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Denton, Denton County declare disasters for COVID-19, though no cases confirmed

Mayor Chris Watts and Denton County Judge Andy Eads declared emergencies for COVID-19 Friday evening.

Though no cases of coronavirus have been confirmed, Watts signed a declaration declaring a local state of disaster for a public health emergency in the City of Denton and Eads issued an executive order declaring the same for Denton County. The orders are aimed at minimizing the potential impact of COVID-19 amid a growing number of cases in the North Texas area, according to a news release. Watts also issued an order prohibiting gatherings of 250 people or more in the City of Denton, effective 5 p.m. Friday through March 20. The disaster declaration will last 7 days, unless otherwise extended by the Denton City Council.

The declarations allows Denton increased access to short-term funding and will activate the emergency plan. Non-essential Municipal Court proceedings have been postponed, and utility shutoffs for residents unable to pay their bills have been suspended.  

The pronouncement also authorizes the disbursement of up to $50,000 in funding to the United Way of Denton County so they can assist those who have experienced income or job loss due to COVID-19 in eviction avoidance.

The move comes amid an increasing number of cases in surrounding counties and a rash of local and national closures and cancellations meant to help control spread of the virus. Denton County Public Health is actively monitoring 26 people for symptoms of COVID-19 under a public health quarantine but has not confirmed any cases, while Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson declared a state of emergency Thursday evening after Dallas County confirmed five additional cases of coronavirus. Collin County and Tarrant County also have active cases.

Texas Woman’s University and the University of North Texas have extended spring breaks and moved classes online for the remainder of the semester. Denton, Argyle, Aubrey, Krum, Ponder, Pilot Point, Sanger and Lake Dallas ISDs have announced school closures for the next week as a precaution, cancelling community and school-related events and competitions.

The City of Denton encouraged residents to exercise caution and avoid gatherings when possible.

“The City of Denton strongly urges organizations that serve high-risk populations, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to cancel gatherings of more than 20 people,” the release read. “Residents are urged not to attend non-essential gatherings to help slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Visit www.dentoncounty.gov/coronavirus for additional updates.  

Amber Gaudet can be reached via email at agaudet@twu.edu and on Twitter as amb_balam.

Featured image courtesy of Aaron Jacobs.

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