TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Smith County health officials continued to urge social distancing at a press conference on Thursday as pressure mounts for the economy to re-open and restrictions to be relaxed.
Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said that he believes “We’re ready to restart this economy here locally in a responsible manner.” Smith County added six new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, but Moran said that the past six-day average of around two per day gives him hope the curve is flattening.
Moran sent a letter to Gov. Abbott requesting local control after the governor’s stay-at-home order expires on April 30.
At a Smith County commissioner’s meeting on Tuesday, a majority of the members agreed that they vote to repeal the stay-at-home order for the county that day if Abbott’s directive did not supersede them.
The commissioners also expressed disappointment in Abbott’s decision to not allow county officials to handle the order at a local level.
Despite the criticism, Abbott had resisted for days imposing a statewide order because of the vast size of Texas and an unwillingness to shut down a county if it was not deemed necessary.
CEO of Net Health George Roberts stated to residents to remember that “the virus will still be with us” and stressed to continue social distancing, even as pressure mounts to re-open the economy.
He also showed an updated zip code map that highlights hot spots in the area.
Health officials from both CHRISTUS Health and UT Health spoke at the conference about safety precautions that they are requring for visitors, including wearing masks.
CHRISTUS HEALTH CEO Chris Glenney and UT Health CEO Moody Chisholm also expressed about elective procedures that have restarted under Abbott’s executive order from last week.
Hospitals around Texas had been suffering financial losses as many areas had beds sitting empty to be ready for coronavirus patients. The temporary ban had been to save up on personal protection equipment for doctors and nurses.
Dr. Mark Anderson, the Chief Medical Officer for CHRISTUS Trinity mother Frances, pleaded with patients not to put off elective care now that it was available and assured residents their facilities were safe.
At Abbott’s press conference last week
Health officials also released new demographic information on the race of patients in Smith County. The data covered 68 of the 131 confirmed cases.
- White: 56% (38)
- Black: 25% (17)
- Hispanic: 10% (7)
- Asian: 9% (6)
This roughly matches with Census data about the racial makeup of Smith County. According to data from 2018, Smith County is 59% white, 18% percent black, 20% Hispanic, and 2% Asian.
The announcement came on the same day that Nacogdoches County joined Smith as the only East Texas jurisdictions that have reached triple-digit coronavirus cases.