Local businesses and organizations are taking proactive measures as requested by federal and state officials to help stem the spread of the new coronavirus.
Some businesses, like Whataburger, McDonald’s and Starbucks, are adopting grab-and-go processes as they close their seating areas to the public. An employee at Starbucks in Paris on Tuesday confirmed the change, adding that the drive-thru would remain open and customers could still come inside to pick up their drink to go.
McDonald’s Corporate said it was closing dining rooms and PlayPlaces to the public and it was urging franchisees to do the same. Employees at the Lamar Avenue store said they were aware of communication from corporate, but the owners had not yet decided to close the dining area Tuesday morning.
Whataburger announced dining room closures at all locations from 3 p.m. Tuesday forward. The restaurant will continue to serve customers through the drive-thru and it will continue its 24/7 service. It also urged customers to use its app for service. Starting Thursday, the burger chain said it will introduce curbside delivery for online only orders between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Tyler’s Pizzeria announced it will remain open, but it will be providing customers disposable gloves at the buffet. Employees are “continually sanitizing all surfaces, especially video games,” an announcement on Facebook states. The pizzeria also will offer takeout and will bring it outside to customers. For the rest of March, there is 15% off all takeout orders and the restaurant’s 2 for $20 Tuesday adult buffet special is available every day.
Local retailers also were taking steps to curb hours. Kroger and Aldi began rationing items over the weekend, Walmart announced its 24-hour stores would be open to customers from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Dollar General Corp. urged its stores to dedicate the first hour of each shopping day to senior shoppers while also closing an hour early to restock and clean stores. A store manager at the Dollar General on Bonham Street said the plan was discussed during a 7 a.m. Tuesday conference call with managers.
Brookshire’s in Paris announced Saturday it would modify its hours for preventative sanitation and restocking. On Tuesday, the store announced on Facebook limits on ground beef, fresh chicken, eggs, milk, ramen, bread, water and other items.
“We are continuing to receive shipments and restock shelves. We're in this together and it’s important to remain calm. As friends and neighbors let’s continue to come together to support one another and be kind,” the store’s Facebook post stated.
Meanwhile, Bath and Body Works and Belk in Paris announced the closure of their stores from Tuesday through March 30. A phone recording at the Paris location along Lamar Avenue confirmed the local Bath and Body Works closure. An employee said they were told employees would continue to be paid during the closure. Belk posted its notice on Facebook. The notice encouraged customers to shop online at Belk.com or through the mobile app.
Cinemark corporate also announced it will be temporarily closing all its theaters on Wednesday “until we believe it is safe to once again welcome moviegoers to our auditoriums.” Employees at Paris’s Cinemark 8 said they couldn’t confirm the information and referred questions to Cinemark’s 800-number customer service line. A representative confirmed the closure would affect Paris.
Cinemark said it is extending the expiration date for all Cinemark Movie Rewards points until June 30, and it was pausing Movie Club membership while theaters are closed. It will refund all advance purchase tickets as well, the notice states.
Local banks are also taking action, with Liberty National Bank, Lamar National Bank, Peoples Bank and First Federal temporarily closing their lobbies to the public. Guaranty Bank & Trust also announced limited in-person services, available by calling 888-572-9881.
“We will reopen our lobbies as soon as it is safe to do so. We will continue to support our employees, customers and communities in every way that we can during this period,” a Liberty National Bank news release stated.
“We take our customers’ and employees’ health and well being very seriously,” Lamar National Bank President Greg Wilson said. “The Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention) is recommending social distancing and limiting gatherings to 10 or less to help slow the spread of coronavirus. We are committed to helping our community in this respect. Simultaneously we will continue to serve all of our customers banking needs.”
Liberty’s drive-ins will be open for normal operation, and employees will be available to offer customers remote help. Limited in-person appointments are available for customers needing loans, new account services, safety deposit box access and bookkeeping services. To schedule an appointment, call 903-785-5555.
Lamar National’s drive-thru hours will be unaffected and the bank encouraged the use of its online and mobile banking options. Customers needing access to safety deposit boxes or other in-person needs are asked to 903-785-0701. The customer service department in Paris is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 903-737-4641. The bank’s main number is 903-785-0701.
Peoples Bank said it will extend services offered through the drive-thru to include cash advances, cashier’s checks and debit card needs.
“In addition to the drive-thru facilities, our night depositories, located both at our 35 S. Plaza location and at the 2805 Lamar Ave. location are available for your deposit or loan payment needs,” the bank’s news release states. “Any other functions that are typically only available in our lobby or offices, such as loans, new accounts, or access to safe deposit boxes shall be coordinated by a bank employee to find the best way to accommodate our customer’s needs.”
Customers were encouraged to call 903-783-3800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional banking needs.
First Federal said access to safe deposit boxes can be scheduled by phone. Other appointments can be accepted as necessary by calling 903-784-0881. Drive-thru services downtown will now be open until 5:30 p.m. every day.
All banks asked customers to expect increased traffic in the drive-thru lanes, and each urged customers to make use of mobile and online banking options.
And Verizon Russell Cellular in Paris is changing its business hours to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will close on Sundays. Store representatives said customers are urged to pay their bills online. For service, customers are asked to use any of the retailers technical support team phone numbers.
Russell Cellular’s corporate website states the company has implemented additional disinfecting and deep-cleaning processes within its retail facilities and corporate offices including: disinfecting all solid surfaces in showrooms, inventory rooms, bathrooms, devices, and “high touch” surface areas.
“We are doing everything in our power to safely provide products and services for our customers while caring for the well-being of our employees,” said Jeff Russell, president and CEO.
United Way of Lamar County closes tax program
The United Way of Lamar County’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program is closed in a proactive measure to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
“Our first priority is the safety and health of our volunteers, clients and the community,” the organization stated in an emailed release.
If the program can be reopened before the end of this year’s tax filing season, which remains set at April 15, the public will be notified, the United Way reported.
President Donald Trump in an address last week mentioned a possible delay in the tax deadline, but no change has yet been made.
Lamar County Meals on Wheels closed
The Lamar County Human Resources Council and Meals on Wheels will be closed to the public until further notice.
The closure is in effect today and is a decision made as part of the organization’s emergency management plan, the LCHRC stated on Facebook. It is a precautionary measure to ensure the health and safety of clients, the post states. Clients will still receive meals, which will be delivered by Meals on Wheels staff.
“Those with business to conduct with the agency should do so by phone 903-784-2580, mail, or email,” the post states.
SAT canceled, ACT rescheduled due to virus concerns
In response to the evolving coronavirus situation, College Board has canceled the May 2 SAT administration and the March 28 makeup exams for the March 14 test. Students registered for May or who do not receive March scores because of the irregularity will receive refunds, College Board stated in a release.
The June 6 test date has not yet been canceled. College Board also is exploring the possibility of adding an international SAT administration later this school year.
Meanwhile, ACT has rescheduled its April 4 date to June 13. All students registered for the April 4 date will receive an email with instructions for next steps, the company said.
“ACT is committed to making every effort to help those students impacted by this test date change, particularly those high school seniors who are facing deadlines for fall 2020 college admission,” ACT CEO Marten Roorda said.
TxDOT closes lobbies, asks employees to tele-work
The Texas Department of Transportation also is taking action by canceling all in-person public hearings and gatherings through April 3, noting that date is subject to change. The move excludes the Texas Transportation Commission meeting on March 26, which will be addressed separately. TxDOT said it will offer virtual participation for the public when possible.
Construction projects will continue, officials said, although the lobbies of TxDOT’s 12 Travel Information Centers are closed until further notice. Safety rest areas along highways will remain open.
As awareness is key, on Saturday, TxDOT began sharing safety messages on its digital highway signs throughout the state. These messages include, “Give Xtra Space, With Each Other, And On The Road” and “Hands Clean, 2 Beat Covid-19, Be on TX Team.” These are short, easy to read messages to help reinforce the importance of preventing the spread of the virus.
In conjunction with Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s disaster declaration related to COVID-19, TxDOT is also requiring its office-based employees to telework beginning Monday.
Kiwanis cancels all meetings through April
Paris Kiwanis Club President Denise Kornegay has announced that all club meetings and other activities that would involve more than 10 people have been canceled through the end of April.
The recommendation came from International President Daniel Vigneron, she stated in a Facebook post. Small group activities, such as stocking the shelves at the Downtown Food Pantry and ramp building, will continue, the post stated.
Young Title moves to in-person appointments, electronic closings
Sydney Young of Young Title said her company will continue closings even with the current self-distancing being rolled out across the nation, state, and city. She's asking customers to ensure their communications occur on secure platforms and by phone calls, emails, virtual meetings, and even by fax machines if need be.
"In order to protect the safety of all, our preferred method of closing is officially by eClosing, except as legally prohibited (Home Equity and when using Power of Attorney)," she said in a news release. "You may also close with a trusted mobile notary, but you must sign within the notary’s presence. You/she must collect identify proof for us."
Healthy customers may conduct closings by appointment, and parties will no longer close at the same time. Nonessential people may not attend, she said. Self-distancing and sanitation will be exercised.
Paris, Red River County libraries cancel programs
As a preventative measure to help limit the spread of COVID-19, The Paris Public Library has canceled all children’s or adult programs and use of the Gallery Meeting Room, Library Supervisor Ron Hervey said.
Public computer access will be limited to one hour per person per day. All other Paris Library services are still available at this time.
On Sunday, the Red River County Public Library closed its doors to the public. It is offering drive-up and carry-out services to help serve customers. Items will be cleaned and disinfected between uses.
Customers were encouraged to use the card catalog at rrlibrary.org. Services may be requested by email, email@example.com, through Facebook message, by calling 903-427-3991 or by text at 580-579-0511.
JCPenney to close until at least April 2
JCPenney in Paris will remain open through 7 p.m. Wednesday before closing until at least April 2, store employees confirmed.
“With the effects of the outbreak being felt more each day, our primary concern and area of focus is and has been on the health and safety of our associates, our customers, and our communities,” said Jill Soltau, CEO of JCPenney. “We know this is a critical, unprecedented time and our thoughts are with those who have been impacted.”
The company will continue to monitor the situation and follow guidance from the CDC and local, state, and federal health officials and will reassess or adjust its policies accordingly as the situation unfolds.
Customers can continue to shop online at the company’s flagship store, jcp.com, or through its app and receive free shipping on orders $49 or more.
Brookshire's seeks public help for elder, immunocompromised shopping hour
Brookshire's Assistant Store Manager Kaleb Walker said the store wants to provide a safe shopping time for the elderly and the immunocompromised amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Walker said the store hasn't received clearance to enforce a shopping hour, so he's hoping the public will lend a hand to allow senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems an opportunity to shop between 8 and 9 a.m. Senior citizens also will receive a 5% discount every day of the week during the public health crisis.
Red River Credit Union to close lobby starting Friday
Red River Credit Union has decided to temporarily close access to all branch lobbies beginning Friday. Drive-thru lanes at branches will remain open regular operating hours. Hours may be extended as needed. Branches without drive-thru access will be closed and members are asked to visit the next closest branch.
Members are encouraged to check the website, rrfcu.com/covid-19 and Facebook for updates.
Banking needs may also be handled through Online Banking, Mobile Banking with DeposZip (Mobile Check Deposit), Extended ATM Network, RO$EY (our Automated Teller), or contact the Phone Center at 903-735-3000. Phone Center hours will be extended to 6 p.m. beginning Friday until further notice.
For Debit Card replacement, Safe Deposit Box access, or other special banking situations, please call 903-735-3000 to request an appointment.
Paris recycling suspended as recycler closes doors for COVID-19
Effective immediately, the City of Paris is suspended its recycling efforts as its recycler, Choctaw Recycling Center, has shut its doors due to the coronavirus. The suspension will remain in effect until further notice.
Questions may directed to 903-782-9266.