County, city leaders discuss teamwork, fighting COVID-19 pandemic

Parker County's elected officials are working together and staying in communication in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

City mayors and the county judge discussed ways they’re working together amid the COVID-19 situation and how each entity is taking precautions during the unprecedented event.

Parker County Judge Pat Deen said his office, along with the Emergency Operations Center, has been participating in daily conference calls with other county judges, medical teams and the Texas Department of State Health Services to better understand the virus, it’s projected growth rates and its impact to the county’s communities. 

“Basically what we’ve done is transform the county judge’s office into a command center of activity in collaboration with our EOC and working with the community and community leaders. The most important thing right now is we work together in a collaborative approach in fighting this,” Deen said. “It’s important that we go through this in a unified way.”

Deen said the county has been working with local and state elected officials, ISD superintendents and local community leaders to ensure clarity of the county’s declaration of local disaster, which was extended 30 days by the county commissioners court on March 23. 

“Each county is dealing with this differently and it’s based on density. Obviously with Dallas County, they have a significantly different enemy than what we have here. The way they’re being impacted is based on density where here, we have the advantage of being more rural so we don’t have to take deeper steps in impacting our residents,” Deen said. “Different counties are doing different things and crossing into different counties there’s confusion, and communication is very important as we continue to function each day.”

City mayors said they have been receiving daily reports from Parker County Emergency Management Coordinator Sean Hughes and Deen as well as other state officials. 

“I have been on conference calls with Gov. [Greg] Abbott and receive regular updates from the state. I also receive daily situation reports from our Emergency Management Coordinator Sean Hughes and text message updates from the county several times a day,” Hudson Oaks Mayor Marc Povero said. “I will have to say that the flow of information from the federal government to state, county and local officials has been outstanding.”

Other city mayors said they have also remained in close contact with county and state officials.

“Working with [Parker County Office of Emergency Services], we have been pushing out relevant current information and links to all the cities, school districts, private schools and chambers to be shared with residents and businesses,” Aledo Mayor and County Emergency Management Officer Kit Marshall said. “I have stayed informed because I work with Sean Hughes, the EMC/fire marshal for Parker County. We are in regular contact with the Parker County local Health Authority and are on multiple regional calls with the Department of State Health Services and the [North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council] along with numerous emails from other agencies.”

Willow Park Mayor Doyle Moss said the lines of communication are open starting with Deen. 

“We have information we’ve received from County Judge Pat Deen and Mr. Hughes, and they have passed on information to us from the governor’s office,” Moss said. “The mayors in Parker County all have a great relationship and as we all get information, we make sure others have it as well. The lines of communication are open starting with the county judge and we forward it on.”

Weatherford Mayor Paul Paschall said the professional staff at the city is organized and as prepared as possible for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“City Manager James Hotopp compiles the updates from his staff and they are communicated to me in an accelerated manner. Related to other items that surface, we communicate often as needed,” Paschall said. “County Judge Pat Deen and State Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) are in regular contact relaying information and providing updates as often as possible. The Weatherford Chamber of Commerce is also in constant communication sharing resources that are available to assist our local small business community.”

Taking precautions

Most all of Parker County’s cities have adopted a local declaration of disaster that mirrors the county’s, leaving only essential businesses open at this time. Cities are also taking precautions in social distancing and operating via email and phone. 

“We have messaged personal and workplace hygiene, social distancing and other CDC recommendations. We have encouraged everyone to remain calm and fact check,” Marshall said. “We have continued city operations via email and telephone while locking the door to city hall to protect residents and staff. City parks remain open as long as there is social distancing and no congregating.”

Other cities have implemented similar precautions for the safety of residents and employees, and have used social media and their websites to push out information frequently. 

“We have issued several updates over the last two weeks via our social media pages and website about our actions and our response to the restrictions set by other agencies,” Springtown Mayor Greg Hood said. “The city has standing emergency management plans in place for disasters such as this and that allows us to quickly transition to fit the needs and demands of this evolving situation. This has allowed us to take the appropriate preparedness and preventative actions while limiting interruptions in our day-to-day operations.”

Deen said the county has implemented a County Continuity Plan that is now fully in place and with essential services continuing to remain open, have taken aggressive measures to ensure the protection of county officials and employees, as well as residents who do business with the county. 

Paschall said Weatherford has likewise implemented dozens of steps to increase safety.

“The situation that exists evolves by the minute often times,” Paschall said. “Our ability to be agile and to respond in a calculated, process-driven manner is a direct reflection of the quality of employees and leadership in place in the city of Weatherford. Additionally, we are communicating programs that exist within our operation and outside that are available to assist citizens and small businesses.”

With just two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Parker County, Deen said they will not take further action than what they’re doing now. 

“In a perfect situation nobody’s infected, but to be going through the second week of this with the intensity that’s happened and to just have two [cases], with one returning back to work quickly, it’s working. We will not take further actions than what we’re doing now,” Deen said. “The key is to ensure that we’re not losing anybody, we’re not losing anyone period.”

As of Friday morning, the state of Texas had a total of 1,731 reported COVID-19 cases and 23 deaths, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. There have been a total of 23,666 tests done in the state and 105 of the 254 counties have reported positive tests. 

Deen said they will be working with the healthcare network and with what’s been implemented, are trying to flatten the curve as to not overwhelm local facilities. 

“We want to make sure our healthcare network is not overly impacted where we can’t provide the health services needed when people get infected. We’ll be working with our healthcare facilities and are establishing plans with those facilities,” Deen said. “Within our declarations, we’ve established standards where we can level the curve of this so we don’t overwhelm our healthcare network. If we’re doing that, we’re going to win.”

Working together

City mayors said they feel everyone is working together well through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I’m thankful for the relationships and camaraderie all the elected officials in Parker County have. I feel it’s made this difficult time a little easier as we’re all wanting the best for each other,” Moss said. “Willow Park is happy for the success our sister cities have and I think they feel the same way. With some of the problems we have, especially COVID-19, it helps make things easier and I think it’s helped unite us even more.”

Marshall said they all understand the importance of connectivity. 

“We have been working together for a long time, but there is a common thread here that has brought us all closer together,” Marshall said. “As leaders of our respective jurisdictions we understand the importance of connectivity and together we will overcome.”

Povero said the level of cooperation between state, county and local leaders has been outstanding. 

“I believe the county mayors and our county government were already working closely with each other before this pandemic. The unified approach to dealing with this pandemic that you see today is the result of the close relationships that we have fostered,” Povero said. 

Hood said the current situation has obviously required a great amount of interlocal cooperation and communication, both of which have been achieved through previously established partnerships.

“I appreciate our citizens’ patience during this event, and willingness to follow the guidelines set forth to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and continue to keep our community safe,” Hood said. “We currently only have one local confirmed case of the virus and two in the entire county. While we understand these are relatively low numbers when compared to some of our neighboring counties, the actions we have taken have been in an effort to keep our local numbers as low as possible.”

The first confirmed case of coronavirus was that of Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 Judge Kelvin Miles, of Springtown, who is now recovering from the virus. On Thursday, Miles posted on Facebook saying he is feeling great and, per his doctor’s orders, will be staying home another 10 days to fully recover. 

Paschall said the unification effort started when Deen was elected as county judge and well prior to the pandemic.

“The county judge, county commissioners and other mayors are people I know I can trust,” Paschall said. “They are always available to talk, brainstorm or just offer support. The relationships that have been established are critical to effective management of any critical event.”

Community impact

Deen said he understands the impact all of this has had on local businesses and said the county will get people back to work in a safe way. 

“I take making decisions that impact people’s lives and livelihoods very seriously. In putting suspension on their way of life, their jobs, we take that very seriously but we have to make those decisions to ensure the safety of our community or we won’t have those jobs. We will get those people back to work, but we’ll do it in a way that is prudent with the situation with what the numbers are dictating and do it in a unified, collaborative, intelligent approach with what the current situation is before we make that decision,” Deen said. “Obviously the economy is very important to me, a lot of what we do is economic development, but everything is a distant second to the health and safety of our residents and our communities.”

Deen said it’s critical that as elected officials, trust and confidence is instilled to the communities.

“This is an extremely stressful and emotional time in our lives. People are scared and unsure of what the future holds in dealing with this deadly virus. It is an unprecedented time where our lives have been severely altered,” Deen said. “We must lead with confidence and assurance to our community that we got this. We will win this battle. This has further strengthened the relationships with cities and the county even more as we are stronger fighting this common enemy together.”

Details about local disaster declarations are available on city and county websites and social media pages. 

Keep up with the latest COVID-19 coverage and its local impact online at www.weatherforddemocrat.com.

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