NET Health CEO

NET Health CEO George Roberts speaks Friday morning at Tyler City Hall. 

Panola County schools say they are monitoring the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), and Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday declared a state of emergency.

No major closings have been announced in Panola County because of the virus, but health officials are encouraging the public to practice good hygiene, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Practice social distancing — Avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay home if you believe you have symptoms.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

In East Texas, Smith County reported Friday that three cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed, and one of the patients is in serious condition.

Northeast Texas Public Health District CEO George Roberts said all of the people who have been diagnosed had recently traveled outside the United States. Roberts said he could not say where the patients had traveled. He said two of the cases were connected.

One positive case had been identified earlier in the week in Gregg County, with officials saying the man had traveled within the United States.

Emergency Declaration

Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday declared that the new coronavirus is a statewide public health disaster and said that Texas is on the verge of being able to significantly ramp up its testing capacity.

At the same time he announced that he was directing day cares, nursing homes and prisons to limit visitations.

Abbott also finally clarified the state’s testing history so far and current capabilities. In total, he said there have been 220 Texans tested by either a state public lab or by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are another 75 Texans being tested currently.

On Friday, the state’s testing capacity was roughly 270 people per day, but he said next week that capacity will expand into the thousands as private labs come online.

There are at least 49 cases of COVID-19 in Texas, with the first instances of community spread happening in the state’s two largest urban areas.

Texas Medical Association President Dr. David C. Fleeger said in a statement Friday that the physicians’ prescription remains the same as it was yesterday: calm vigilance.

“If you’re mildly ill, you don’t need to go to the emergency room, or even your doctor’s office, because there is no treatment,” Fleeger said. “So if you’re reasonably healthy, you can take care of a mild illness yourself, as you would the flu.

“However, if you are in a risk group including older people or those with underlying health issues, call your doctor’s office for advice about what to do. And of course anyone experiencing severe emergency symptoms like shortness of breath should seek medical care — but call first if at all possible.”

Panola County Schools

All of Panola County’s schools are on Spring Break next week, and officials said they plan to use the holiday to thoroughly clean campuses.

“We are monitoring the situation and taking all precautions to keep our students and staff safe,” Carthage ISD said in a note to parents. “We are disinfecting our classrooms and will be doing a deep cleaning over spring break. If you have questions or concerns, please contact your campus principal or district administration.”

All schools were encouraging its community to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel restrictions and illness prevention measures. Parents are asked to report to their campus nurse or principal any Spring Break travel where there has been a risk to COVID-19.

Gary ISD said it continues to take precautions, including regularly disinfecting classrooms, providing hand sanitizer and enforcing its rule that students presenting a fever should stay at home until they have been fever-free for 24 hours.

Beckville ISD said any decision to extend Spring Break, if needed to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, will be made before Monday, March 23 on its website and through SchoolMessenger.

“We do have a contingency plan in place to educate our students in the event of an extended school closure,” the district said in a note to parents.

Panola College said this week it was not planning to suspend campus operations, events or classes at the moment, but that they were preparing to take necessary precautions as needed. The school was planning a deep-clean of its facilities over Spring Break.

Any updates will be made through email, their website and their social media accounts.

“Our priority is the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors,” the college said.