Roger Harmon

County Judge Roger Harmon announced Wednesday that one county resident has tested positive for COVID-19 and that another person has been tested.

The resident who tested positive lives in Mansfield and his a male in his 40s. Johnson County Emergency Management Director Jamie Moore said no additional details of the man’s condition have been released at this time.

Harmon, in response to those developments called an emergency meeting of the commissioners court Wednesday morning, which county officials and officials from cities throughout the county attended.

Harmon said he planned to issue a declaration of disaster for the county later in the day the details of which were still being worked out Wednesday morning. 

The declaration will remain in effect for seven days after which the commissioners court can extend it if necessary.

The declaration will likely cap the number of people allowed to gather in one place at one time at 50.

Cleburne instituted a similar cap on Monday.

The cap will not affect businesses and schools but will effect church services, events, concerts and other functions.

Harmon noted that Ellis County issued a declaration of disaster on Tuesday with a cap of 50.

Several county services have already been suspended for the duration such as passports. 

County Tax Assessor/Collector Scott Porter said Gov. Greg Abbott, in the need for people to visit the tax office in person, granted temporary extensions for initial registration, renewal of registration, vehicle titling and renewal of permanent disabled parking placards. Abbott also granted an extension for individuals with expired 30-day temporary permits to obtain another permit or Texas registration. Customers may renew their registration online at TxDMV.gov.

Alvarado Mayor Tom Durington asked commissioners whether the 50-person cap applies to funerals, a question commissioners and County Attorney Bill Moore said remains to be determined.

County Commissioner Jerry Stringer said he has closed his office to the public for now and encouraged residents to call or email instead.

Moore said he’s working with the public, firefighters and law enforcement officers to ensure that all receive correct information.

Johnson County Emergency Services District No. 1 Executive Director Tom Foster said he too remains in contact with area firefighters and that plans are in place should any first responders need to be quarantined as are plans for mutual aid needs. The important thing for the public to know, Foster said, is that first responders will continue to respond to calls and that rumors on social media or elsewhere to the contrary are false.

“Social media can be such an evil thing at times,” Commissioner Larry Woolley said. “And can blow things out of proportion especially during times like this with things that are not the truth.”

Commissioner Kenny Howell agreed and encouraged residents to visit the county’s website for accurate information.

“The worst information is incorrect information,” Howell said.

Commissioner Rick Bailey said he’s heard reports of people going door to door offering to test residents for coronavirus.

“Nuts as that sounds these type of scams are out there,” Bailey said.

Stringer urged residents to stay home as much as possible.

“Just stop it,” Stringer said of shoppers rolling shopping carts teeming with toilet paper up to check out counters. 

Stringer deemed such behavior silly and detrimental to those in need.

“The food chain is not in danger of being stopped,” Stringer said. “The water company has plenty of it. This is the time when we need to be checking on any elderly or veterans that we know who may be in need of help. This is the time we need to be watching out for each other.”

Harmon reminded that while precautions remain necessary 85 percent of coronavirus cases are fairly mild. He and the commissioners recommended exercising common sense and maintaining social distance of at least 6 feet.

“Spacing,” Harmon said. “Don’t get in peoples’ face and talk.”

The situation remains fluid, Harmon said. Restrictions may increase or decrease going forward depending on new developments.

“We’re watching the situation closely and we will do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of our residents and employees,” Harmon said.

The commissioners are scheduled to meet again at 2 p.m. today in the Johnson County Courthouse.

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