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The coronavirus pandemic continues affecting local government operations and businesses in La Salle County, where commissioners agreed this week to extend special measures through the beginning of February.
Presenting information to the commissioners’ court was La Salle Fire Rescue & EMS Chief Daniel Mendez, who confirmed that the county has at least 187 active cases of the coronavirus among its population and that concerns over contagion to others remain high despite the anticipated imminent arrival of COVID-19 vaccines.
All emergency responders, including law enforcement officers, firefighters and medics in La Salle County have been given the opportunity to receive vaccines delivered in late December to Frio Regional Hospital in Pearsall and the FRH Urgent & Primary Care Clinic in Dilley. Mendez said this week that the majority of those on the state-mandated priorities listing for the vaccines have availed themselves of the offer.
All La Salle County government staff are undergoing coronavirus tests this week, an effort that the fire and medical service chief describes as helping establish a baseline from which decisions on office closure and other health and safety measures may be made.
The county courthouse remains closed to the public; offices are open only by appointment for transactions that require an in-person appearance. All local government employees are barred from traveling with each other in vehicles. Exceptions to the rule include the law enforcement escort of detainees and medical transport. Also included in the renewed order is a ban on any out-of-town inmates being housed at the La Salle County Jail in Cotulla.
The county will continue its home delivery service of meals to the elderly through its Nutrition Center kitchens in Cotulla and Encinal.
Park closures in La Salle County remain in effect and include all outdoor recreational facilities in addition to ball courts and playing fields, playgrounds and areas where people may gather. The only facility still open to the public is an exercise walking trail at Martinez Park.
Bars and game parlors remain closed in La Salle County until February, as per the commissioners’ renewed emergency order, and all businesses are limited to fifty-percent occupancy of their buildings. The order includes restaurants, retail and grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores. Social distancing measures and a requirement that all members of the public wear face masks at all times likewise remain in place.
A curfew for all youths also remains in effect in La Salle, and all those age 16 and under must remain at home between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Violators may be cited by sheriff’s deputies.
All county residents are barred from meeting in groups of ten or more during the emergency, a measure that is being reinforced this month by a prompt from commissioners to the sheriff’s office. Persons whose official identity cards show them to have a different address from the one in which they are found may be subject to prosecution.
Commissioners and County Judge Joel Rodriguez have repeatedly expressed concerns over reports of so-called illegal parties being held in the county, at which large groups of people have violated social distancing orders and curfews. In an address to the court last month, representatives of the Fire Rescue & EMS said their contact tracing efforts related to confirmed cases of COVID-19 have all led to events at which local residents gathered illegally.
This week’s emergency order extension remains active until February 3, putting its expiration date within a short distance on the calendar of La Salle County’s largest tourist and family event, the County Fair & Wild Hog Cook-Off, scheduled for the second weekend in March. If the current emergency order is renewed during the first week of February, a complete cancellation of the annual event is a possibility, according to county officials. Student-related events, however, such as the FFA and 4H projects and junior livestock show, may continue pending a decision by the school district’s board of trustees.