Essential vs. Non-Essential Business

As the testing numbers go up in Smith County, the number of positive coronavirus cases remained at 27 on Saturday.

The second East Texas death was confirmed by NET Health on Saturday.

“The individual was a 47-year-old female who was hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 symptoms, and was the confirmed case announced by Van Zandt County on Wednesday, March 18, 2020,” a statement said.

George Roberts, Chief Executive Officer of NET Health said, “The public has the responsibility, more than ever, to follow recommendations from health officials. This is now a team sport. It is critical for everyone to play their part and to help us “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 having a devastating impact in East Texas.”

During a press conference Friday, Roberts said that of the 27 confirmed cases in Smith County, seven are traveled-related and 20 as a result of community spread. There are 24 within the city of Tyler, and three in other areas of Smith County, nine are hospitalized and 17 are at home self-monitoring their symptoms. There has been one death, a 91-year-old Hideaway Lake resident.

There are also four cases in Gregg County, where one person is hospitalized, and one patient in Van Zandt County, who is hospitalized and Rusk County reported a third case today. Gregg County remains at four, but no updates were made Saturday for Gregg or Upshur (one case) counties.

The Tyler Police Department issued a statement Saturday after rumors of police pulling people over and residents needing notes and identifications because of the stay-at-home order issued by Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran.

The statement said, “Concerning the stay-at-home order, while residents of Tyler are free to leave their homes to conduct defined essential activities, Tyler PD WILL NOT stop or contact you solely to determine your purpose for travel. Per the Stay-at-Home order, you do not need a form declaring where you work or where you are traveling. We WILL work with you and help educate our public in an effort to gain compliance with all declarations and executive orders. Enforcement action will be taken only as necessary.”

The order took effect at 11:59 p.m. March 27 and will end April 10 at 11:59 p.m. unless extended or terminated by Moran.

Moran explained that a stay at home order is a somewhat more lenient order than shelter in place, but is fully enforceable. The order defines essential things, such as health care items, grocery shopping, gas stations, child care, carry out restaurants, governments, first responders and media.

Moran said the “shelter in place” terminology is more appropriate for a tornado.

“The purpose of this order is to further protect the health, safety and welfare of our Smith County community,” Moran said. “It is also to ensure that – as a community – we take affirmative steps to support our local health care providers and institutions by mitigating any spikes in COVID-19 patient numbers.”

Some key differences include allowing residents to still go to work in cases where they can be closed off from the public with 10 or fewer employees in the office, and it also allows for the continued use of city parks and trail networks. Officials did say residents should use discretion and know that means they can’t use parks to play team sports or have large gatherings.

He noted governments should uphold liberty, not lessen it; however, the community’s health compelled him to act.

If a place of business can conduct with 10 or less people, Moran said that can still continue. Those not interacting with the public can continue operations as well.

If in violation of this order, people can be punished with a fine up to $1,000 or confinement in the county jail for a time up to 180 days (six months).

Moran hopes policing is not needed. There will be a centralized email address for questions regarding certain activities and where to send violation concerns.

Law enforcement will be visiting with local businesses share the terms of the order and work with them to make the stay at home order happen.

Tyler City Manager Ed Broussard said city solid waste will continue. Those not using the city of Tyler services, they should consult with their solid waste provider.

For dumpster activity, Broussard asked that businesses monitor and request additional pickup if needed.

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John is a two-time national columnist of the year. He has earned top AP awards for news, videos and sports writing and won the Thomas J. Bulson Investigative Journalism award. He has appeared on CNBC's American Greed, FOX News and CNN.