Message from the mayor 

Mayor Bruggeman addresses concerns regarding COVID-19 pandemic


Mayor Bruggeman discusses regulations amid COVID-19 outbreak. The City of Texarkana has put new precautions into place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Story by Kate Morgan and Peyton Sims

On March 16, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that schools in the state of Texas are to remain closed until April 3, 2020 in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. To address the community’s concerns, Texarkana, Texas Mayor Bob Bruggeman discussed the changes that will be taking place in the city along with future precautions that families need to be taking during this nationwide crisis.   

“As we look from a national perspective, we see the numbers [of COVID-19 cases] continue to increase each day,” Bruggeman said. “That’s a little bit concerning. As more testing is done, more cases will be found to be positive. In our local area, currently, we have one confirmed case. We’ll just wait and see as the days go by if that number does in fact increase. I think there is a likelihood that it will. We just hope that there isn’t a large percentage increase [in confirmed cases], but we are monitoring the situation very closely.”

Because COVID-19 is highly contagious and easily transmitted from person to person, a common defense tactic against the virus is social distancing. To enforce this practice, many public spaces are being closed to prevent the spread of the virus throughout the community. 

“The schools in Texas will remain closed through April 3,” Bruggeman said. “Restaurants will be open for drive-thru and take-out orders only. We have a no-visitation rule regarding nursing homes. Also, groups should not assemble with more than 10 [people] for a particular event or function. These are some pretty drastic measures that have taken place, but the key point is trying to prevent the spread of this virus, so a lot of precautions are being put in place. We endorse those [on the local level].”

Every day, more implementations are being enforced in order to contain the virus. While Texarkana has yet to mandate an at-home lockdown, it has been heavily suggested. A local curfew for minors from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. has been announced along with the state shutdown of dine-in spaces and schools. However, since the curfew is not mandatory, there are exceptions in which it is acceptable for teens to be out after the designated curfew.

“If we have a youth that has to go to work at 9 p.m., and they are traveling to work, that is an [exception],” Bruggeman said. “Or, if a student has some type of emergency beyond those curfew hours, that is certainly understandable. Once again, it is a voluntary curfew, so our police department is not going to be out looking for [teens breaking curfew], but if we start having trouble with teens being out late at night, we will be monitoring that situation.”

Many business owners are fearing the financial recessions that may take place due to the pandemic. With the threat of the coronavirus looming over them, many businesses have been forced to close their doors or reduce their hours to adapt to the outbreak. 

“The virus will have an impact, perhaps a significant impact, in our local economy,” Bruggeman said. “We are seeing signs of that already. Businesses don’t have as many customers coming in. We [have seen] pretty dramatic effects involving our restaurants and diners. They have seen a significant slowing of traffic in their establishments. With the new implementations taking place, especially in Texas, I think we will see a significant drop. So, we are monitoring that very closely to offset that.”

The question of how students will keep up with assignments within their home still lingers in the air. Students are trying to grasp the concept of learning courses like college mathematics, sciences and more outside of the classroom. The schedules and time of online classes have yet to be announced. 

“Schools will do their best to keep students educated, in their various ways: homework kits, skyping, online training activities and teaching activities,” Bruggeman said. “Those are being looked at by the various school districts right now. I know that our local school districts, especially Texarkana ISD, will be meeting with their teachers and staff next week to put a plan in place to handle providing continued education to our students.”

For some people in the community, the COVID-19 pandemic, which is reducing their work hours or temporarily putting them out of a job, is devastating to their financial capabilities. When income stops, bills pile on, and hungry mouths demand to be fed. Some low-income families in Texarkana find maintaining their necessities more difficult. In order to alleviate some of these struggles, local and federal provisions are being implemented to offer aid to those who find themselves unable to provide for themselves and their families.

“Oftentimes, we think about our low-income citizens regarding utility bills that they are having to pay each month,” Bruggeman said. “Our local utility companies have put in some safeguards for them as far as not disconnecting services. My advice to someone, especially low-income citizens, is to contact their local [utility company] and try to work out some type of arrangement with them. There are federal stimulus packages that have been put in place. Congress is working on a third stimulus package to provide cash to our citizens to allow them to get by during this time.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, reliable information can be difficult to come by. People often obtain information by rumors or social media, which are not always credible. However, the City of Texarkana has provided sources to keep their citizens informed about the ongoing crisis.

“Sometimes social media is not necessarily a good venue [for reliable information] when it comes to [things like] Facebook,” Bruggeman said. “There is a lot of hysteria that’s put out there, but look at information from well-respected sources. We have a local link here in the community that people can access to look at closures and cancellations. We also have news briefs that are being sent out.”

Even though the people of Texarkana have the ability to keep themselves informed, it is impossible to know for certain what the outcome of this pandemic will be. Texarkana’s leadership continues to monitor the situation for changes and is working hard to get that information to the community. However, they are unable to say for certain what the future of the Texarkana area will be.

“It’s hard to say at this particular time [whether the pandemic will improve or worsen] because we are in the early phases of the virus being involved in our area,” Bruggeman said. “It’s something that our healthcare professionals are monitoring very closely. Our elected leaders are also watching it very closely. We are hoping for a very positive outcome and are working on this particular matter each and every day. We are doing our best to keep our citizens informed about what’s going on in the community.”