UPDATED: COVID-19 concerns causing chaos -- Entities close, events are canceled to limit spread of virus

by By Cristin Parker cristin@thecherokeean.com

UPDATED: 14:28 p.m., Monday, March 23

Numerous municipal facilities, civic organization locations and other public venues are closed for the duration of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

According to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, as of Tuesday, March 17, 1,268 Texans have been tested for COVID-19; 64 cases of the illness have been confirmed, including three in Smith County and one in Gregg County; and one death – a 90-year-old man in Matagorda County – has been reported.

Medical professionals continue to stress the best way to keep from spreading the disease is to minimize exposure to it.

“That is especially important for people who are 65 or older or who have an underlying health condition like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer,” the DHHS’s website states. “People in those groups have a higher risk of developing severe disease if they do get COVID-19, and the safest thing for them during an outbreak will be to stay home as much as possible and minimize close contact with other people. They should talk to their doctor about getting additional prescription medications and have enough household items and groceries on hand to stay home as needed.”

In an effort to help keep people safe, numerous entities have closed and events have been canceled across Cherokee County.


• The 2020 Cherokee County Junior Livestock Show scheduled for March 25-28 has officially been canceled.

• Offices of Cherokee County officials are open with limitations. If you do not absolutely need to come to a county office, please do not do so. Telephone the office prior to coming to determine their availability. The Elections Department and County AgriLife offices are closed to the public, but will be staffed as usual. If you have business with any of these offices, please telephone them. All essential services such as the Sheriff’s office and Emergency Management will operate as usual. The County Court at Law of Cherokee County will continue to hear and conduct all essential proceedings including, but not limited to CPS emergency removal hearings, temporary restraining order/temporary injunctions, family violence protective orders, and certain mental health proceedings. Large docket calls and jury trials will be suspended to avoid the gatherings of large groups of people until at least April 1. Additionally, there will be no jail run dockets from now until April 1.

• Effective Monday, March 23, the Cherokee County Appraisal District had closed its lobby to the public. CCAD officials encourage citizens to call the office (903) 683-2296; or visit the CCAD website, cherokeecad.com, to access services. Taxpayers can mail tax payments and other documents to be filed to PO Box 494, Rusk, TX 75785; call 877-891-9389 to pay with a credit/debit card or electron check; or use the drop slot located to the right of the entrance door.

• All of Cherokee County’s retirement and rehabilitation facilities are limiting visitor contact with their residents and outside activities at this time. No facility is on lock-down as yet, but officials continue to monitor the situation in preparation of making that decision.

Officials of all facilities have been working to notify residents’ families and have signs posted at their locations, letting citizens know of their protocols.


• Effective Wednesday, March 18, Alto City Hall has been closed to the public. The drive through, phone lines, and the city’s website will remain open.

"We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause," city officials said. "The safety of our citizens and staff are our top priority. The city of Alto will post updates as they are available. Thank you for your cooperation."


Bullard City Hall will be closed to the public through March 30. “We will operate with limited staff and service provisions to phone and online interaction,” city officials said. “Thank you for your patience during this time.”

Utility bills can be paid online at www.bullardtexas.net/205/utility-billing; or via the drop box located on the northeast side of the building.

• Bullard Municipal Court has been canceled until April 1. As usual, you can pay your citation online. If you have any questions, contact the court clerk. All park reservations will be suspended until the end of March.

Are you signed up for city of Bullard alerts? This is just one of the many ways residents can stay connected with us and get the latest information and updates on things happening in the community. Sign up at tx-bullard.regroup.com by entering in contact information and choose how you would like to receive alerts. If you have any questions email info@bullardtexas.net.


• Cuney City Hall closed to public until further notice.


• Gallatin city officials announced Wednesday, March 18 the decision to cancel this year's annual Gopher Fest, originally to be held April 11. Planning for the Gallatin Fall Fest continues and event officials said the events and activities to take place at the Gopher Fest are planned to roll over to the fall fest.


• On Tuesday, March 17, the city of Jacksonville closed all city offices to public access, except for the Jacksonville Police Department lobby, until further notice. This closure applies to city hall, the municipal court, the customer service center, the utilities payments drive-through window, and all other municipal services.

City staff will continue work in normal job functions assisting residents and customers, just not with face-to-face contact.

Residents are encouraged to make any payments to the city via online or telephone. Court and utilities payment can be made at jacksonvilletx.org. Appointments with individual employees will take place at the discretion of individuals involved in the meeting. All night deposit boxes will still be operational.

Lake Jacksonville is not affected by this closure.

Other Jacksonville city facilities that continue to be closed to the public include the Norman Activity Center, the Vanishing Texana Museum, Love’s Lookout Visitors Center, the Jacksonville (Stacy D. Hunter) Recreation Center, the Jacksonville sports complex, the Jacksonville Public Library,

“These proactive measures have been taken by the city to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.” Jacksonville City Manager Greg Smith said. “The city is going to continue to monitor the situation, and work with our partners during this unprecedented situation.”

• The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce has made the decision to cancel all meetings and events happening in the month of March, due to the growing concern on COVID-19 and the city of Jacksonville, and other community agencies, closing and cancelling events. Events and meetings canceled include: the Ambassador meeting, Whatateacher, Board of Director meeting, Morning Brew and the Business@Lunch-State of the City luncheon.

• The Women’s History Month ‘Women with Purpose’ luncheon has been postponed, according to coordinators.

“Due to the growing concern of COVID-19, we have made the decision to postpone the March 24 event,” officials with the organizing committee, Cherokee County Women With Purpose, stated. “We want to thank our honorees and sponsors for being so patient. We will be meeting in the weeks to come to determine a new date. We apologize for any inconvenience.”


• The city of New Summerfield remains open and all city departments are functioning as normal during this time of concern.

“For your health and the health of city employees, we ask that anyone having fever, a cough, or shortness of breath avoid coming into city hall and that you seek medical advice,” city officials said. “We encourage as many as possible to pay their utility bills online or by telephone. The city of New Summerfield apologizes for the inconvenience as we all work together to safely get through this challenging time.”

The link to pay online is www.newsummerfield.us To pay by telephone dial (903) 726-3651 option #1.

Those wishing to pay their city of New Summerfield court fines may also do that online at www.newsummerfield.us To pay by telephone dial (903) 726-3651 option #2.


• The city of Rusk has closed city facilities that provide non-essential services to public gatherings until Tuesday, March 31. This includes the Rusk Public Library and its meeting room, the Rusk Civic Center, Jim Hogg Park, Conley Park, Butler Park, and the Lions Club Sports Complex. Effective Thursday, March 19 Rusk City Hall and Rusk Police Department lobby hours will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Department staff will still be available by phone, (903) 683-2213 or (903) 683-2677. Anyone needing emergency personnel can still call 9-1-1.

“These proactive measures have been taken by the city to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in conjunction with the statewide public health disaster issued by Texas Governor Greg Abbot,” City Manager Jim Dunaway said. “The city is going to continue to monitor the situation, and work with our partners during this unprecedented situation.”

• The city of Rusk has postponed the city-wide clean up day scheduled for April 4 to October.

• The office of the Rusk Rural Water Supply Corporation is now closed to the public until further notice. Payments can be made via the overnight drop box; online at www.ruskruralwsc.com; or by phone, (844) 653-2257. Customers can call the office, (903) 683-6178 with questions or concerns.

• The Good Samaritan location in Rusk is closed through Wednesday, March 31. This schedule may be extended if necessary. Food boxes and fresh produce will be distributed 9-11:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 1, at 190 W. Second St., Rusk. Food will be prepackaged and clients will receive the same or similar basic items. The produce program is open to anyone who needs fresh produce and lives within the Rusk ISD boundaries. Clients are asked to remain in their vehicles; drive up when it's your turn; and a volunteer will bring food boxes and/or produce to them. “We at the Good Samaritan want to keep our volunteers and clients as safe as possible,” organization officials said. “Please follow all the recommended precautions for hand washing, coughing, and most importantly, staying home if you have any symptoms.”


• Effective Thursday, March 18, Wells City Hall will be closed to the public. The employees will be in the office to take phone calls.

Traffic citations and water bills can be paid on the city website, www.ctyofwells.us, or by using the drop box located on the front corner of city hall.

"We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause," city officials said. "The safety of our citizens and staff are our top priority.

"The city of Wells will post updates as they become available. Thank you for your cooperation."

• Rube Sessions Memorial Library in Wells has closed until Tuesday, March 31 and will not host an open house on Saturday, April 4. The library will be closed on that day.

As of Wednesday, March 18, the Wells Community Homecoming scheduled for April 4 has been postponed. This event will be rescheduled and it will be announced.