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Gregg County judge: Shelter at home, lack of needed supplies limits coronavirus testing

Gregg County officials have called for a voluntary “shelter-in-place” order as of Tuesday, March 24, in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Gregg County residents have been urged to “shelter-at-home” voluntarily folowing an announcement today by Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt and Longview Mayor Andy Mack.

“Residents are encouraged to stay inside their homes unless they are engaged in certain ‘essential activities.’ On those occasions when you are out of your home for necessary tasks, stay at least six feet away from others,” the announcement says.

A post on the Facebook page of the Longview Parks and Recreation Department says people may:

“Go to the grocery, convenience or warehouse store.

Go to the pharmacy to pick up medications and other healthcare necessities.

Go to medical appointments (check with your doctor or provider first).

Go to a restaurant for take-out, delivery or drive-thru.

Care for or support a friend or family member.

Take a walk, ride your bike, hike, jog and be in nature for exercise — just keep at least six feet between you and others in the community.

Walk your pets and take them to the veterinarian if necessary.

Help someone to get necessary supplies.

Go to work for an essential business.”

People may not however, “Go to work unless you are providing essential services as defined by the guidelines; Visit friends and family if there is no urgent need; Maintain less than 6 feet of distance from others when you go out; Visit loved ones in the hospital, nursing home, skilled nursing facility, or other residential care.”

Also, a lack of necessary materials is limiting coronavirus testing in Gregg County, Stoudt said.

“Hopefully it will be ramping up,” Stoudt said Monday. “The sooner we can test people (who) the doctors recommend testing the better.”

Testing is being done in Tyler and is limited, he said, adding that he hopes to see testing increase in the entire region.

“The problem we’re having right now is the testing kit itself, as well as the personal protection equipment people use, which is the jackets and face masks and all those,” Stoudt said. “We are in a very short supply of those. So, until we get all that beefed up, we really can’t do all that testing without that.”

But even if the county acquired more supplies such as kits, protective jackets and clear helmets/face masks, only people who fit the criteria set by medical professionals would be tested, he said.

Criteria include a persistent cough, difficulty breathing and respiratory distress.

Stoudt also said drive-thru testing for Gregg County residents similar to what is available in larger, metro areas also is an issue of available supplies, and the criteria for testing still would apply.

Suppliers are mostly sending safety products to “hot spots” such as Houston and locations in New York and California, he said. The county found a supplier for medical gowns in Victoria, he said.

The judge spoke Monday after the Gregg County Commissioners Court extended a county declaration disaster for another two weeks in an effort to mitigate the new coronavirus pandemic.

Gregg County still had one confirmed case of the virus as of Monday morning, Stoudt said. The patient’s mandated quarantine time has expired, and Stoudt said the patient is being tested again.

The extension of the declaration gives Stoudt and Health Authority Dr. Lewis Browne the ability to make decisions in the best interest of the county on managing the coronavirus, officials said.

The best way to mitigate the spread of the virus is to lower the chances of exposure, Stoudt said. People must take the situation seriously and need to avoid groups of 10 or more and going out in public, he said.

On Friday, a three-phase plan for the county was approved that lists mitigation strategies county leadership can take to protect people at risk for severe illness from the virus, health care workers and those involved in the county’s critical infrastructure.

Stoudt said the county is in Phase 2, which includes banning social gatherings of 10 or more people and closing restaurant dining rooms, bars, gyms and other gathering venues.

Phase 3 would include a mandatory closure of schools and day cares and shelter-in-place protocols. Schools already are closed through April 3, which was mandated on Thursday by Gov. Greg Abbott.

That phase would be enacted if there is evidence of widespread community transmission of the virus.

Abbott on Sunday stopped short of issuing a shelter-in-place order saying he wanted to first see the impact of his earlier executive order. Hours later, Dallas became the first city in Texas to do so. On Monday, several other Texas cities and counties were looking at implementing their own.

Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said Monday he had no intention of signing such an order.

Stoudt said he wishes he “had that crystal ball” that could tell him if the county’s defensive measures will completely contain the virus.

“Take this very seriously. We’ll get through it,” he said. “It’s going to take an effort on our part to try to slow down this continual environment to stop it.”


News
Hitting the Books

Kilgore ISD is continuing its efforts to keep students fed and hitting the books during a statewide shutdown of all schools related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Last Friday, KISD administrators, teachers and staff lined up at the KISD Administration building to hand out lesson packets and instructional materials to parents so students could stay up-to-date on their learning.

KISD Superintendent Andy Baker shared some information about the reach of Friday’s activities in an email:

“Out of 4,019 current students, KISD passed out to parents about 3,700 student instructional material packets last Friday! WOW!! Considering that our KISD teachers, staff, and administrators planned, printed, stuffed and addressed envelopes to be ready to go Friday for each individual KISD student...and then right at 3,700 of our Bulldog parents came through our pick-up lines...this is absolutely impressive and incredible!!! I believe that says all that needs to be said about our Bulldog Community and our ability to work together through our current challenges,” Baker said.

This week, the school district is continuing its mission to provide nutritious meals to students in the local community. Last week, the district provided meals to anyone who visited the Kilgore Middle School or Kilgore High School campuses but, moving forward, will provide meals strictly to children ages 18 and under.

“Meals can be picked up curbside Monday — Friday, 11:00am — 1:00pm at our High School Campus Bus Lane behind the building and our Middle School Campus Bus Lane behind the Campus. Parents may also find other area meal locations by visiting https://txschools.gov/ to find locations for free school meals for all your public school children. Select “Meal Pick-Up Locations”, then type in your home address to find a school near you,” Baker said.


News
News Herald Launches Free App

The Kilgore News Herald is launching a new free app for anyone who owns a smartphone or tablet like an iPad. The News Herald is rolling out the app for your phone as part of our expanded news coverage of receiving your news anywhere you go as you wish.

This application on your cell phone is more important than ever, as not only will one tap get you the latest local news, but important information that matters will come to you as a push notification, like a text.

“We will not interrupt you to check your phone to see it will be cloudy today or information on things that do not affect or interest you,” said News Messenger Publisher Jerry Pye. “We have a responsibility right now to let you know developments in East Texas and the nation that affect you.”

You can find the News Herald paper’s app in both the Android and Apple app stores on your phone or tablet. On the top of the app are the latest videos, from news to sports and events.

The latest weather is on the top bar, so you don’t have to click on different apps or go to the internet. The menu on the top left allows you to jump to news, sports, lifestyles, obituaries, opinion, videos and our popular e-Edition.

The e-Edition is a view of the actual newspaper. You can sign up for an account and see the newspaper on your phone, tablet or computer and click on stories if you want to read them like an email.

On the right side at the top is “trending topics” which are the most-read stories by our readers. The download is free.

“More and more, news readers are turning to digital and electronic means of obtaining the latest news. This new app will help KNH deliver the latest local and community news to our readers in a way that is both quick and convenient,” said KNH editor Lucas Strough.


News
Kilgoround

“Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

– C.S. Lewis

This is certainly the time to do as much as we can for the present world: checking on neighbors, sharing what we have and making sure those close to us are healthy and safe. We are all served by kindness, selflessness and compassion in trying times. If you have any uplifting news or photos to share with our local community, please don’t hesitate to share them with us here at KNH. We’re always thrilled to share more good news in a time like this.

There is still no word from Gov. Abbott’s office about a statewide “shelter in place” order, though similar orders have been issued for Dallas County and in several states throughout the U.S. While that may occur soon statewide, there is no reason to panic. A move like this would be intended to slow or halt the spread of this virus and keep more Texans safe and healthy. We’ll keep you updated as the situation develops.

Many families are spending a lot more time together these days, as all the schools have closed, and we hope our readers are managing this new reality as well as possible. We do extend our sympathies, as it can be difficult to keep children entertained at home all day. Are coloring books and word searches still popular or have they become a thing of the past, pushed aside by smartphones and WiFi? This may be a good time to dust off a trusty set of dominoes or “Monopoly” to while away the hours until schools reopen.

During a series of yellow fever outbreaks between 1839 and 1867, Texans banded together, as they are doing now, to protect their fellow citizens. According to EastTexasHistory.org, the hard-hit port city of Galveston turned the lessons of a tragedy into a boon for others, as “the Galveston Howard Association sent out medical teams to suffering towns across the country, providing “an army of volunteers to nurse the sick and bury the dead.”’

FACTS matter.

BIRTHDAYS:

March 25

John E. Smith Jr., Bradley Clark, John James, Jerry Wood, Mrs. Harry Seidel, Dickson Baun, Bennis Dudley, Garrett Claer, Windy Watson, Otis Taylor Sr., George Wyatt, Kathy Robinson-Adams, Jim Robberson, Kristalin Brown, Huey Smith, Lisa Beverly Stafford, Chad Stephen Silvertooth, Elsie Thrower, Tami Williams, Clint Toon, Brianna Agers, John Hasselmeier, Jim Robberson

March 26

Josie Atchley, Lyness Crim, J.W. Frazier, Linda Tyiska, Martha Doss, Mark Griffin, Jay Bearden, Martha Pyner, Baby Ruth Taylor, Jerry Raines, Alisha Steele, Elaine Terry, J.R. Smith, Kevin Wheeler, Ashley Miller, Toni Taylor Elias

March 27

Johnnie V. Johnson, Jennifer Gough, Ricky Murphey Jr., Christie Marie Woodard, E.H. O’Neal, Alicia Pace, Mrs. Jack Butler, Billy Waye Linson, Krystal Kingsbury, Michael McCarthy, Angela Renee Sheffield, Melvia Joyce Green, Danny Eason, H.H. Harper, Felicia Borchardt, John Walker Jr., Nancy Ballenger Roberts, James Miller, Tracy Davis, Devaris Smith, Roderick Pierce, April Beverly, Malia Kinlaw, Shirley Holman, Sasha Marie Mauldin, Janie Henley

ANNIVERSARIES:

March 25

Larry and Vickie Briggs, Philip and Valerie Deshazer

March 26

Mr. and Mrs. David Wilson

March 27

Mr. and Mrs. John Polk, Mr. and Mrs. C.L. Thompson, Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Brasher, Brian and Tammy Dorsey