Rusk County Commissioners held a regularly scheduled meeting Thursday, March 19 in which the main topic was the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. 

Rusk County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator James Pike gave an in-depth presentation showing the likely scope of the pandemic’s effects on our area. He explained that the County’s early reaction to the global crisis, namely the community’s willingness to distance themselves socially, statistically causes a 40% decrease in the cases in the area. 

According to Pike, Wuhan, the Coronavirus epicenter, has shown no new cases as of Wednesday so he believes they are on the downward slope of the infection’s impact. 

He reminded the group that while we actively combat the spread of COVID-19 we are also battling allergy and flu season. Pike reminded attendees of the virus’ symptoms: fever (100.4+), cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue and warned that area hospitals will not test for the virus without these symptoms. 

According to Pike, all law enforcement and first responders will be receiving personal protective equipment but did mention that they were slightly out of date but still better than no equipment at all. Officer Dooley has been diligently searching for a source for new equipment. 

Judge Clay Gossett and District Attorney Michael Jimerson discussed the need to release certain offenders to keep the County Jail from overcrowding. Those with non-violent offenses can be released on a Personal Recognizance bond which will decrease the ever-expanding jail population but also save the taxpayers money. Jimerson did take a moment to clarify that the Rusk County court system has a more conservative view of what is considered a violent offense. 

Simple theft and certain drug-related cases and, by and large, all misdemeanors will be allowed the PR bond but burglary and clearly violent crimes will continue to be held in custody. 

All CPS hearings and visitations have been canceled with the exception of emergency cases. They did state that the April 6 Grand Jury would still meet but an update states that has been canceled, as well. 

Retiring County Auditor, Ronald Moody, was presented an award recognizing his 32 years of dutiful service to the county and many well wishes and lamentations at his absence were given. 

The remainder of the meeting was spent clearing the county’s business.

Motions were made and seconded to approve budget amendments. A resolution was approved supporting Habitat for Humanity of Smith County. Reports regarding Rusk County JP Pct. 1 and 3, Constable Pct. 1, 3 and 4, Youth Expo Center, and Expo Center maintenance were approved. 

On the agenda was the introduction of 2020’s Leadership Henderson class but due to area closures and requested social distancing this was postponed until the April meeting.

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