WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Following a unanimous vote Wichita Falls city council members order a shelter-in-place order on Wichita Falls for the COVID-19 crisis effective 11:59 p.m.
City leaders, however, want residents to know this doesn’t mean any essential businesses now open will be closed and pleaded for a reason and against residents rushing out to stores and panic shopping.
The shelter-in-place order instructs people not to leave their residences except to travel to get essential services or to essential workplaces, also not to gather outside homes with other people.
“Don’t look at this order and ask what can I get away with,” United Regional Anesthesia Chair Von Gray said.
Tough conversations and hard decisions were made in an almost five-hour-long meeting Friday morning as city leaders combed through a shelter in place ordinance debating what should be and not be allowed.
“All individuals all living in the city of Wichita Falls to shelter at their place of residents except as authorized by this order,” Wichita Falls City Attorney Kinley Hegglund said.
Those exceptions are outlined as essential businesses or essential government functions, but what constitutes essential?
The ordinance states establishments that provide basic necessities like food, water and shelter, but this raised a lot of questions when folks questioned why a liquor store is considered essential but not a church.
Gray provided an answer.
“With a medical issue like alcohol dependents, does not have alcohol within a three to four-day span can go into withdrawal which can be life-threatening and develop a medical condition called delirium tremens,” Gray said.
Gray said if those stores are closed there will be a flood of patients to the emergency rooms that will take critical beds.
Other medical professionals in the crowd pled their case as to why they believe the shelter in place is absolutely necessary.
“We understand now that this virus is 10 times more deadly than the flu,” United Regional Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Joshua Schacter said.
“Is there any scenario right now, even with shelter-in-place, where we’re not gonna see deaths from the coronavirus in Wichita Falls?” Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana asked.
“I don’t believe so,” Gray said.
Officials also shared alarming statistics to emphasize what they say is a necessity for the community.
“A date range for all the hospital beds being completely overrun by the virus, I would suspect somewhere around April 25,” Gray said.
Gray estimated that all the ventilators will be taken up by April 19.
When that happens the death rate from coronavirus spikes from a 1% mortality, meaning 1% of everyone infected with coronavirus sides to 5%.
More questions were raised regarding golf courses and nursery sales, both of which are both prohibited, though changes were discussed about ways food plants could still be sold.
Also what could be done about large grocery stores that will continue attracting large numbers of customers, city leaders decided to continue the conversation regarding amendments, which could mean many more meetings.
“We’re letting people know we are gonna take this seriously, this is a serious situation for our community and the last thing we want is for our hospitals to be inundated, so that’s why we took this step,” Santellana said.
And to enforce that, individuals caught violating the order can be fined up to $1,000, a violation Wichita Falls Police Department’s Chief Borrego said his department intends on taking seriously.
Unless the ordinance is terminated or modified, the order will expire on April 8.
If you have any questions as to whether or not your business is categorized as essential, you can contact a representative at Covidquestions@wichitafallstx.gov.
NEW: There are now 15 coronavirus cases in Wichita County. Health district says there is NOT a community spread case that they know of at this time.
You can view the full agenda for Friday’s meeting below.