Frisco officials being ‘proactive,’ taking preventative steps with possibility of coronavirus

As of March 6, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the coronavirus, in North Texas. (Rendering courtesy U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
As of March 6, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the coronavirus, in North Texas. (Rendering courtesy U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

As of March 6, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the coronavirus, in North Texas. (Rendering courtesy U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

While the internationally attended South By Southwest Conference & Festival in Austin has been canceled amid concerns over the coronavirus, Visit Frisco staff said there have been few event cancellations locally.

“We are working closely with city officials and their task force to monitor the COVID-19 situation,” Visit Frisco Executive Director Marla Roe said via email March 6. “We are in contact with our hotel properties and are aware that there have been a few event cancellations. We encourage everyone to follow the updates and best practices provided by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].”

Conference USA, which is scheduled to host its college basketball championships March 11-14 at the Ford Center at The Star, released a statement March 6 that the conference office is “implementing actionable measures” to address any potential threat.

“Conference USA will continue to monitor the conditions relative to coronavirus as the situation remains fluid,” according to the statement. “Preparations for the Conference USA Basketball Championships are progressing and include precautionary measures to help provide a safe environment for participants and fans.”

Among those preventative steps are the addition of portable hand sanitizing stations throughout the Ford Center and the elimination of handshakes before and after games.

The city of Frisco also issued a statement March 6 that it is “actively monitoring developments” regarding the coronavirus.

“There are no cases of COVID-19 in Frisco or in North Texas at this time; however, our first responders, hospital providers, and public health professionals have been preparing for several months for COVID-19 and have been proactively taking steps to protect the health and safety of our residents and visitors,” the city’s statement says.

Frisco has formed a coronavirus Task Group that includes top city leadership and subject matter experts in medicine, public health and emergency management.

“The Task Group’s goals are to protect citizens and visitors and provide contingencies and solutions for any impacts the city may experience,” the city statement says.

Frisco Fire Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Piland told City Council during its March 3 work session that city personnel are being “proactive” about the possibility of the coronavirus reaching North Texas.

“In emergency management, you have to prepare for the worst-case scenario, and then you just back into it when it does not happen,” said Piland, noting city personnel are following CDC directives. “We have an excellent team, a lot of subject-matter expects, so I know we’re in great hands. We'll do the planning to make sure that we're ready and that we're being proactive about this.”

During the council work session, Frisco Medical Director and Public Health Authority Dr. Mark Gamber told council he is keeping local first responders informed of the latest information.

“We really just need to wear as much equipment as we can to protect ourselves,” Gamber said of hospital staff and emergency personnel. “One of the biggest challenges right now is the inability to test and give people a definitive answer.”

Gamber said the CDC recommends those with flu-like symptoms stay at home, unless they have other chronic diseases or conditions.

“There's some value in going to get tested then because you may have a lower threshold to get sicker faster,” Gamber said. “But with our youthful population in Frisco—the majority of folks in Frisco—the recommendation would be if you have a flu-like illness and you're breathing OK, it would be to isolate at home and take medication for the fever.”

Piland said emergency management personnel have been involved in conference calls with the CDC and the state for the last two months.

“We have a daily conference call with the state updating us on the coronavirus in the numbers and the effects,” Piland said. “We have a weekly call with the Centers of Disease Control. We’re also coordinating with local health departments.”

He said staff are also in close contact with emergency management from Frisco ISD.

Frisco ISD is “committed to keeping student and staff safety a priority,” according to a statement released March 6. The district said it is in contact with affected school districts elsewhere to learn how they are “addressing the needs of their community.” The district’s statement also said it is working in partnership with Denton County Public Health and the Collin County Health Department.

“Frisco ISD has been working with our staff and students to reinforce the importance of hand-washing, proper hygiene and manually cleaning of surfaces with wipes and disinfectants as a precaution to maintain healthy classrooms,” the district statement says. “Frisco ISD has trained, registered nurses at each campus with protocols in place to handle communicable illnesses. We encourage families to keep their children at home when they are sick or experiencing fever.”

District personnel said every classroom has hand sanitizer stations available, and the Frisco ISD Custodial Department follows “strict guidelines and uses hospital-grade products to clean and disinfect school buildings daily.”

FISD said its transportation department sanitizes all buses routinely and uses a special team “throughout the district in times of heightened health concerns to further prevent the spread of communicable diseases.”

“We would encourage everyone to register for text message alerts through School Messenger,” according to the district statement. “If families are uncertain as to whether they have opted in, they can participate in this service by sending a text message of ‘Y’ or ‘Yes’ to our District’s code number, 67587. By messaging this number, you will be automatically enrolled in both district and campus alerts.”

More information can be found on the CDC website at
By William C. Wadsack

Editor, Plano

William joined Community Impact Newspaper in December 2019. He previously served as managing editor of several daily and weekly publications in North Texas and his native state of Louisiana.