Speaking at the joint conference Wednesday at Brownwood City Hall, Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes outlined reasons for issuing the declaration of local state of disaster due to public health emergency.
Haynes, Early Mayor Bob Mangrum and Brown County Judge Paul Lilly signed identical declarations.
“There are three reasons for us to sign such a declaration,” Haynes said. “Number one, as you have heard from Washington and Austin, there will be hopefully dollars available to our community to respond to the crisis. We want to make sure, with a local declaration, that we have availed ourselves of every public resource that may be available, and we don’t want to be left out on any public resources due to the absence of a declaration.”
Another reason, Haynes said, is “to make sure that we have the ability to quarantine those who need to be quarantined. In the emergency declaration, that gives the city and the health department the ability to enforce the quarantine rules on those that need to be quarantined.”
That includes individuals who may have come in contact with an infected person or who have been to “parts of our country or internationally where there is a greater outbreak of the COVID-19 virus,” Haynes said.
The third reason is the ability to limit public gatherings. While the declaration states that gatherings cannot exceed 50 people, it was drawn up prior to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order, which he issued Thursday.
That order states public gatherings cannot exceed 10 people and closes bars, gyms and restaurants for dine-in.
“We believe in the good judgment of our people and believe that you are taking and have taken appropriate steps to protect your family and that you will continue to do so,” Haynes said. “So hopefully good judgment and common sense will prevail, and I think it already has prevailed. So with that in mind we hope that this outbreak will be very limited in Brownwood.”
Linda Heitman, executive director of Brown County Home Solutions, asked, “by making this disaster declaration to hopefully get access to more resources, will you all be working with the local nonprofits who provide emergency rent and utility assistance to people as this continues to grow?”
Haynes replied, “absolutely, to the extent we can. I know there is an SBA loan program that has been proposed and that’s one of those things for which the disaster declaration, I think is beneficial.
“But rest assured we’re working on those things the best we can. I would ask also, if nonprofits see a need and see a source that can help the local community, please do not hesitate to let us know how we can help and communicate with us.”