Hays County and San Marcos declared a local state of disaster amid coronavirus concerns during a press conference Sunday morning.
“The biggest message will be to understand why we are doing this,” Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said. “Although the risk of severe illness may be low, we want every resident in Hays County to take the personal responsibility to prevent the spread.”
San Marcos Mayor Jane Hughson said the declaration activates the city’s emergency plan and enables the city to utilize disaster funding and resources available through state and federal agencies.
“We knew we would eventually see cases in our area,” Hughson said. “There’s no reason to panic.”
The announcements follow a slew of other disaster declarations from neighboring cities, like Austin, and the state and nation. On Saturday, Hays County announced its first presumptive positive case of COVID-19.
The patient had traveled to several cities on the West Coast and was likely exposed while traveling, health officials say. The 44-year-old is in self-isolation, and official test results are expected this week.
City and county officials at Sunday’s press conference encouraged residents to remain calm and practice preventive measures, like washing hands and practicing social distancing. Buda Mayor George Haehn said the city issued a disaster declaration on Friday and is working with the county.
“We are moving forward with the plans and procedures that were already in place,” Haehn said. “We’ve got this. There’s no need to worry. Will you get sick? Maybe. Will you be able to buy stuff at H-E-B, Walmart or wherever you like to shop? Yes. So there’s no need to stockpile your supplies.”
Wimberley Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Minnick said it’s more important than ever for the city to cooperate with Hays County. The small city, which attracts many tourists and is home to a large elderly population, does not have a hospital or many of the medical resources larger cities do, Minnick said.
“We have young people coming in that may be exposing our older residents," she said. "With that said, we’re going to continue to communicate and continue to model safe behaviors to our residents and to the community at large.”
Kyle Mayor Travis Mitchell encouraged people to keep vulnerable populations, like the elderly and people facing food insecurity, as well as the business community, in their thoughts and prayers.
“This is perhaps as much as anything an economic challenge,” Mitchell said. “Here in Hays County, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Wimberley, please if you are a resident, consider ways to creatively bless and support those who are suffering economically.”
Hays County Epidemiologist Eric Schneider encouraged residents to practice healthy behaviors like washing hands regularly and staying home if you are sick.
“A lot of people in Hays County will probably end up getting this disease,” Schneider said. “But the majority of people that get this disease can stay home, wait until you don’t have any symptoms, let it run its course, stay hydrated and go back to your regular life after you are 48 hours fever-free.”