Devine declares public health emergency

Devine Mayor Cory Thompson declared a public health emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic last Wednesday, March 25, and the City Council held an Emergency meeting on March 27 to discuss extending it.

The initial declaration, which is printed as a Public Notice in this week’s edition of The Devine News and is also available here, is in effect for no more than seven days, though it can be extended by Council. It does not apply to churches or Devine ISD.

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“Essentially we almost word-for-word copied the declaration that was originally made by San Antonio in the original form that it was done,” Thompson said, adding that it had been tweaked to suit Devine’s needs.

A Special City Council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 2, where an extension of the declaration will be discussed. The meeting will be livestreamed via the City’s website.

The declaration cancels City gatherings with the potential of involving more than 10 people until further notice. Residents are encouraged to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people, and to maintain the recommended social distance of at least six feet between people.

Businesses in Devine are required to clean and disinfect their premises, as well as display COVID-19 precaution posters provided by the State Health Agency and the City. Businesses are also to limit the number of patrons on their premises in order to maintain proper six-foot social distances.

The City mailed letters about the requirements to business owners, and included copies of the posters to display.

Utility cut-offs and late fees are suspended for the length of the declaration, which also stated that the March and April Municipal Court dockets will be rescheduled to May, June, and July.

The City Hall lobby is closed to the public until further notice. Business will continue to be conducted online, via the drive-thru window, and over the phone at 830-663-2804.

The police department lobby will also stay closed, and residents are encouraged to call 830-663-4403 for non-emergency matters. Officers will continue normal operations.

The Driscoll Public Library remains closed to the public, though public WiFi and curbside delivery of books is now available (see separate story).

Animal Control will only pick up or transport animals when necessary, and residents are discouraged from setting traps. The animal shelter is closed to the public.

City parks remain open, though citizens are encouraged only to gather in groups under 10, and to maintain proper social distancing.

Additionally, the declaration recommends the food pantry transition to an alternate way to distribute food.

Violations of the declaration’s rules and regulations are a Class C misdemeanor, and can be punished with a fine up to $2,000.

During the Emergency meeting on March 27, Council discussed changes to the declaration, and how long to extend it.

“I’ve seen some cities are extending it for thirty days, some cities are extending it for sixty days,” City Attorney Tom Cate said.

District 3 Councilman David Espinosa recommended that Council meet every seven days to renew the declaration for an additional week, as necessary.

Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez also recommended canceling library, airport, and parks board meetings until further notice.

Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission, which is a board of record, will both meet as necessary, though Executive Orders issued by Governor Greg Abbott allow for meetings to be held via teleconference or videoconference.

A motion by District 5 Councilwoman Debra Randall and Espinosa to amend the declaration with the above changes passed 4-0, with the support of District 1 Councilman Rufino Vega and District 2 Councilman Steve Lopez.

By Marly Davis

Staff Writer

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