Harrison County has reported its first positive case of COVID-19.

“I was notified about 10 a.m. by the Texas Department of State Health Services that there was a positive test for the COVID-19 Coronavirus in our county,” Harrison County Judge Chad Sims said in an e-mailed statement.

“We already have a voluntary shelter in place order by the governor and I’d like to reinforce that from the county,” said Sims.

The county judge said more details are being gathered, at this time, but the immediate risk of transmission remains low.

“Health care providers and epidemiologists will remain in contact with this confirmed individual, as well as with anyone that interacted with this individual if they believe they may be at risk of infection,” Sims said, noting no further details are available at this time.

In the wake of the positive test, however, the county has issued a Declaration of Local Disaster and Public Health Emergency related to COVID-19.

The declaration notes that COVID-19 poses the threat of widespread illness and has been declared a world, national and state health emergency. The Texas Government Code Chapter 418 gives the county judge the power to declare a local disaster within the county if the threat of disaster is imminent; and the magnitude of the potential damage and the rapidity with which the continued spread of COVID-19 could escalate to constitute an imminent threat of disaster in Harrison County,” the declaration reads.

“As Harrison County Judge, I have concerns regarding inappropriate accommodations for an influx of local COVID-19 patients, personal protective equipment shortages for emergency response personnel and the potential for the escalation spread of the disease in pandemic form,” Sims said. “The declaration of such a disaster authorizes the imposition of controls on activities which tend to increase the likelihood of injury to the public.”

The local state of disaster and public health emergency expires seven days after its issuance, unless the commissioners court votes consents to renew it.

Judge Sims said all residents must do their part to stop the spread of the virus. He urges all to not panic.

“There is no need for alarm. Grocery stores, banks, etc. will continue to work as normal,” he said. “Please stay at home, practice social-distancing and use excellent personal hygiene habits. This is a voluntary self-quarantine.”

Sims said residents are free to leave home for essentials but must take this seriously to achieve best results.

“I intend for county offices to continue to work as needed and with reduced staff,” he said.

County officials remind residents to continue practice the following healthy, sanitary habits:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Also, if one is experiencing fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, been exposed to a sick traveler or been exposed to a person with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, they are urged to contact their health provider immediately.