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Waco, McLennan County extend disaster orders for two more weeks

A CDC graphic of the COVID-19 virus via MGN.
A CDC graphic of the COVID-19 virus via MGN.(KOLO)
Published: Mar. 31, 2020 at 10:31 AM CDT
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McLennan County Commissioners and the Waco City Council both voted Tuesday morning to extend declarations of local disaster and shelter in place orders for another two weeks in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Hours later, though, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered social distancing guidelines to remain in effect until April 30.

The Waco council also voted to postpone the city's May 2 election until Nov. 3, pending a decision from the governor's office whether the election may be held in conjunction with the state's rescheduled primary runoff vote on July 14.

A total of 39 cases of the new coronavirus had been confirmed in McLennan County as of Tuesday morning.

Seven of the 39 are hospitalized, four in critical condition.

Six have recovered.

“We think about the economy every day but we must put safety first,” Mayor Kyle Deaver said.

Deaver said it's likely the orders may have to be extended beyond April 21.

The vote Tuesday leaves in effect orders that non-essential businesses close, residents shelter in place, and sets limits on travel outside the home as part of the effort to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

Violators will be cited for class C misdemeanors.

Residents may leave their homes only for essential activities such as trips to a grocery store, pharmacy or healthcare facility.

All but essential businesses are ordered to close including bars, indoor recreational facilities and indoor amusement facilities, which include such businesses as gyms, theaters, pool halls, bingo halls and video arcades.

Restaurants may continue to provide drive-thru, takeout and delivery services.

The order exempts hospitals, healthcare facilities, grocery stores, food cultivators, professional service provider such as accountants, hardware stores, plumbers and electricians, shipping agencies, those that provide any type of shelter, media, gas stations and convenience stores, banks, restaurants that provide takeout/delivery or drive-through service, laundromats and drycleaners, home-based senior care providers, janitorial and maintenance services and child care facilities.

The order also exempts first responders,

Non-essential businesses must shut down except for what's required to maintain minimum basic operations, the order says.

Those who leave their homes for essential business should observe social distancing requirements.

The order does not prohibit residents from walking, hiking, running or riding a bicycle, provided the social distancing requirement is observed.

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. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued an opinion that gun shops must also be considered essential businesses. 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.

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