Virus filling beds quickly at HCM


Active count is estimated at 140, not including Sunday’s public testing

  • Staff at Hill Country Memorial admitted six suspected COVID-19 patients at its emergency room in two hours. Cases across Gillespie County continue to rise.
    Staff at Hill Country Memorial admitted six suspected COVID-19 patients at its emergency room in two hours. Cases across Gillespie County continue to rise.

Hill Country Memorial Hospital admitted six suspected COVID-19 patients at its emergency room in two hours.

The rapid rise in cases around the county means there are nine coronavirus patients and beds are filling fast.

“We are expediting the release of some of the patients to make room,” said Dr. Jim Partin, HCM’s chief medical officer, on Tuesday afternoon. “We are having to go day by day as to whether we do elective surgeries.”

Partin said bed availability has gotten near capacity for treating coronavirus cases.

Between city, hospital and school district numbers, Partin estimated there were more than 140 active cases in Gillespie County, “… and that is without even knowing the results from Sunday’s public testing event” (held at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park).

Partin said the hospital is treating all COVID-19 patients in its ICU, which is a negative pressure room. That way, air from the room is treated through a HEPA filter and cannot filter back out into more public areas.

But, in addition to preparing for patient beds, the hospital also must react to its nursing staff needs.

“Nurses are high in demand and they also have family obligations,” said Jayne Pope, who added that HCM has nursing vacancies at present.

Pope said she hopes locals will reconsider Thanksgiving plans for big family get-togethers. “I want people to be with their families, but I’m also concerned for their safety. Some people are doing virtual Thanksgiving, which doesn’t sound like much fun, but next year will be better.”


Leader call

On Monday, local civic leaders discussed how county case numbers reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) are “nowhere near reality,” in light of rising positive COVID-19 test numbers.

That is due to lag time in reporting to the state after positive tests and a separation between local entities.

Over the past week, the city has held two community testings and saw a climbing positivity rate, City Manager Kent Myers said.

The DSHS website listed 16 active cases as of Tuesday. Those numbers do not include Fredericksburg Independent School District’s numbers which were 42 on Monday.

The DSHS numbers also do not include results from a free public testing at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park, though Myers said city staff said they are hearing from some locals who have received results and tested positive.

“It’s escalating very quickly,” Myers said.

Assistant City Manager Clinton Bailey said several more city staff had tested positive and were experiencing typical symptoms, including fever, shortness of breath, chills, headaches and more.

Dr. Partin said HCM has to adjust its staffing requirements as cases requiring hospitalization are realized.

HCM CEO Jayne Pope said she appreciated former Mayor Gary Neffendorf’s extension of the supplemental order mandating masks in stores.

“Masks will be a minimal requirement considering what we’ll be seeing across the country,” Pope said.


Remote learning

Dr. Jeff Brasher, superintendent at FISD, reported that the transition to remote learning for the high school, middle school and elementary campuses had gone well the first day, though two additional positive test results had been reported at the primary campus. (Brasher did not yet know if those were students or staff.)

The increase in positive cases had caused a strain on staffing and administrators were forced to find people to cover classes.

“It is our hope that we can return after Thanksgiving, but we will continue to monitor the situation closely,” Brasher said. “The Monday after Thanksgiving is a staff development day, so we can use that extra time to determine if we can return to in-person instruction.”

Brasher said the 2% positive metric will remain in place for now, as to when to shut down a campus.

“Our focus is to keep people safe and provide a quality education,” he said.