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City, county react to growing coronavirus

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With its bars shut down, its restaurants limited to making food deliveries or offering take-out service only and access to Bandera City Park restricted, Bandera is beginning to feel more of the effects of the worldwide battle to control the deadly coronavirus.

“It’s quiet and feels kind of closed,” said Bandera Mayor Suzanne Schauman on Monday, March 23, just a few days after bars and restaurants were directed by gubernatorial order not to serve customers on their premises temporarily and the city blocked off its main park to vehicular traffic in an attempt to keep the deadly virus from spreading as rapidly as experts feel it could.

“It’s just not Bandera,” said Schauman.

Similarly, Jeri Stevens, one of the owners of Vaquero’s Cantina – a Tequila Bar, said on Friday, March 20, the last night bars were allowed to do business for two weeks, that “Bandera is a drinking town,” and no one expected the closure action that Gov. Greg Abbott implemented by order a day earlier.

But Stevens and other bar owner also want to support any action that can keep people safe during the outbreak. She believes that the temporary closure will allow everyone “to reset, renew and reinvigorate” and that her bar and others will come back strong when the order is lifted.

As on Monday March 23, no cases of the coronavirus had been confirmed in Bandera County, and public health officials said they were not aware of any suspect cases in the county.

But the highly contagious disease was spreading rapidly around the country and in many parts of the world.

The death toll from the virus had risen from 7,000 worldwide and 69 in the United States a week earlier to more than 14,000 worldwide and 400 in the U.S. as of Monday, March 23.

In Texas, the coronavirus caseload had grown from 67 last week to 352 this week, including two in Boerne and Kendall County and one case in Medina County.

The Medina County case involved a woman from Castroville who had travelled overseas with her husband and had self-quarantined herself in her house for more than two weeks, Bandera County Judge Richard Evans said he learned from the Medina County judge.

Evans said he and the neighboring judge were encouraged that no new cases had arisen in Medina County in the intervening period, indicating that the in-home quarantine process that has become a routine part of the treatment regimen worked.

Evans said he believed Gov. Abbott’s order of Thursday, March 19, was “pretty all-inclusive,” and the judge felt no good reason to implement a disaster declaration in Bandera County that would tighten down on the activities of businesses and individuals without a coronavirus case arising in the county.

“We’re trying to be responsible and not overreact,” Evans said.

The controls implemented by Abbott for the initial time period of Friday, March 20 to just before midnight on April 3, instruct Texans not to take part in social gatherings where more than 10 people are present, close all schools, prohibit people from visiting nursing homes and retirement or long-term care facilities unless they provide critical assistance and keep people from visiting bars, restaurants, gyms and massage parlors unless they are engaging in drive-through or food delivery options at restaurants.

The controls could be extended if conditions warrant it at the end of the two-week period.

Bandera’s City Council held a lengthy emergency meeting on Friday, March 20, to consider measures needed to prevent the virus from spreading and agreed on several revisions.

Among the decisions were closing the city’s utility department and municipal court except for those conducting business by phone, email or online, suspending late fees, cut offs for city utilities and credit card fees for payments made to the city, waiving temporary sign rules and permits for local restaurants and bars and closing the gates to city park, allowing only hiking, bicycle riding horseback riding and fishing to take place in the park.

The restrooms in the park also were closed and caution tape was ordered to be strung around picnic tables playground equipment and pavilions in the park to encourage visitors not to use the facilities.

Bandera County commissioners also held a emergency meeting on Wednesday, March 18, to discuss the coronavirus outbreak and to consider whether to postpone a big motorcycle rally planned for Mansfield Park for March 25-29, only to learn that the promoter of the event had postponed the event himself as a result of the outbreak.

They also examined the importance of control measures that have been implemented to control the virus, like regular hand washing, and heard Dr. Bryan Sims review the importance of the controls that have been implemented to slow the virus.

He also said tests for the coronavirus can be obtained at the Bandera Family Practice clinic for $95 or at no cost for those with insurance.