Tyler, Smith County leaders decline to issue shelter-in-place order, urge residents to do their part

"It’s in our hearts. It’s the people we are. We know what we have to do. Let’s do it.”

Tyler Press Conference

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - While officials have announced no mandatory orders, leaders from both the City of Tyler and Smith County are encouraging residents to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“We are ready," Mayor Martin Heines said. "The hospitals are ready. We’re ready. Let’s pray that we don’t have to be ready.”

At a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Mayor Heines asked residents to stay at home if possible.

“Government can’t tell you to do it," Heines said. "It’s in our hearts. It’s the people we are. We know what we have to do. Let’s do it.”

Heines’ plea came as the Northeast Texas Public Health District announced the first COVID-19 related death in East Texas.

“There’s been one related death,” said George Roberts, NET Health CEO. “It’s a 91-year-old male who is a Smith County resident.”

Roberts said the man died at a hospital this week.

City officials also pointed out while some Tyler businesses have encouraged and enforced social distancing, others have not.

“This is an opportunity for you (business owners) to fix this before further restrictions and mandates have to come down," said Edward Broussard, Tyler City Manager.

When officials were asked about not releasing the same patient information as other Texas counties, like cities of residence and age ranges, they responded citing HIPAA. However, Mayor Heines later said local officials had chosen to not release that information.

“Tyler is a location where everybody in Smith County is coming. So we felt like it’s better just to say Smith County numbers instead of saying we have one in this city or over in that city," Heines said.

Heines said a city-specific shelter-in-place is unlikely, and the city and county would be in “lockstep” moving forward.

We also learned that along with Smith County deputies, Tyler police are also helping with contact-tracing efforts. That’s the process of tracking down people that have had recent contact with COVID-19 patients.

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