Denton County public health clarifies its authority in schools

Director of Public Health Matt Richardson clarified what authority local health departments have during the July 14 Denton County Commissioners Court meeting. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Director of Public Health Matt Richardson clarified what authority local health departments have during the July 14 Denton County Commissioners Court meeting. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Director of Public Health Matt Richardson clarified what authority local health departments have during the July 14 Denton County Commissioners Court meeting. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

The Texas Education Agency lists local health authorities alongside the governor and the state health department as those who have the power to close schools on its COVID-19 support and guidance webpage.

Director of Public Health Matt Richardson clarified what this authority means at the local level during the July 14 Denton County Commissioners Court meeting, where more than one of the public commentators urged the public health department to recommend keeping schools closed in the fall.

"The health and safety code is pretty specific on the types of powers that local public health has," Richardson said. "It really revolves around communicable disease control in quarantine and isolation."

The local health authority in Denton County is Medical Director Marty Buchanan, while Richardson is a local health officer. Both have the ability to quarantine or isolate individuals, properties, specific buildings or groups of people, particularly when there is a threat of transmission of a communicable or infectious disease, Richardson said.

"There is some difference of legal opinion whether local health officers could ... close a school," Richardson said. "That is going to rely on the local school board and the superintendent that is under the Texas Administrative Code and the governing statutes around education."


The health department has previously brought classroom closure recommendations to school boards and superintendents in cases of measles or meningitis outbreaks. This is the same action the department would likely take with an outbreak of coronavirus in a school or district.

"That is our legal responsibility," Richardson said.

Schools can then act on that recommendation and choose to close more classrooms or even a campus, he said.

Denton County public health staff has been in constant communication with Lewisville ISD and other local districts about reopening this fall and will continue to do so, Richardson said.

"That's been an ongoing conversation," Richardson said. "Even as of prior to this meeting we [have] had these conversations ... about our best recommendations based on science."
By Liesbeth Powers
Liesbeth graduated from Baylor University with a degree in new media journalism in December 2018. She gained her newspaper experience as a staff writer and multimedia editor at her campus paper, The Baylor Lariat. Liesbeth joined the Community Impact team in August 2019, where she reports on all things Plano and Richardson, including Plano City Council and Dallas Area Rapid Transit.


MOST RECENT

Harvest Hall officially opened Feb. 6 in Grapevine as part of the Grapevine Main development. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harvest Hall now open in Grapevine, new dining options in Fort Worth and more DFW news from February

Here are some of the top stories from the past month from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

At its peak of power loss, the city had roughly 50,000 homes with interrupted power, many of which had prolonged outages, Plano City Manager Mark Israelson said. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
Plano faces long-term impacts from storm; Collin County vaccine hubs resume service and more DFW-area news

Read the top business and community news from this week from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

High school graduation ceremonies throughout Lewisville ISD will be held at The Star in Frisco this year, a change from previous plans. (Lindsey Juarez Monsivais/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lewisville ISD cancels high school proms, selects new venue for graduation ceremonies

For the second year in a row, schools will alter key rites of passage for high school seniors throughout Lewisville ISD as they continue to navigate instruction during a pandemic.

The coffee and wine bar offers signature drinks, such as the Honey Bear Latte, made with honey and cinnamon, as well as food options, such as breakfast tacos, charcuterie boards, baked goods and snack boxes. (Courtesy Golden Boy Coffee Co.)
Golden Boy Coffee Co. opens in Plano; Black Rock Coffee Bar coming to Southlake and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Tens of thousands of people have been vaccinated at Denton County's vaccine drive-thru clinics at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. (Courtesy Texas Motor Speedway)
Denton County agencies offer free rides to vaccine appointments at Texas Motor Speedway

Beginning Friday, two Denton County transit services will provide free bus rides to the mass vaccine clinics at Texas Motor Speedway.

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic. (Courtesy Qygen, Wikimedia Commons)
Fry's Electronics calls it quits after nearly 36 years in business

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic.

A lone runner jogs on a snow-covered road in Austin. Transportation projects across the city were briefly paused due to Winter Storm Uri. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
ERCOT: Texas power system was less than 5 minutes from collapse during winter storm

ERCOT's CEO offered details into what led to the massive blackouts that left millions of Texans in the cold last week.

Chipotle Mexican Grill opened a new Plano location Feb. 20 at the corner of Independence Parkway and Legacy Drive. (Courtesy Chipotle Mexican Grill)
Plano Chipotle opens with drive-thru; Tailgaters sports bar opens in Frisco and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Lewisville ISD was set to resume classes Feb. 22 after closing schools the previous week because of winter weather. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Lewisville ISD resumes in-person, virtual instruction as district fixes storm damage

Lewisville ISD will press forward this week with in-person and remote instruction even as crews continue to repair damage from last week’s winter storms.

cars on snowy road
Texas Disaster Declaration opens door to federal aid for losses sustained during winter storms

Individuals and businesses who sustained losses during the winter storm are eligible for federal assistance, according to a Texas Disaster Declaration approved

Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference Feb. 19 updating residents on the state's response to recent winter storms. (Courtesy Office of the Governor)
Gov. Abbott: Texas is working with federal, local agencies to offer financial relief, resources to residents impacted by winter storms

Gov. Greg Abbott said the state continues to prioritize four main areas of concern: power, water, supplies and fuel production.