Longview Mayor Andy Mack said an announcement will be made at 1 p.m. today that could affect restrictions on activities in Longview and Gregg County, as Dallas County, Waco and several other communities ordered residents to “shelter in place” on Monday.
Mack spoke after Monday’s Longview City Council meeting about what he said would be a news conference with Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt at the Gregg County Courthouse. On Monday, the council unanimously agreed to extend a disaster declaration Mack announced a week ago as COVID-19 continues to spread across the country. Gregg County has logged one case so far, and 15 others have been identified in surrounding counties as of Monday.
Mack declined to provide details about the announcement, but during Monday’s meeting he told the City Council the disaster declaration gives the city “additional tools and authority to make hard decisions.”
“We’re still working on it, tweaking it, what we need to do,” he said about the announcement coming today.
Gov. Greg Abbott previously has issued orders closing schools, telling people to stay away from social functions of more than 10 people and barring dining-in at restaurants. The City Council on Monday conducted its first teleconference meeting to comply with the 10-person rule. Members of the public were able to call in to the audio-only meeting and provide public comment if desired.
Mack said it’s hard to tell how the community is doing at following the governor’s orders overall.
“But it concerns me because I still see people scurrying around and carrying on business as usual like nothing is happening. That worries me terribly, because I think we’re not taking this as seriously as we should be,” considering what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, president and governor have said, Mack said. “We need to wake up and realize this is real.”
Mack told the City Council on Monday he would communicate with the group about any actions he has to take under the disaster declaration and wouldn’t abuse the powers it provides him.
“We need to do what we can to mitigate the spread of this virus,” he said.
City Councilwoman Kristen Ishihara said she thinks the disaster declaration is necessary, because the coronavirus situation to which the city must respond is constantly changing.
“We’re simply not set up to do that as a council,” she said. “I think our mayor has done an excellent job in leading us, in providing good information and transparent information to date. I fully trust he would continue to do so in the future.”
Today’s announcement also will include a discussion about penalties for people who don’t adhere to the government’s directives.
“This is a huge issue,” Mack said, adding that President Donald Trump and Abbott have made it clear that failure to follow the rules could lead to fines or jail time.
Also during Monday’s meeting, the City Council unanimously agreed to move the May 2 City Council election to Nov. 3, as the governor on March 18 authorized all schools and cities to do because of concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus. District 3 Councilman Wray M. Wade faces challengers Hank Guichelaar and Darrin “Rudy” Rudolph in the election.
City spokesman Shawn Hara told the council on Monday that Guichelaar had indicated through the videoconference tool that he wanted to speak during public comments. The candidate encountered technical difficulties, though, and later in the meeting Mack said Guichelaar had sent him a text message saying he supported postponing the election.