• May 26, 2020

Mayor enacts declaration of local disaster - Odessa American: Local News

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Mayor enacts declaration of local disaster

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Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2020 2:05 pm

The mayors of Odessa and Midland jointly announced disaster declarations for the two cities Wednesday urging Permian Basin residents to help keep the region as what they called “the least affected area” in the country.

Odessa Mayor David Turner and Midland Mayor Patrick Payton fielded questions saying no one has tested positive, but would not disclose how many have actually been tested in the Permian Basin citing reasons from HIPPA to inciting panic. When further pressed as to how the area could be the least affected, Payton said that it goes to the fact that they are testing.

“We are testing and we are testing enough to be able to tell you that among those being tested we have no cases of coronavirus here,” Payton said. “At the same time, we’re ramping up alongside the federal government and state to make sure we have even more testing available, so we’ll be able to know even more accurately what that count is.”

Statewide numbers on the Texas Tribune’s website Wednesday showed statewide that 1,907 have been tested with 95 positive and three deaths.

The local declarations were enacted Wednesday to declare a local emergency in Odessa and Midland. The verbiage of the declarations could allow the cities to enact emergency housing, limit social gatherings and force those quarantined to shelter in their homes or temporary housing.

A draft of the document was presented by Turner to city council members Tuesday night during a council work session.

The City of Odessa declaration of local disaster was drafted Tuesday, after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and following Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issuing a State of Disaster for all Texas counties due to coronavirus.

The declaration will last for seven days but can be re-upped following the seven days. Other cities, including Dallas, Houston and El Paso, have shut down bars and limited restaurants to take out or delivery only. As of Wednesday afternoon, Midland and Odessa mayors said restaurants should self govern during this time and make sure employees and customers are being clean and following CDC instructions. As of Wednesday, both Ector and Midland County had no confirmed cases of coronavirus. Health officials and local elected officials will not disclose how many have actually been tested and confirmed negative.

The proclamation came after a bit of back and forth on a state of local emergency declaration.

On Monday afternoon, the mayor indicated that he and Ector County Judge Debi Hays were looking to draft a declaration. Hays said early Monday evening that she couldn’t justify issuing a local disaster declaration. Hays was contacted multiple times regarding if she will pass a county declaration of disaster and did not call back. Mayor Turner said after declaring the disaster that Hays is looking into declaring a disaster for Ector County.

The Texas Disaster Act of 1975 details that mayors have the power to exercise the powers granted to the governor on an appropriate local scale and, “A declaration of local disaster due to this public health emergency includes the ability to reduce the possibility of exposure to disease, control the risk, promote health, compel persons to undergo additional health measures that prevent or control the spread of disease, including isolation, surveillance, quarantine, or placement of persons under public health observation, including the provision of temporary housing or emergency shelters for persons misplaced or evacuated and request assistance from the Governor of State resources.” The Texas Disaster Act can grant the mayor authority to use all available resources of state government and political subdivisions to help the city respond to the coronavirus situation.

The proclamation has 15 sections detailing the actions taken to limit the spread of COVID-19:

>> Section 1 details that the City of Odessa has declared a declaration of local state of disaster.

>> Section 2 details that the local state of disaster to the public health emergency could only last seven days from March 18th, 2020 unless renewed or continued by the Odessa city council.

>> Section 3 details that the declaration must be given prompt and general publicity and be filed promptly with the city secretary.

>> Section 4 details that the declaration activates the City of Odessa Emergency Management Plan.

>> Section 5 details that the declaration authorizes the city to, “(1) temporarily or permanently acquire by lease, purchase, or other means sites required for temporary housing units or emergency shelters for disaster victims; and (2) enter into arrangements necessary to prepare or equip the sites for installation and use of temporary housing units or emergency shelters, including arrangements necessary for the transportation and purchase of temporary housing units or emergency shelters.”

>> Section 6 details that the city can take any actions necessary to promote health and suppress disease, including, “quarantine, examining and regulating hospitals. The City of Odessa hereby declares that those persons under investigation, persons under management, and quarantined persons remain within the confines of their homes or in safe, secure facilities during the quarantine period following their exposure to the virus.”

>> Section 7 details that authority is granted to the mayor under the Texas Disaster Act and the use of all available resources of state government and political subdivisions to assist in the City’s response to this situation are authorized.

>> Section 8 details that the, “Mayor may exercise emergency powers including, but not limited to, implementing a curfew and ordering closures of businesses.”

>> Section 9 states that, “All rules and regulations that may inhibit or prevent prompt response to this threat are suspended for the duration of the incident.”

>> Section 10 states that, “All gatherings are limited to no more than 50 people.”

The 10 exceptions to the gatherings are government owned facilities or a facility where government business is being conducted, public or private schools, licensed day care facilities, places of worship, weddings and funerals, museums (as long as visitors aren’t within arm’s length of each other for long periods of time), transit spaces like bus stops, office space, hotels, motels or residential buildings, grocery stores or other retail establishments where, “large numbers of people are present but where it is unusual for them to be within arm’s length of one another for extended periods,” healthcare facilities, which include but are not limited to, clinics and medical offices, hospice homes, mental health and addiction treatment centers, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and shelters, jails and detention centers.

The declaration details that the, “Mayor may update the mass gathering restrictions set out in this declaration as necessary to respond to the evolving circumstances of this outbreak during the duration of the Disaster Declaration,” issued on March 18th and any extension of the declaration by the Odessa City Council.

>>Section 11 Details that people with increased risk of becoming ill must not attend gatherings of more than 10 people. The document states that, “Individuals at increased risk of severe illness” includes but is not limited to individuals 60 years and older; with compromised immune systems; with medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or disorders, kidney disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other lung conditions; who are pregnant or were pregnant in the last two weeks; experiencing homelessness.”

>>Section 12 details to create smaller groups for essential meetings and for workplaces to encourage telecommuting, ensure that employees don’t work while sick, don’t require doctor’s notes for sick employees, increase flexibility in sick leave benefits and limit the number of employees working within arm’s length of one another

>>Section 13 details that citizens must, “Adhere to the Social Distancing Protocols established by the CDC at all gatherings.”

>>Section 14 details that operators of public spaces provide ways for people to provide safe social distancing including a six feet of separation, hand washing areas, hand sanitizers and tissues available, and frequent cleaning high touch surface areas like counter tops, hand rails and door knobs.

>>Section 15 states that, “A person who violates an order or proclamation of the Mayor issued here under is guilty of a crime punishable as a Class C misdemeanor by a fine not to exceed $500.00.

The Local State of Disaster will end on March 25th if the city council doesn’t continue or renew the declaration.

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