In another move to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus, New Braunfels Mayor Barron Casteel issued a “Stay at Home and Work Safe” order for the city starting at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday.
The order, in effect until lifted by the mayor, requires city residents to remain at home and all non-essential businesses to close. Those engaged in exempted activities are mandated to abide by and maintain social distancing requirements of at least six feet.
Unveiling the mandate during a Facebook live event in City Council Chambers Tuesday afternoon, Casteel said essential city services will continue.
It will not apply to grocery stores, health care facilities, restaurants offering to-go, delivery or curbside orders, nor to residents in outdoor activities who maintain the social distancing requirements.
“We’re issuing the order today so that employers and the citizens can plan through Tuesday and Wednesday to begin complying with this order,” Casteel said. “Please understand the order does not affect a number of essential services, does not impact grocery stores or health care related services.”
Others attending Tuesday included County Judge Sherman Krause, New Braunfels Police Chief Tom Wibert, City Manager Robert Camareno and New Braunfels Fire Chief Patrick O’Connell.
Casteel said the decision to issue the order came after additional information and pleas from local medical professionals, urging the city respond “more vigorously” to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Casteel urged avoiding personal contact and following protection guidelines outlined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
City operations will continue as normal as governmental services are exempt from the order. Assistant City Manager Kristi Aday said police fire and solid waste personnel will all report to work.
“We are assessing now what employees will work, which can work from home and which will not (be required to) report,” she said. “We’ll need some support staff here, like finance and information technology, to continue support (services) and pay the bills.”
Only a handful questions came in from those attending the town hall which for was broadcast on the city’s Facebook page, YouTube and the cable access channel.
Most queries focused on virus symptoms and testing, but one asked when a similar order would come from Comal County.
“The city of New Braunfels is implementing this order because it believes it’s the best course of action for the city,” Krause said, also adding county services will continue as usual. “We’re here to support them in that effort. “But at this time, and things change day to day, there are no plans to issue (such) an order countywide.”
Another question asked what steps the city and county would take to make sure those under quarantine or afflicted with the virus aren’t going out in public. Camareno directed the question to the county’s public health office. He also urged people not inundate local health services, and that those seeking more on health-related impacts of the virus to visit www.nbtexas.org/covid-19 and www.comalcountytx.com/covid19.
The county hotline, 830-221-1120, has been available since March 16; Camareno said the city will have its own hotline – 830-221-4222 and answered by library staffers between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday – up and running on Wednesday.
“On enforcement, our focus will be on educating the community about compliance and only cite if absolutely necessary,” Camareno said.
Casteel asked citizens not to contact police and fire responders except for emergencies.
“I’m sure when the hotline is up people will have a lot of questions,” he said. “Do not hesitate to call us and we’ll walk you through it.”
Casteel said everyone hopes for a return to normalcy as soon as possible in the days ahead.
“It’s important that we do all those things that are necessary to protect your fellow citizens and your family so we can go back to life — well, to life as we’d like to consider normal in the days ahead,” he said.