PALESTINE CITY COUNCIL

City Manager, Leslie Cloer (left) and Mayor Steve Presley (right) preside over a virtual council meeting. COVID-19 has, physically, closed many city offices. 

City officials are considering re-opening City Hall on June 1, even as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Anderson County continues to rise.

The official count for coronavirus cases in Anderson County rose to 60, with the addition of five cases Monday, Mayor Steve Presley told the Herald-Press. No reported COVID-19 deaths have occurred in Anderson County.

Most city offices have, physically, closed for more than a month, due to the global pandemic. City council members are attending meetings virtually through the Zoom platform.

Presley said a June 1 opening for City Hall is tentative. “That's still up in the air,” he said. “If, all of a sudden, the county had 120 cases over the weekend, we wouldn't open. So the June 1 date is not for sure.”

The main criteria for reopening, Presley said, was the city's ability to protect its employees, with physical barriers, floor markings that promote social distancing, and other measures.

Statewide, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen since Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order allowing some businesses to reopen May 1, showing the curve has not flattened in Texas.

Asked if he's worried Texas is reopening too quickly, Presley said: “Yes, I'm worried about it. It's of great concern to me. I see so many young people without masks who are the most likely to have the disease without knowing it.”

Abbott has attributed increased numbers of confirmed cases to increased testing. Abbott's office said testing has doubled since the state started to re-open, with 330,000 tests conducted in the first 16 days of May.

 Even so, Texas has tested only 646,000 out of its 29 million people, fewer than one in 45 people, one of the lowest numbers in the nation.

Last week, Texas reported its highest and second-highest daily death toll: On Thursday, 58 deaths were reported; on Friday, the number dropped to 56, the state health department reported, helping to bring the total number of fatalities to more than 1,200.

Texas lifted its stay-at-home order on April 30.

Aside from the state orders, Anderson County imposed two additional orders – having stores designate certain hours for senior shopping, and generally limiting shopping to one family member at a time. Both of those orders have expired. Executive orders by the governor in late April nullified any local ordinance restricting movement for COVID-19.

 Retail stores, libraries, and museums are open. On Monday, gyms reopened, too.

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