The town of Prosper on March 16 declared a local state of disaster due to COVID-19, joining surrounding cities and counties across Texas that have done the same.

Both Collin and Denton counties made similar declarations of disaster last week.

The town’s Emergency Operations Center was partially activated and town-sponsored activities have been canceled until at least March 27.

Municipal court proceedings have been moved to April 14.

Town offices are scheduled to retain normal operating hours, according to a press release.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement March 16 granting governmental bodies permission to hold legally required public meetings electronically.

“This action will allow governmental bodies to conduct meetings by telephone or video conference to advance the public health goal of limiting face-to-face meetings (also called “social distancing”) to slow the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19),” Paxton said in the release.

Under the new guidelines, Paxton stated that governmental bodies are still required to post online written notices with access to video conference services free of charge, electronic copies of agenda packets, provide the public with a way to participate in the electronic meetings and provide recordings of the meetings.

Video conference meetings will give the public access to meetings that would traditionally be open to the public in physical format, Prosper spokesperson Robyn Battle said in an interview with the Prosper Press.

The initial declaration canceled such meetings until further notice in an effort to reduce large group gatherings.

Since then, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has amended certain state law provisions, which now allow for telephone and video-conference meetings. This maintains compliance with the Open Meetings Act, Battle said.

The Prosper Town Council meeting scheduled for March 24 was set to be held via video conference, Battle explained.

“Planning & Zoning Commission meetings will also be held via video conference for the time being, but nonessential board and commission meetings will be postponed until further notice.,” Battle said. “The town will take action to ensure that town operations continue to the fullest extent possible while limiting public exposure to the virus.”

Prosper is also coordinating with multiple health officials to push out the most recent health information, Battle said.

The town’s emergency management personnel are in contact with county and state health officials to monitor the situation, she said.

Prosper Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Drew Watkins released a statement via video on March 19.

State testing is being waived to help teachers focus more on providing services to students as Prosper ISD facilities are closed until April, Watkins said.

“Our teachers can completely and absolutely focus on just teaching your kids the way we know they need to be taught and moving learning forward,” Watkins said in the video.

During his video statement, Watkins also emphasized the need for unity during this time.

“It’s going to take all of us to band together to get through it and we will, and we’ll be on the other side of it stronger than ever and forging ahead, but we’re going to have to do this together,” he said.