Officials continue to urge Texans to maintain social distance to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Nim Kidd is chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management. He told Texas Standard his agency is treating the pandemic like any other disaster.
“The policies, the procedures and the people that we respond to [in] all natural disasters in Texas are really the same; those really don’t change. They’re part of the National Incident Management System,” Kidd said.
That system is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
That response has included Texas Gov. Greg Abbott calling on the National Guard. That means services members are themselves at risk while they’re helping the state deal with the spread of COVID-19. They aren’t the only ones; first responders of all kinds are at risk right now, Kidd admitted. He didn’t say whether the state is doing anything to mitigate that risk.
Some Texas cities started to require bars and restaurants to close or offer takeout service only. Kidd told the Standard that those decisions are up to local governments and health authorities, not the state. But Thursday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that temporarily closes all schools, bars and gyms, and limits restaurant service to takeout and delivery orders only amid COVID-19 concerns. The order, which goes into effect midnight Friday, also limits gatherings to 10 people and temporarily closes schools until April 3.
Kidd urged Texans not to panic, and especially to stop panic-buying. It’s not necessary, he said.
“The supply chain for grocery and fuel is strong,” Kidd said.
Amid the pandemic, his agency is also responding to other emergencies, including recent tornadoes in North Texas. He said families should have an emergency plan in place, and pay attention to alerts from traditional media, not just from social media.
This story has been updated to reflect Gov. Abbott’s executive order.
Written by Caroline Covington.