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VZC offi cials warn against violations of executive order

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During a press conference April 1 updating the status of COVID-19 in Van Zandt County, a warning was issued by VZC officials against those who have violated or were planning to violate the current emergency declaration order regarding coronavirus in VZC.

There were two confirmed cases of coronavirus in VZC. One of those two confirmed cases recently resulted in a death.

VZC Judge Don Kirkpatrick was joined by VZC Health Department Official Dr. J. W. Dailey, VZC District Attorney Tonda Curry and VZC Sheriff Dale Corbett during the press conference held at the VZC Courthouse. Due to coronavirus concerns, access to the press conference was limited to no more than 10 people.

“I would like to tell the citizens of VZC ‘thank you’ for your cooperation, for your willingness to protect your families, yourselves, and your loved ones,” pointed out Kirkpatrick. “You are doing an excellent job and we ask that you continue to put efforts in place to protect each other as we journey through this crisis together. There are many challenges as we go forward. The situation changes hourly.

“I would like to give you the latest current information (as of April 1),” continued Kirkpatrick. “VZC has had two confirmed cases of COVID-19. Neither one of those cases contracted the COVID-19 virus within VZC.

They came into contact with it and then brought it into their homes. One of those cases did result in a death. Our hearts and our prayers go out to that family. We are provided current up-to-date information from NET Health. The situation could very well change before the day is over. I know that there is public concern that we are not giving out enough information. We give the information we receive from NET Health as soon as we can. I have released three press releases recently. We do not give out false information.

We wait for the information to be confirmed. People ask about who the person is and where they are located. I will tell you as VZC Judge that I don’t even have that information. I have prayed for the one that has passed away and I have prayed for the one that is recovering. We provide all of the information that I have.”

Dailey was recognized by Kirkpatrick before speaking at the press conference. “In VZC, on average, we have higher age people and a large number of facilities that serve the elderly like nursing homes,” said Dailey. “It is very important to emphasize to everyone that we need to take COVID-19 very seriously. One of the most important things that you can do right now is continue doing exactly what you have been doing. Isolate, stay at home, practice hand washing. If you think you are sick, certainly seek care. The information changes daily as well as our knowledge of COVID-19. Our policies about quarantine and isolation may change. It is important that we be honest and open with you. In VZC, we have great strengths. We have been through a lot of events in our area. We have an excellent emergency management system that is in constant contact with all agencies. We are available 24/7. We continue to serve VZC and we will get through this together.”

Concerns and frustration were expressed by those who spoke regarding those individuals that are violating the “10 or less” meeting groups policy as well as “non-essential” businesses that were remaining open despite the current VZC emergency declaration order calling for them to be closed.

Kirkpatrick described the current coronavirus concerns as his “fifth disaster to go through” since he was elected as VZC Judge. “Every disaster is unique and different,” pointed out Kirkpatrick. “In every disaster, you will see individuals rise above expectations and then you will see people that drift the other way. Those situations have come to VZC and they are being addressed. As your county judge, I had a meeting with our emergency management coordinator, our district attorney, our district judge, our VZC Court at Law Judge and our VZC Pct. 2 commissioner to see where we go from here.”

Kirkpatrick said that he has no plans to issue a Shelter in Place order for VZC “at this time.” “It is always an option and I will not take it off the table,” emphasized the VZC judge. “Following our recent meeting, I will be signing a first amended proclamation declaring a local state of disaster.”

Among the highlights of the first amended proclamation order includes limits on large gatherings. “VZC should avoid gatherings where they are 10 or more people,” said Kirkpatrick. “Social distancing remains at six feet. Pursuant to an advisory list from the Department of Homeland Security, all ‘non-essential’ businesses shall be temporarily closed to the public immediately. Only businesses deemed ‘essential’ by the Department of Homeland Security may remain open. We have a link listed on our VZC website. There will be penalties. We have had situations where business owners of ‘non-essential’ businesses have refused to close their doors.”

Curry then shared information during the press conference. “The current COVID-19 crisis requires all of us to make sacrifices in order to ensure the safety of those in our community,” said Curry.

“It is my job as your criminal district attorney to prosecute people who injure or endanger members of our community. This includes those who endanger us by failing to comply with the orders in place due to this virus. It is my duty to prosecute those offenders.

“Offenses that injure or endanger our most vulnerable and offenses that occur at times when we are all vulnerable are more heinous, and the law recognizes that justice demands increased punishment for those offenses. It is my duty to seek those punishments.

“It is my sincere desire that every citizen of VZC abide by the orders of the Governor and our VZC judge so we can keep this disease from taking further hold in VZC but please know this: I will fulfill my duty,” pointed out Curry. “To those who violate the Governor’s executive order or the VZC judge’s declaration, you will be charged, you will be prosecuted, and upon conviction, you will be punished for each violation.

“For those who choose this time of crisis to commit other crimes, you deserve the enhanced punishment ranges you will face,” concluded Curry.

According to Curry, for questions concerning whether your business is an “essential” business or to report a violation of either order, you may e-mail covidquestions@vanzandtcounty.org. The current VZC emergency declaration order regarding coronavirus can be found at www.vanzandtcounty.org. Corbett was the final speaker at the press conference. “It should be known that failure to comply with the Governor’s order or the VZC judge’s proclamation does constitute a violation of the law punishable by a $1,000 fine, 180 days in jail, or both. We are going to enforce the law. We are here to protect the safety and the well-being of the citizens of VZC.”

Kirkpatrick concluded the press conference. “I know this is a very difficult time and I want to thank the citizens of VZC for your cooperation,” said the VZC judge. “We are in this together. We are no different than you are. We are just like family. Keep God first in your life. We come together as families in times of crisis. This is a dark time in our nation, our state and VZC. I promise you this. We will get through this together. We thank you for your support. Stay safe. God bless each and every one of you and God bless VZC.”

VZC Health Department Official Dr. J. W. Dailey discussed the current status of coronavirus in VZC April 1.