Second local COVID-19 death reported as state kicks off phase 2 of reopening

by Cristin Parker

Just as officials announced the start of the second phase of reopening the state from its Coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown, Cherokee County officials reported the second virus related death to occur in the county.

“Our deepest sympathies are extended to the family and loved ones,” Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis said on Tuesday.

Two more cases were also confirmed as of Tuesday, May 19, bringing the local total of positive cases of COVID-19 to 36. The majority of local cases have been determined to be acquired through community spread, according to Cherokee County Public Health Department officials.

Out of the 17 active cases, 13 of the cases are residents of a state facility in Cherokee County and four are county residents.

To date, 17 patients have recovered from the illness.

Governor Greg Abbott on Monday, May 18, announced the second phase of the state of Texas’ ongoing plan to safely and strategically open Texas while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. Under phase II, restaurants may increase their occupancy to 50 percent and additional services and activities that remained closed under phase I may open with restricted occupancy levels and minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).

Additionally, Abbott announced that public schools in Texas have the option to provide in-person summer school so long as they follow social distancing practices and health protocols laid out by DSHS.

These classes may begin as soon as June 1.

“Today, tomorrow, and every day going forward is one step closer to medical discoveries that can treat and protect people from COVID-19 -- but until that day comes, our focus is keeping Texans safe while restoring their ability to get back to work, open their businesses, pay their bills, and put food on their tables,” Abbott said. “By continuing to use safe practices, we are slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting our most vulnerable. Now more than ever, we need to work together as one Texas. I ask all Texans to continue heeding the guidance of our state and federal medical experts and do their part to protect public health. If we all unite in our resolve, we will overcome this challenge.”

Via executive order, services and activities have opened or may open under phase II include:

• child care centers (opened May 18);

• massage/personal-care centers (opened May 18);

• youth clubs (opened May 18);

• rodeo and equestrian events (to open May 22);

• bowling alleys, bingo halls, simulcast racing, skating rinks (to open May 22);

• bars (to open May 22);

• aquariums and natural caverns (to open May 22);

• zoos (to open May 29);

• day youth camps (to open May 31);

• overnight youth camps (to open May 31);

• youth sports (to open May 31); and

• certain professional sports without in-person spectators (to open May 31).

All sporting and camp activities are required to adhere by special safety standards, and minimum standard health protocols have been established for all newly-announced opened services and activities.

Businesses located in office buildings may also open but must limit their occupancy to the greater of 10 employees or 25 percent of their workforce.

Restaurants may expand their occupancy to 50 percent, beginning May 22.

Bars -- including wine tasting rooms, craft breweries and similar businesses -- may open at 25 percent occupancy but like restaurants, these occupancy limits do not apply to outdoor areas that maintain safe distancing among parties.

Opened services and activities under phase II are subject to certain occupancy limits and other protocols.

For details and a full list of guidelines, openings, and relevant dates, visit

Certain counties experiencing surges in COVID-19 cases will have their beginning date of phase II delayed until May 29. These counties include El Paso, Randall, Potter, Moore and Deaf Smith.

Surge Response Teams are actively working in these areas to increase testing, maintain hospital capacity and ensure that COVID-19 is contained and mitigated.

County officials are also reporting residents who qualified to participate in the two mobile testing events held on May 4 in Rusk and May 11 in Alto may have further steps to take, depending on the results of their tests.

“Those who got tested, if you were negative, you should have received a text message at the registered phone number with the negative for COVID-19 notification,” Cherokee County Emergency Management Coordinator Sergio Servin said. “If you had been deemed positive, you should have received a phone call with further instructions.

“At this time we do not know what the status of any of those tests are.

“This is something that was not organized by Cherokee County -- however, we are doing everything we can to obtain the information.”

Anyone that was tested during either one of the recent local events can also reach out via email to

“You will need to provide your name and record number,” Servin said. “The record number should have been provided to you at the testing site.”