By Martha McClain
Special to the PRESS
Laguna Vista Mayor Susie Houston this Tuesday signed a disaster declaration for the Town to help contain the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) now affecting this country
The public health emergency declaration, which is scheduled to expire in seven days, is not a cause for alarm or panic, Houston said. “Instead, it gives us the opportunity for reimbursement for any expenses that may result in the Town’s efforts to stop the spread (of the virus),” she said citing as an example, costs the police department could incur in transporting a prisoner to a medical clinic for clearance, prior to incarceration.
Additionally, all Town buildings including the Library and City Hall are closed to the public, she said, adding that police and fire departments will operate as usual.
An emergency meeting of the Town is scheduled on Tuesday, March 24, but as Town buildings are closed, City Hall will be closed to the public. A video of the meeting will be available for viewing on the Town’s website within 24 hours, according to the mayor.
While citizens will not be present, they can send public comments that will be read at the meeting.
The action is allowable as Texas Governor Greg Abbott this week signed emergency measures that allow municipalities to temporarily suspend the Texas Open Meetings Act in the interest of public health.
Topics for the meeting include extending the disaster declaration past the seven initial days, and other items related to the Town’s actions in light of COVID-19.
“The parks are open, but the playground equipment and basketball court are cordoned off over cleanliness issues,” the mayor said. “I hated to do it, but in order to keep everyone healthy…” she said.
Advice she gives to residents, is to not to panic, be prudent, and stay safe. “This is something we will get through together,” she said.
Other action taken by the governor includes declaring the State of Texas a disaster due to the pandemic, and the possible postponement of the May election to coincide with the November election.
Newly appointed City Manager Ed Meza reported to work in his new position on Monday and began dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. He participated in a phone conference on Wednesday with Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino, county health officials and other appointed and elected leaders who discussed a gamut of recommended public safety measures.
The disaster declaration calls for “extraordinary measures…to contain COVID-19 and prevent its spread throughout the City, including the banning of community gatherings of over 10 people and additionally, potentially requiring individuals or property to undergo additional measures.”
The Town’s Facebook site contained information that officials “will be responding to all calls for service, as will the fire department with precautions in place. Town employees will be conducting business as usual except with distance and caution. Town employees are here to serve our citizens no matter the environment. This is our oath and commitment to our community,” said Police Chief Tony David.
“Our own LVFD is also available to contact should you need any help or have any questions. Chief Drapela can be reached at email@example.com,” he said.
“We pray everyone stays healthy in our community. While we won’t be open to serve you face-to-face, we will do all we can to serve you electronically or over the phone,” another comment read.
“Chief David is on top of things and Ed (Meza) is doing a good job,” Houston said.