Bell County officials issue shelter in place order

Bell County Courthouse. (Photo by Kathleen Serie)
Bell County Courthouse. (Photo by Kathleen Serie)(KWTX)
Published: Mar. 23, 2020 at 4:09 PM CDT
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Bell County officials late Monday afternoon issued a shelter in place order.

The order, which takes effect at one minute before midnight Monday, does not apply to essential businesses, essential activities and essential travel.

The order contains a number of exemptions including essential healthcare operations and essential government operations.

The order exempts essential activities such as public works construction, residential and commercial construction, airport operations, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, public transportation, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems, financial institutions, defense and national security-related operations, essential manufacturing operations provided that they carry out those services or that work in compliance with social distancing requirements of six feet, to the extent possible.

Essential businesses include grocery stores, warehouse stores, big-box stores, bodegas, liquor stores, gas stations and convenience stores, farmers’ 4 markets that sell food products and household staples, food cultivation, including farming, fishing, and livestock and businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences.

Also restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out, laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers. Gas stations, automobile sales, auto-supply, auto and bicycle repair, hardware stores, construction supply stores, and related facilities and businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home.

It also exempts businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals and that provide such services as trash and recycling collections, processing and disposal, mail and shipping services, building cleaning and maintenance, warehouse/distribution and fulfillment, storage for essential businesses, funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries.

The order also exempts plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other such service providers, news media, and childcare providers, although it recommends that groups of no more than 10.

The City of Waco and McLennan County issued similar orders earlier in the day.

Six new confirmed cases of the virus were reported Monday in Bell County, increasing the total in the county to 16.

On March 17 Bell County officials declared a local disaster and public health emergency in an effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

The order limited restaurants to drive-through and takeout service, and closed bars and indoor recreation facilities such as gyms, bowling alleys and pool halls.

The county is at Stage 3 of its COVID-19 Action Plan.

Bell County COVID19 Action Plan

Stage 1 (no confirmed cases of COVID19) • Stay home if you are sick • Avoid contact with persons who are sick • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unclean hands • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throw the tissue away • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces with a disinfectant • Don’t travel to areas with active community spread of COVID19 • Wash your hands with soap and water regularly and use hand sanitizers with at least 60% of alcohol content when soap and water are not available

Stage 2 (a confirmed case of COVID19) • All of Stage 1 measures • Actively practice ‘social distancing’ … whenever possible maintain 6 feet distance from other persons • Avoid physical contact with other persons in social and workplace settings • Recommend all gatherings of 50 or more persons be canceled or postponed

Stage 3 (community spread of COVID19) • All Stage 1 & Stage 2 measures • Bell County &/or BCPHD may issue orders restricting and/or prohibiting mass gatherings and/or movement of people

Essential businesses include healthcare, grocery stores; farmers’ markets; food banks; convenience stores; liquor stores; farming; livestock; fishing; social services; newspapers; television stations; radio stations; other media outlets; gas stations; auto supply; auto repair; banks and financial; hardware and construction supply; plumbers; electricians; exterminators; mailing and shipping services; laundromats; dry cleaners; restaurants (drive-thru or takeout); food trucks; businesses that sell products needed by those working from home; businesses that ship or deliver groceries; food products or services directly to homes; airlines; taxis; private transportation services; home-based care for seniors; adults of children; residential facilities and shelters for seniors; adults and children; professional services such as law offices; accounting firms; insurance and real estate; childcare facilities (under specified conditions); utilities; telecommunication; trash collection; law enforcement; EMS and paramedics; animal shelters; janitorial and maintenance services; funeral homes and providers; defense; space and technology; technology support; and scientific research. Essential activities include travel related to health care or health care for pets; picking up supplies needed to work from home; making purchases at a grocery store (one person per family); picking up food at a restaurant; caring for a family member or pet in another household; and outdoor activities such as running; biking or walking.