Following discussion among officials Monday, Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom Monday afternoon announced that Hopkins County’s offices will be open by appointment only and for Hopkins County residents only as a COVID-19 precaution.
“To be very clear, the county is not shutting down or closing the offices. County business will continue as usual and county officials will continue to work diligently to assure that access to each respective office is available,” the release stated.
Monday morning during commissioners court, County Clerk Tracy Smith expressed concerns that her office as well as those of other county officials were seeing an increase in business from people coming from outside of Hopkins County. Government offices in those individuals’ counties have been closed to the public except by appointment due to COVID-19 concerns. Smith said her her office and that of Tax Assessor/Collector Debbie Pogue Mitchell have been bombarded over the last week with individuals traveling 45 minutes or more for birth certificates, marriage licenses, registrations and other items.
Hopkins County is one of the few in the area that hadn’t, as of this morning, closed office doors to the public. Others within 50 miles were already requiring those who have business that can’t be handled by phone, electronic or other means to make appointments, it was pointed out during the commissioners court meeting Monday morning.
Smith noted she has two employees who fit the at-risk vulnerability criteria regarding COVID-19. She expressed concerns for the health of county employees due to potential of health risk through contact with individuals driving over from counties where they’ve been instructed to “shelter in place” due to confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The county clerk pointed out that quite a few business services are offered online, by phone, email, mail and/or drop box. A few services, like filing for marriage licenses, do require the couple to be present, but appointments can be made when necessary for Hopkins County residents by contacting the appropriate offices.
Newsom asked elected officials from other county offices to be consulted during a session following the regular court meeting to discuss the matter. The county’s emergency management team also met later Monday to discuss the current COVID-19 situation.
At approximately 4 p.m. Monday, Newsom’s office issued a press release announcing that each office of the county will be open only by appointment to “reduce the amount of traffic in and out of each office, and to reduce the threat of exposure of the COVID-19 Virus.”
Contact information and most paperwork for each officer are available at www.hopkinscountytx.org.
A temporary extension has been allowed concerning the late fees and penalties associated with Vehicle Registration, Vehicle Titling and Vehicle Parking Placards. For more information about those services, contact the Hopkins County Tax Assessor-Collector office.
The closing of county offices to walk-in visitors follows the Commissioners’ Court’s approval Monday morning of a disaster declaration in effect until April 3 due to COVID-19 concerns. The county opted to put in place at that time the same measures established in the Governor’s Executive Order on March 19: restricting nursing home, retirement and assisted care facilities to critical care personnel only; closing schools, gymns and massage parlors until April 3; and closing restaurant and bars to dine-in customers, restricting these types of businesses to drive-through, delivery and curbside service.
The county at that time opted not to impose any additional restrictions as a means to reduce potential spread of COVID-19 into the county.
Hopkins County as of this evening still does not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported to the CDC or TDSHS. Hopkins County Hospital District/EMS over the weekend, reported they were able to confirm that at least 31 screenings for COVID-19 had been conducted in Hopkins County.