Collin County Judge Ends Local Coronavirus Disaster Declaration After Hospitalizations Dropped

Republican Collin County Judge Chris Hill issued a proclamation on Friday that ends the county’s declaration of local disaster for the coronavirus public health emergency.

Hill explained to The Texan that the latest proclamation simply clarifies that, in view of the fact that Collin County’s coronavirus hospitalizations fell below 10 percent of hospital capacity, the county is no longer in a state of emergency.

Collin County reported 276 coronavirus-related hospitalizations on Friday out of a total hospital capacity of 2,702 beds, but hospitalizations were at 9 percent on Sunday when the county reported 247 coronavirus patients. The county has a population of more than 1 million residents.

The county judge emphasized that he was prepared to take this step sooner, but wanted to prevent unintended consequences.

“I actually wrote this back in September, in fact it was dated September 24, and was prepared to release it back then,” Hill said to The Texan. “But then I talked to my county auditor and she advised that because there were still families in Collin County receiving CARES Act funds, there was a chance I could jeopardize CARES Act eligibility.”

Though whether to declare a local disaster for a public health emergency is at the discretion of the county judge, Hill indicated that the commissioners court is in agreement with his philosophy.

“The commissioners court and I have been on the same page through the entire issue,” Hill said.

The latest proclamation reiterates Hill’s prior position that “all businesses, workers, and jobs are essential.”

“Whereas, constitutionally protected rights do not cease to exist in the midst of a crisis, and executive orders are (and must always be) subordinate to the provisions of the Constitution[…]” Hill’s proclamation states.

The order says explicitly that “there are no county-issued emergency orders, forced closures, or government mandates in Collin County[.]”

However, Collin County never had a mask mandate or county-level occupancy limitations. In fact, when Gov. Greg Abbott chose to leave it up to county judges whether to allow bars to open, Hill was among the first to decide that bars would be allowed to open.

The county’s original coronavirus order issued in March 2020 placed great emphasis on the “financial health” of the county’s residents as well as “safeguarding the Constitutional liberties of Collin County citizens.”

While Hill does not contend that the coronavirus has disappeared or is a non-issue, he said Friday’s order is merely a “formal declaration” of the fact that dwindling hospitalization numbers reflect that the coronavirus is not the emergency it once was.

In Texas, county judges act in an executive and sometimes legislative capacity rather than a judicial capacity.

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