JEFFERSON — Marion County, on Thursday, declared a local state of disaster due to the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order today to suspend in-house dining in restaurants, closing bars, gyms, and schools until April 3, beginning at midnight Friday,” said County Judge Leward LaFleur. “In turn I signed an order, declaring Marion County in a state of disaster.”

He issued the order for two reasons – to activate the county’s emergency plan and receive disaster relief, if needed.

“Declaring this disaster opens up some funding from federal and state resources to help us get ahead of this silent threat, when and wherever it hits in Marion County,” said LaFleur.

“We, as a county, have been caught between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “We have no cure and no way to know where it will strike next.”

Thus, he said the county is trying to be proactive as it is now understood that it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” they will have a confirmed case of COVID-19.

According to the Disaster Declaration, the continued spread of COVID-19 presents an imminent threat of widespread illness, which requires emergency action for the protection of the people of Marion County.

“The implementation of mitigation strategies can slow the transmission of the disease,” the declaration states. “Marion County has determined that extraordinary measures must be taken to mitigate the effects of this public health emergency and to facilitate the efficient, rapid, and cooperative response to the emergency and to contain the spread of the virus.”

The declaration shall take effect immediately, and continue for no more than seven days unless continued or renewed by the Marion County Commissioners Court. In the meantime, Judge LaFleur urges residents to play a vital role in trying to combat the virus by adhering to all CDC recommendations.

“We are the only ones who can keep this virus at bay,” said LaFleur.

However, he doesn’t want anyone to panic.

“In the last few days and weeks we have faced something no one in our lifetime has had to face. I urge you to be calm, strong, and vigilant as ever,” said LaFleur, stressing it’s important to remain calm and pray.

“I do not want you to live in fear,” he continued. “I hope and pray that we, as citizens, can do what needs to be done to slow this virus down as to not over extend our healthcare system in East Texas.”

The county judge said he intends to do whatever is necessary to combat the COVID-19 in Marion County.

“We are facing a silent enemy who creeps through our lives undetected,” said LaFleur.

“We have a measured response to whatever may be coming and we will keep the best interest of the people of Marion County at the forefront of the conversations and decisions,” he said.

He said all must band together to combat the pandemic.

“The people of Texas, especially in our part of the state are courageous, strong and extremely generous. With that being said, I see no problems with us all banding together to fight this fight and coming out stronger,” said LaFleur.

For concerns call 903-665-3261, 903-930-1782, or emailleward.lafleur@co.marion.tx.us.