Be prepared, but don’t panic.
That was one of the messages Brown County Judge Paul Lilly conveyed to the media Tuesday at the Brown County Courthouse.
With two representatives of the Brownwood-Brown County Health Department present, Lilly held a press conference on the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
Lilly urged citizens to refrain from making runs on grocery stores and hoarding supplies.
But while noting that Brown County did not have an confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday morning, Lilly also urged citizens to follow CDC and White House guidelines including recommendations pertaining to travel, self-isolation, prevention. The CDC has recommended avoiding gatherings of 10 or more for 15 days.
“I’m not saying don’t be prepared,” Lilly said. “There’s a difference between being prepared and panicking. What we don’t want is panic.”
Health Administrator Lisa Dick said seven Brown County residents have been tested for the virus. Four have come back negative and the results of the other three are pending, Dick said. She said testing is similar to testing for the flu and that nasal swab samples are driven to a Tarrant County lab.
Test results come back in four to six hours, Public Health Preparedness Coordinator Cliff Karnes said.
Dick said avoiding gatherings of 10 or more “are the type of things that would help, if we did have someone here (with the virus), from spreading it to other people.”
“We do have people that are at risk for catching the infection or already having it because of a previous exposure, so we would also encourage people, if they meet the guidelines for self-isolation, that they go ahead and do that,” Dick said.
“That is the part that would help us from having cases here locally or to help us to not have as many cases here locally. I do think that it reduces the risk to the community for us to do that.”
Lilly said about three dozen local government leaders including judges, school superintendents, city managers, police and fire chiefs and representatives of EMS and the health department met Monday to discuss the county’s response to the virus and go over CDC guide.
Those Monday meetings will continue as long as the threat persists, Lilly said.
He said the intent is to make sure representatives of the cities, county, health department and Brownwood Regional Medical Center are “speaking with one voice and we’re on the same page. The last thing in the world that we need to do is create any further confusion.”
Lilly returned frequently to the theme of being prepared but avoiding panic.
“In my opinion there is no need to be hoarding toilet supplies and cleaner and food,” Lilly said. “We don’t even have a single positive case, even in Taylor County.
“Eventually it’s probably going to spread. Whether it comes down here to Brown County, I don’t know. But (health officials) have prepared us so well. We’ve gotten the word out as to how to minimize exposure.
“The message that I’m wanting to convey to everyone is, be prepared, absolutely. Please don’t frighten your neighbors. Don’t hoard supplies from the grocery store. If that continues to happen, what some of the grocery stores are talking about doing is reserving specific hours for age groups to come and shop, so that everything doesn’t get hoarded and taken out by younger groups.”
While repeating his message to “take a deep breath,” Lilly also urged citizens to refrain from becoming “passive and lackadaisical” in their response to the virus.
“We have an excellent information system that the health department has put out there for us,” Lilly said. “Use it, but with common sense, meaning the best thing we can do is to wash our hands, self-isolate and try to stay indoors unless it’s absolutely necessary to give this virus a chance to die out.
“My message is, don’t take anything for granted, follow the guidelines that the CDC recommends, that the White House has put out, that these experts here tell us to follow. We need to make sure we’re abiding by that. More often than not it’s the panic and rumors that do far more harm than the actual disease or the virus.”
Lilly said health department officials have done “a fantastic job” on planning and keeping citizens educated on the virus. He said their job is to “pray for the best and plan for the worst.”
“We don’t want it to come here, but if it does, we want to follow the experts’ advice and make sure that we stamp it out as quickly as we possibly can,” Lilly said.
While several public events have been canceled, the courthouse remains open. “The government is up and it’s functioning,” Lilly said.
Lilly noted that the CDC has indicated people 65 and older are most at risk.
“I’m still very fortunate to have both my parents, and they fall in that category,” Lilly said. “I don’t want them getting sick any more than I want somebody in your family getting sick.
“But at the same time we want to make sure that the resources are there for that age group. If we panic and start making a run on our grocery stores and things like that … I’m seeing pictures posted from Brookshire’s and from Walmart with just bare shelves. We’re better than that. We don’t need to frighten our neighbors. We don’t need to frighten our children.”
Buy what you need at the store and “leave the rest for the next person in line behind you,” Lilly said.
“Pay very close attention to what the experts and the health department are telling us … make sure you implement them in your daily lives, but that doesn’t mean that you need to panic. It doesn’t mean that everybody in your family has got this disease and the sky is falling. The sky is not falling and again the courthouse is open, city hall is open and they’re going to remain open and we’re going to work the problem. We’ll get through this. Step by step, we’ll get through it.”