The lights go out on Main Street and schools close as coronavirus gains Panhandle foothold

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The lights go out on Main Street and schools close as coronavirus gains Panhandle foothold

Thu, 03/19/2020 - 05:42
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Globally, the World Health Organization has confirmed 207,860 cases and 8,657 deaths, as of Wednesday evening. In the United States, there have been at least 8,017 cases of the coronavirus confirmed by lab tests and 143 deaths, with COVID-19 now confirmed in all 50 states, as reported by The New York Times. According to a report in The Texas Tribune, there are at least 95 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and two deaths in Texas. There are likely more unconfirmed cases, given that there are examples of community spread and limited testing capacity.

In a statement released by Superintendent Lynn Pulliam Wednesday evening, Canadian ISD announced it will close schools from March 23, 2020, through April 3, 2020. Before returning to normal school operations, CISD will assess the COVID-19 situation and decide whether to extend the closure.

“Our primary concern is the health and well-being of our students and community,” Dr. Pulliam said. “While COVID-19 seems to be less of a serious health threat for schoolage children, we do realize the threat of contagious students passing the virus to elderly family members or to parents who might work with the elderly. While there are still no confirmed cases in Hemphill County or the Texas Panhandle, there are now at least two confirmed cases in Lubbock and multiple confirmed cases in Oklahoma City, both areas that many of our families visited over spring break.”

Pulliam detailed additional actions CISD will take to continue to care for students:

•Support learning at home with online lessons and resources.

•Provide meals to students who depend on school cafeterias for daily meals.

•Implement reasonable plans to provide services to students with special needs.

Dr. Pulliam said CISD instructional staff plans to meet Monday, March 23 through Wednesday, March 25 to develop a cohesive plan for delivery of lessons and communication with students and parents. To help the school district plan, Pulliam is asking parents to complete a brief survey sent via email, which requests feedback about the internet access and food needs of CISD families.

Closings and Cancellations

HCH implements precautionary measures at hospital, nursing home, and assisted living

On Thursday, March 12, the Hemphill County Hospital outlined several COVID-19 precautionary measures which took immediate effect and applied to the hospital as well as to Edward Abraham Nursing Home and Mesa View Assisted Living. Both the nursing home and assisted living facility are restricting visitors, in order to ensure the safety of their residents. At the hospital, all patrons are asked to utilize either the ER entrance or main entrance from 8 am-5 pm, and to use only the ER entrance from 5-8 pm. “Until further notice, all patients, visitors, vendors, and the entire hospital staff will be screened for risk factors as they enter Hemphill County Hospital,” HCH officials announced. “Those who are screened and cleared will be allowed to enter the hospital; however, visitors will be limited to one per patient.”

Hemphill County offices remain open ...for now

All of the county offices, facilities, and services are currently open for business as usual, Judge George Briant reported Tuesday. “Officials and staff are taking common-sense steps to minimize the risk of contracting and/ or spreading COVID-19 virus in our facilities,” Judge Briant wrote. “If you are anxious or have concerns about coming to the court house or other county offices during these challenging times,” he said, “we want to remind you that much of your business can be handled by phone, email, and regular mail.”

Briant also noted that, should the coronavirus-related health issue intensify in the days and weeks ahead, the public should be be assured that there are contingency plans in place to ensure that critical services will be available to the community.

In an addendum to Judge Briant’s memo, County Tax Assessor/Collector Debbie Ford noted that her office is open until she is ordered to close. She asks that those who come to the office only do so if they are healthy. “We will turn you away if you are coughing or sick, but we will work behind closed doors— by phone, email, or regular mail—to help any customer.” As an additional reminder, she said, “We can still issue vehicle registration with a credit card and mail it to you, as we can tax payments. Just give us a call.”

Contact information for each Hemphill County office is available online at, and is also listed below:

Judge: 806.323.6521

Sheriff: 806.323.5326

Tax Office: 806.323.6661

Clerk’s Office: 806.323.6212

Justice of the Peace: 806.323.5123

County Attorney: 806.323.5521

Library: 806.323.5282

Extension Office: 806.323.9114

Treasurer’s Office: 806.323.6671

All UIL events suspended

The University Interscholastic League (UIL) is extending its suspension of all UIL sanctioned contests to include all rehearsals, practices, and workouts. Effective immediately, all UIL interscholastic activities are suspended through March 29. Updates will be posted online at

Department of Motor Vehicle regional service centers close

In an effort to reduce the exposure of Texans to COVID-19, the Texas DMV announced Tuesday that its 16 regional service centers would be closed to the public for in-person transactions as of the close of business on March 17. Services and support will continue to be provided by mail, email, and phone while in-person services are unavailable. Located throughout Texas, Regional service centers provide specialized services to the public, including replacement titles, bonded title rejection letters, apportioned registration, annual permits for motor carriers, and the investigation and resolution of errors in Texas titles. Guidance to the public regarding the process for completing common transactions while offices are closed to public access is available at An announcement will be made when regional service centers resume normal business operations.

Expiration Dates waived for driver licenses

In related news, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday that he has directed the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to temporarily waive expiration dates for driver licenses, commercial driver licenses, and other identification forms. This action falls within the governor’s State of Disaster Declaration and is part of the ongoing effort to reduce to spread of COVID-19. “Our top priority remains public health and safety, and we will continue to take action to ensure that Texans can avoid large public gatherings,” said Gov. Abbott. “Texas is at a pivotal moment in the response to COVID-19, and by temporarily delaying driver license renewals, we will help limit non-essential trips into public settings and slow the spread of this virus.” This suspension will be in effect until 60 days after the DPS provides further public notice that normal driver license operations have resumed.

Visitation suspended at Hemphill County Jail

Hemphill County Sheriff Brent Clapp announced this week that all jail visitation had been suspended until further notice. He also reported that all visitors to the courthouse will be screened upon entry. The visitor’s temperature will be taken, and he or she will be given a brief questionnaire to complete regarding their travel history. “Screening is for vendors and others who are conducting deliveries to the office,” Sheriff Clapp clarified.

Canadian Community Center

The Canadian Community Center announced Wednesday night that the facility will be closed effective 3/19, and will remain closed until CISD reopens. “An emergency board meeting was held, and we determined that this proactive measure was in the best interest of our members, staff, and community,” said Assistant Director, Ike Julian. The CCC’s youth sports and basketball tournament will also be postponed until further notice. “We will keep our members informed of any changes,” Julian said.

Palace Theatre

The Palace Theatre has announced a temporary closure, until further notice. Although they will not be screening movies, their concessions remain open. Citizens can continue to support the theatre by purchasing concessions through the Palace’s new curbside ordering service. “We will be offering curbside concessions, and we hope you continue to rely on us for delicious popcorn, soda with special ice, and anything else you’re craving. If you’d like to place an order, call or text Natalie Pino at 806.217.2169. We’ll bring it outside for you, or bring it to your house, as long as you’re in town.” said Palace co-owner, Ray Weeks.

Local church schedules

The Record made an effort to contact all local churches to determine if there were any changes to regularly-scheduled services. Most of the local churches we reached— including the Church of Christ, First Christian, First Presbyterian, and First United Methodist—have made no changes to their schedules at this point. However, as of Wednesday night, Pastor Matt Phenix announced the First Baptist Church will suspend their Sunday Service, and will instead stream it on their Facebook page, beginning at 10:45 am. Methodist pastor David Gerhardt noted that they had suspended the Wednesday meal. Most of the churches are making plans to stream their services online if the coronavirus situation escalates further and they are forced to close their doors. Gerhardt noted that if Canadian ISD closes after spring break and goes to online instruction, the Methodist Church will make their facilities and Wi-Fi available for those who need a place to go. Church-goers are advised to wash their hands, use their own discretion about whether to attend services, and if they are at high-risk, to stay home. There is no doubt that prayers will continue to be lifted up for the community regardless of who is sitting in the church pews on Sunday.

Grief Recovery Support Group

The location for the Grief Recovery Support Group seminar slated for 6:30-8:30 pm on Monday, March 23, has been moved to the Canadian Church of Christ Fellowship Hall. Mesa View Assisted Living Center has been closed to visitors due to COVID-19. For more information, contact Kelly English at 806.217.0346 or

Other cancellations

•The Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s “Casey and the King” concert, scheduled for Friday, March 27 at the Texas Crown Performance Hall, has been postponed. A new date will be announced.

•The Hemphill County Health Fair, scheduled for Thursday, March 26, has been canceled.

•The First Baptist Church’s Easter Eggstravaganza has been canceled.

•The Canadian Dairy Queen has postponed its Free Cone Day, originally scheduled for today (Thursday, March 19).