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Smith, Gregg county stay-at-home orders to expire at 11:59 p.m.

Both Smith and Gregg county officials announced their respective stay-at-home orders will expire with the state's order on Thursday night.

TYLER, Texas — Smith and Gregg county officials are holding their weekly press conference to update the region on the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of Thursday, there are 144 cases of COVID-19 in East Texas with 85 recoveries. The county announced its fourth death from COVID-19 complications. 

The county reported a third employee at the Smith County Jail tested positive for COVID-19. In all, four inmates and three employees tested positive at the jail. Of those, one of the employees has recovered and is back on the job.

RELATED: THURSDAY, APRIL 30: Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in East Texas nearing 1,200

Judge Nathaniel Moran says the county's stay-at-home will expire on its own terms at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, and he does not have any plans to issue a further stay-at-home order at this time. However, the disaster declaration will remain in place so the county will still be able to use the resources disaster declarations allow.

Judge Moran also says some county offices will begin to reopen slowly. However, jury cases remain postponed until June 1, due to the order by the Texas Supreme Court.

Judge Moran also address residents' behaviors concerning reopening. He says that while the county and state slowly reopen, it is up to residents to ensure they act responsibly to prevent further spread of the virus.

During the Q&A section, Judge Moran says no one in the county was cited for disobeying the county's stay-at-home order. 

Judge Bill Stoudt of Gregg County says his stay-at-home order will also end Thursday night.

There are 84 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Gregg County, include 43 recoveries.

Judge Stoudt says the courthouse will reopen Friday and other county offices will begin to open in phases. 

George Roberts of NET Health says Harvard University will use Smith County and the City of Tyler as a case study on joint operations. 

Tyler City Manager Edward Broussard also spoke at the meeting, breaking down how to safely reopen the dining rooms of restaurants. According to Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order, restaurants, retail stories, movie theaters and other establishments will be limited to only 25% occupancy. 

Broussard provided four steps that business owners can use to determine the occupancy:

1. Determine which type/use your business is best classified in.

2. Determine/estimate the total square footage of the area that can be occupied by the public/customer. For “Business Areas” and “Mercantile/Retail” spaces, just

determine the overall square footage of entire space. Restaurants should focus primarily on the dining area only.

3. Refer to chart and determine the appropriate factor to use in calculating the occupant load, based on the Governor’s current directions on limiting occupancy by 25%.

4. Divide the total square footage by this factor to help determine the number of occupants to allow in your business.

Businesses classified as essential are not bound by the new regulations but have to abide by the regulations already set for essential businesses.

The city set the following guidelines for the different types of businesses set to open Friday:

  • Restaurants (Dining Rooms): 60 square feet per person
  • Businesses (Doctor's Offices, Insurance) : 400 square feet per person
  • Mercantile (Department Stores): 240 square feet per person

Bob Westbrook of the East Texas Restaurant Association says member restaurants will display a sticker outlining a promise to visitors. 

Among the items in the promise are: 

  • Continuing to practice safe sanitation
  • Staff must pass health check before each shift
  • All seating will comply with social distancing guidelines
  • Hand sanitizer and washing stations will be available
  • Utensils, menus, place settings and other items will be single-use or sanitized after every use

Westbrook urges anyone who may have symptoms to not come out to a restaurant and put customers and staff at risk.

As some restaurants are choosing not to reopen, Westbrook encourage people to reach out to a restaurant before they go out to make sure they are open. Westbrook also encouraged people to make reservations early. 

Thursday's press conference will be the last regularly scheduled press conference featuring city, county and health officials. However, there will still be frequent release of information by officials moving forward.

This article will be updated frequently during the meeting. 

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