TEXARKANA, Texas — Local officials urged compliance Thursday after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order limiting gatherings and closing all schools, among other restrictions, in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Abbott ordered Texans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, as well as "eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts, or visiting gyms or massage parlors."
Drive-through, pickup and delivery of restaurant food, as well as visiting places such as grocery stores, gas stations, parks and banks, will be allowed.
Visits to nursing homes and long-term care facilities are prohibited, and schools will temporarily close.
The order will remain in effect until midnight April 3. It does not include any enforcement provision or penalties for defying the rules, but such measures may be put in place in the future if citizens refuse to comply, Abbott said during a news conference.
Also on Thursday, Texas Health Commissioner John Hellerstedt declared a public health disaster. Abbott said the declaration was the first in Texas since 1901.
No local restrictions are in place, but the mayors of both Texarkanas on Wednesday asked residents to voluntarily restrict gatherings to 50 people and for minors to adhere to a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew.
In an afternoon media update from the local emergency operations center, Bowie County Judge Bobby Howell encouraged residents to continue patronizing local businesses in responsible ways such as shopping online and ordering takeout food.
Community leaders urge families to stay at home and avoid nonessential travel.
"Please don't get groups of children and neighbors together for sleepovers and back yard parties. Birthday parties should be rescheduled and you should limit social interactions to immediate family members. If everyone cooperates, this will be a temporary situation," the release states.
It is not recommended to seek out COVID-19 testing unless symptoms cannot be managed with over-the-counter medications, said Dr. Matt Young, the designated local health authority. He advised those feeling ill to treat symptoms with acetaminophen, not with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen.
"We want to ask everyone to stay at home as much as possible, even if you are well," Young said, "Follow the CDC guidelines. Only go outside for necessary travel. Our community has been very responsible, and we are now asking you to increase our responsibility to show others how Texarkana, USA and our Four States area can work together to decrease the spread of this