The Trib has dropped its paywall on all the coverage related to the coronavirus. Find all the coverage on our coronavirus latest page.
Restrictions on restaurants, bars, gyms and public gatherings spread beyond Waco on Wednesday as McLennan County and suburban cities declared states of emergency in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lorena, Hewitt, Robinson and the county passed declarations Wednesday, taking effect at 11:59 p.m. that day.
Hewitt and Lorena will close indoor recreation facilities like bowling alleys, gyms, bars and private clubs while limiting restaurants to to-go service and delivery. The cities of Waco and Lacy Lakeview adopted similar restrictions Tuesday, and Bellmead on Wednesday amended an earlier declaration to follow suit, taking effect immediately.
Robinson, Woodway and the county have opted to only limit the seating capacities of dining rooms. All have prohibited public and private gatherings of 50 people or more.
McLennan County Judge Scott Felton declared a local state of disaster and public health emergency for McLennan County, enacting restrictions that will apply to unincorporated areas. Under the restrictions, the capacity of indoor recreation facilities, bars, clubs and restaurants will be limited to either 50% of their capacity or 50 people, whichever is less. The declaration also prohibits events that bring together more than 50 people.
During a special meeting, the county noted that municipalities such as Waco retain authority over their domains.
McLennan County Judge Scott Felton said he had been in discussions with city managers in the area, and with a few restaurant owners, to get their feel of the situation.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Ben Perry mentioned he stopped at a small restaurant on his way to the courthouse, and there were as many people standing in line to retrieve their call-in orders as could have been seated in the dining area, so “mingling” is inevitable.
Perry said he counted 13 restaurants, most very small, operating within the county’s unincorporated area that would be impacted by the county’s emergency declaration.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in McLennan County is up to 34 as of Friday, March 27.
Hewitt made its declaration Wednesday morning. City Manager Bo Thomas said the state of emergency will last seven days, at which point city council and the mayor will meet and vote whether to extend it.
The decision came after Waco-McLennan County Public Health District announced five people in McLennan County had tested positive for COVID-19, a number that grew to six by day’s end.
“There’s a possibility there might be a person who works in Hewitt that may be one of those affected people,” Thomas said.
Angelia Sloan, city secretary for McGregor, said city officials will follow the rules outlined by the county and have not enacted more stringent policies.
Woodway declared a “local disaster emergency” on Wednesday. While the order won’t shutter restaurants, City Manager Shawn Oubre said most restaurants in town have voluntarily moved to takeout service only. The two restaurants that will keep their dining rooms open will limit their seating capacity to 50 people.
“I told them to help us, don’t let it get too crowded,” Oubre. “We don’t have big restaurants here, most of them won’t even sit 50 people.”
Oubre said Woodway is also canceling events booked at city facilities for the next 60 days and refunding deposits.
“Although this disease has not yet peaked for our area, state, or county, we must be vigilant and take care of one another. We are working diligently to slow the spread of COVID-19 in McLennan County and this declaration will provide necessary measures to do so,” a city press release stated.
The city of Robinson’s declaration limits the number of dine-in customers allowed in a restaurant to either 50 people or half of the restaurant’s occupancy limit. Indoor gyms and pools will close, along with the city’s community center, senior center, municipal court and Peplow Park.
The city of West has not yet declared an emergency, but closed its park, West Public Library, Little League fields, City Hall and West Community Center Wednesday. The West City Hall lobby will be closed to the public but staff will still be available to answer phone calls at (254) 826-5351, and process payments over the phone or online at www.payclix.com/cityofwest. The city also reinstated a juvenile curfew, prohibiting anyone 16 years old or younger from being out in public from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.