There was no joy in Mudville and there will be no Jubilee in Liberty. The Liberty City Council met at noon today and decided it is better to risk erring on the side of caution than to risk furthering the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some call it hysteria, others call it science. Assistant Fire Chief Steven Grimm addressed the council and said as of this morning there are 34 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Texas. The Fire Department is screening its own staff with a questionnaire twice a day. The local hospital and nursing homes are limiting visitors and screening those who are allowed in, but no coronavirus testing kits are available here as of yet.
The school districts in the county are expected to decide either today or tomorrow whether to open next week.
Earlier today Governor Gregg Abbott signed a disaster declaration. The county will issue one as well, County Judge Jay Knight said.
Disaster declarations, City Manager Tom Warner explained, “Will allow us to receive federal funds when they become available.”
Asked by Council Member Dennis Beasley to peer into his crystal ball and advise the council on whether to go ahead with the Jubilee as planned two weeks from today, Dr. Steven Ellerbe said, “We just don’t know what the next two weeks will bring.”
Beasley thinks concerns are exaggerated, the result of “fear and hysteria driven by the media.”
Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge Biologist Laurie Gonzales disagreed.
“It’s not a matter of fear,” she said. “We have to stick with science.”
Gonzales argued that local healthcare services lack the capacity to deal with an outbreak of the virus. She called the city’s obligation to protect the public one of due diligence.
Gonzales and Bonnie Campisi provided a visual aid for understanding the problem. The CDC advices that we keep a minimum distance of 6 feet from others in public, which Gonzales said would be impossible at the Jubilee.
Besides concern for the public’s health, there is a problem with money. Should the city plan to go ahead with the Jubilee and then it became necessary to cancel it at the last minute, that would cost a great many people a good deal of money, and it would cost the city, too.
Warner pointed out that the food vendors, for example, must buy their food and supplies, which would result in huge losses to them were the event cancelled later. He said vendors were already calling and wanting to know whether the Jubilee would go on or not.
Council Member Neal Thornton pointed out that those same vendors, as well as the carnival staff, travel to many events and come into contact with a great many people. They could easily bring the virus to Liberty.
The coronavirus can be carried by an infected person for 2 weeks before any symptoms develop.
The vote to cancel the Jubilee was 6-0, with Council Member David Arnold absent.
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