Updated at 6:20 p.m., March 24, to include additional information on exemptions to the order.
To curb the spread of COVID-19, the city of New Braunfels announced a “Stay at Home and Work Safe Order” at a press conference that was also streamed on Facebook Live on Tuesday afternoon, March 24.
Effective as of 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25, residents are asked to take shelter in their place of residence and should not leave their homes except for essential trips.
The order is active until it is rescinded by the New Braunfels mayor or City Council.
For the time being, enforcement of the order is voluntary, New Braunfels City Manager Robert Camareno said at the meeting. Citations will only be issued if law enforcement or the city finds it “to be absolutely necessary.”
The order states penalties for violations can range from $50 to $2,000 upon conviction.
Comal County Judge Sherman Krause joined Camareno and New Braunfels’ Mayor Barron Casteel at City Hall for the announcement. Krause said the stay-at-home order is not county-wide for the time being.
“The message here is quite simple, stay at home when at all possible,” Camareno said. “Doing so will help flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus within our community.”
There are some exceptions to the the new rules. Restaurants may also continue serving customers through delivery or carry-out services. Residents can still go out in public but are required to maintain 6 feet of distance from other people.
“Please understand that the order does not affect a number of essential services. It does not impact grocery stores specifically,” Casteel said. “Today is not the time to rush to H-E-B or Arlan’s, or any of the number of markets and meat markets in the city of New Braunfels. They will continue to operate.”
Casteel explained that health care services are also exempt from the order and that health care providers and professionals had asked the city to present a stronger response to the virus in light of the potential for community spread.
The full list of exempt businesses and services was provided in a press release after the original publication of this story and are as follows:
- Health care services such as hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, pharmaceutical and
biotechnology companies, and other health care facilities, including veterinary services.
- Grocery stores such as farmers' markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks,
convenience stores and liquor stores.
- Food cultivation such as farming, livestock and fishing.
- Businesses that provide food, shelter, social services and other necessities of life for
economically disadvantaged or people who are otherwise in need.
- Newspapers, television, radio and other media services.
- Gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair and related facilities.
- Banks and related financial institutions.
- Hardware and construction supply stores.
- Plumbers, electricians, exterminators and other service providers that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences, essential activities and essential businesses.
- Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes.
- Laundromats, dry cleaners and laundry service providers.
- Restaurant and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out.
- Gun sales and repairs
- Bail bonds services
- Title companies, land surveyors and appraisers
- Car washes
- Recreational Vehicle sales and repairs
- Mattress stores
- Home appliance and repair shops
“Your compliance, your follow through with this order will benefit us all,” Casteel said. “Without person to person contact, we will stem the increase and spread [of COVID-19].”
To date, there have been five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Comal County, with New Braunfels’ second case announced just this afternoon. One patient is hospitalized in another, undisclosed county.
The most recent patient’s history was still being reviewed by the Comal County Department of Public this afternoon to determine who he might have come into contact with. A press release from the county said exposed people would be contacted with next steps.
Local patients are of various ages and are in their 20s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 80s.
Including the five positive tests so far, 78 local coronavirus tests have been reported to the Comal County Office of Public Health as of 7 p.m. March 23.
Casteel said that it takes an indeterminate amount of time for the return of each test because they are being processed by other counties and various health care providers.
There are 25 tests with pending results, according to a press release sent out on March 24 by Comal County.
“At this point, none has been deemed as community spread,” Casteel said. “That will change in the days ahead. That’s what we’re told by our health care professionals.”
A hotline will become available on March 25 for residents to call with questions or concerns about the virus and testing. The phone number is 830-221-4222 and will be answered by the New Braunfels Public Library Staff.
The county has its own hotline available at 830-221-1120. Both services are available on weekdays from 8 a.m.- to 5 p.m.
“We’re going to be here to answer questions that you may have... so that you’re not contacting our fire department or police department unless it’s necessary,” Casteel said. “Don’t hesitate—if you have a concern, call us.”
While the order is active, public gatherings of any size are banned; nonessential businesses must close; all nonessential employees should work from home.
Casteel said that residents running a fever should not go out.
The city is working with local nonprofit organizations to find solutions for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or immunocompromised, that are at a higher risk for severe illness if infected.
“The most vulnerable parts of our population are going to be impacted the longer that this health crisis goes on,” Casteel said. “We’re fully aware of that and we’ll be trying to figure out ways to respond to those needs.”
While many businesses struggle due to closures or reduced operations, Camareno said that the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce is conducting a survey to determine what challenges are being faced by business owners and how federal or state programs could be applied.
“We’d like to go back to a state of normalcy in our community just as quick as possible,” Casteel said. “With your help, we believe that will be possible.”
This story is evolving and will be updated as new information becomes available. Follow the Community Impact Facebook and Twitter accounts to stay up-to-date with the latest news about what's happening in your New Braunfels and Comal County communities.