Anna City hall has been transformed into an emergency operations center due to the COVID-19.
A team comprised of City Manager Jim Proce, Assistant City Manager Ryan Henderson, Fire Chief Ray Isom, Police Chief Jeff Caponera and Mayor Nate Pike are managing the city’s response while also maintaining a safe distance from each other.
“Everybody is pitching in and our community is no different,” Henderson said. “They understand the urgency and safety concerns that are out there and it’s our job to communicate and protect as best we can.”
The city’s emergency operations center was activated March 13 in response to the public health emergency created by COVID-19.
Four days later, Mayor Pike declared a local state of disaster and public health emergency.
The following day, health officials announced that a 54-year-old Anna man had tested positive for the virus. This significantly changed the dynamics of the situation.
Concerned citizens began calling the emergency operations center wanting to know who the person was and where that individual lived.
Medical confidentially laws prevent city leaders from divulging such information, so it was not shared.
When a person tests positive for coronavirus, it is reported to the county health department. The information is then forwarded to the state emergency operations center and then the Centers for Disease Control.
Local officials are not privy to where the person has been or who they have come in contact with. Ultimately that information should not dictate how the community responds.
What city leaders hope to convey is that the virus is both dangerous and extremely contagious.
Since it is transmitted primarily through respiratory droplets, the only way to slow its spread is through social distancing.
If left unchecked, COVID-19 has the potential to cost lives and overwhelm local hospitals.
“The message we are trying to get out is that, yes, this is serious, but if you are smart about it, your exposure can be limited,” City Manager Proce said. “Stay home if you can and stay away from each other if you can.”
The emergency operations team is constantly talking with county officials and the health department to stay on top of the latest information.
They also field calls from worried residents.
In order to address concerns, the city created a special coronavirus section on its website (annatexas.gov/1162/COVID-19-Information) that is updated regularly.
City officials also utilize Facebook to quickly convey messages about the evolving situation.
The emergency operations team is also responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the growing city of Anna.
Police officers, firefighters and public works personnel continue to do their jobs.
City council members also have responsibilities, however The Texas Open Meetings Acts prohibits them from meeting as a group without an advanced formal agenda.
Consequently, Proce spends a good deal of time talking with council members individually to address their concerns and keep them up to speed.
The March 24 Anna City Council meeting is still scheduled, albeit with some noticeable changes.
The agenda will be smaller than normal. Also, social distancing requirements will mean that spectator space will be limited. City leaders plan to post a video recording of the meeting online and encourage the public to view it.
Under normal circumstances, the emergency operations center would be located at the Anna fire station. However, that would bring more people in contact with one other.
To avoid that situation, Chief Isom is keeping his distance from the assistant fire chief as another precautionary measure.
“We’re all just really trying our best not to spread this thing around,” he said. “We’re taking some extreme measures because this is much different and unprecedented, especially for Anna.”
If you think you may have COVID-19, officials say the best thing to do is contact a local hospital before visiting the medical facility.
Both Medical City of McKinney and Baylor Scott & White in McKinney have an online pre-screening process that will help determine what a patient’s next step should be.
Additional information can be found on the city of Anna’s website, annatexas.gov.