell said.
She added that she felt there was a need to implement measure to make sure workers were taken care of in their workplaces and had a way to report safety violations.
Fred Chavez shared that he has been watching the news and has spoke with a microbiologist and healthcare provider about the situation.
“My concern is waiting until this blossoms here is too late,” Chavez said. “I think preventatively we need to take action that protects and preserves the citizens that we serve. I too have taken an oath to the Constitution of Texas and the United States. I hold those very dear, but I err on the side of making sure that we’re preserving life.”
Chavez added that the country is seeing outcomes that haven’t been seen since the Spanish Flu from 1918.
“Waiting to see what happens is not a course of action that I think is relevant or proper in this case,” Chavez said. “We have needed leadership in this matter for months. What we’ve gotten is management from afar, and it’s not working.”
Joann Courtland shared that she worried about taking such a huge step and the impact it would have on businesses.
“We just need to really look at all sides of this issue and ensure that we don’t react and make the condition worse than what the virus actually is,” Courtland said.
Marc Payne agreed with Chavez on being proactive.
“Every place that has the coronavirus started with one person and it mushroomed, and depending on how close you follow it, it is an upward curve, and we still don’t know much about it, still don’t have enough testing and we still don’t have enough equipment not only to take care of it but to take care of our medical people,” Payne said. “I think to err towards the safety side and shut it down, get this thing cut down, will cost less and take less time now than it will later one.”
Jack Smith said he agreed on the constitutional issues a Shelter in Place order would pose but also agreed that people need to follow recommendations and stay home and practice caution.
“I understand in times of disaster, people say we can take away people’s constitutional rights, and that’s still hard for me to agree with, but I’m not sure we’re in a disaster,” Smith said. “I mean, I know the coronavirus is a deadly disease and this year alone, the CDC expects between 31,000 and 64,000 deaths from the flu. We have the flu every year, sometimes twice a year, and we don’t know if locking everybody in their house is going to do any good at all, and it may harm people that need to get out and enjoy sunshine and fresh air.”
Manning added that he was more concerned with the direction the country is headed in.
“My concern and I believe the crisis of this country right now is I believe we’re headed off in a direction to abandon the Republic and the Constitution already, and I know where democracy leads to,” Manning said. “It leads to anarchy and shortly thereafter a totalitarian government. I think that is the crisis that we’re facing and it is more deadly than this virus to our wellbeing as a nation.”
The county’s health authority, Dr. J.D. Sheffield was asked to give his opinion on whether sheltering in place would have any affect.
Sheffield said that COVID-19 is a new virus so there are a lot of unknowns around it.
He added there is no data about the virus to suggest either way whether a shelter in place would slow the spread or not.
“They simply don’t know if now is the time, or if it’s too early in the course of the disease,” Sheffield said.
Yancey said he is concerned about the reaction of shelter in place and really what that means as opposed to a disaster declaration.
He added that felt the thing that makes the most difference is people using common sense.
“If we put this shelter in place, I don’t see where somebody is not going to use any common sense is not going to be deterred whatsoever, and that’s my problem with this whole thing,” Yancey said. “You cannot legislate common sense.”
Chavez made a motion to approve the disaster declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic with a shelter-in-place order included, with Payne seconding. The council voted 5 to 2 against the motion, with Chavez and Payne voting in favor. Courtland, Yancey, Manning, Campbell, and Smith voted against it.
On the next agenda item of voting to extend the Mayor’s disaster declaration from March 17, which is set to expire tomorrow, the council voted 6 to 1 in favor, with Manning voting against. The extension is until April 3. The city’s declaration mirrors the Governor’s executive order GA-08.
The declaration can be found on the city’s website at http://www.copperascovetx.gov/city_secretary/council_packet/, under the March 26 meeting agenda.
The declaration includes the closing of massage parlors, which prompted Payne to ask for clarification on whether this includes massage therapy. The City Attorney, who participated via teleconference, said that massage therapy would fall under a massage parlor.
Manning said he did not support the declaration but understood the governor had the authority to implement the actions.
When asked by Yancey about whether the city could ignore state requirements, City Manager Ryan Haverlah said that the disaster declaration “provides an enforcement mechanism of the Governor’s order.”
Courtland requested that if the declaration is extended that enforcement should happen for the ordinance to work.
Violation of the declaration is considered a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $2,000, according to the ordinance.