Marfa adopts disaster, shelter-in-place ordinances

MARFA — At a city-council meeting on Thursday, Marfa city officials adopted emergency measures in response to the global coronavirus pandemic, including a ordinance to continue a local disaster declaration and a shelter-in-place order.

The disaster ordinance continues and expands on rules adopted by Marfa and Presidio County on March 23. But while those rules were initially put in place for just 15 days, this new ordinance — which goes into effect “immediately” — expands them for 30 days, until April 24.

Under the new rules, hotels and other short-term rentals will remain closed with a couple exceptions, including for locals who are in self-quarantine or their caregivers.

City officials will continue to meet via Zoom video-conferencing, non-essential city personnel will work from home and city buildings like the library will be closed.

Parks will remain open but are limited to 10 visitors. Residents are “permitted and encouraged” to continue exercising outdoors while practicing social distancing but are “strongly discouraged” to engage in group sports like basketball.

Bars will remain closed under the ordinance. Restaurants can continue offering takeout and delivery options but must sanitize surfaces at least once per hour and adopt a “screening policy” for employees and exclude anyone who has a high fever, coughing or any other symptoms of COVID-19.

The city will provide an additional two weeks of paid sick leave for employees who have COVID-19, experience coronavirus-like symptoms or are caring for someone with coronavirus. The city will also not disconnect utilities like water and is waiving late fees and penalties. Residents can call Marfa City Hall at 432-729-4315 to set up a payment plan.

The city is also recommending that all evictions stop — though it’s just a recommendation since evictions are handled at the county level. But at the city-council meeting, David Beebe, a Presidio County justice of the peace, said he was not currently considering eviction requests.

Prices on groceries, medicine and other essential supplies must remain the same price as on or before March 13. Anyone who violates the ordinance could face a maximum of $1,000 in fines or up to 180 days in jail.

Marfa City Council also adopted a stricter shelter-in-place order, which goes into effect tonight (Friday 3/27) at 11:59 p.m. and lasts until April 10, unless city council rescinds or modifies it sooner. Councilmembers have said they will continue meeting regularly to reevaluate.

Under that order, Marfa residents must shelter at their residence for 14 days. The order says that “all public and private gatherings of any number of people…outside a household or living unit are prohibited” but stresses that members of a household or residence can still gather.

Still, the order has a number of exemptions for “essential” businesses and activities. People will be able to engage in outdoor activities like biking and running so long as they comply with social distancing rules. Restaurants can also continue to serve to-go food, so long as they cease operations by 10 p.m..

Residents will also still be able to take care of critical needs like grocery shopping and trips to seek healthcare. The full text of the shelter-in-place order is available here, and the ordinance continuing the local disaster declaration is available here.