HCM urges officials to implement shelter in place orders


*This story has been updated for claification.*

Leadership from Hill Country Memorial sent a request Wednesday afternoon to officials from the City of Fredericksburg and Gillespie County to implement shelter in place orders in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

HCM CEO Jayne Pope and Dr. James Partin, chief medical officer, asked for the shelter in place order to begin immediately and last through at least midnight on April 5.

The two stated that more than 60 COVID-19 test results are pending locally and the community could see its first case as early as the end of the week or early next week. Partin said on a call with city leaders on Wednesday that he fully expects some of those tests to be returned positive.

“As leaders at Hill Country Memorial, your health care organization, we implore you to implement strong shelter-in-place provisions, effective immediately for our city and county,” HCM staff said.

Early Wednesday morning, officials from the City of Fredericksburg and Gillespie County stated they had held no conversations about enforcing shelter in place orders. Some counties and cities around the state are doing so in hopes of stemming the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases.

“While we continue to care for our communities during this time, we also need to be able to care for urgent and emergent cases that arise,” Pope and Partin stated in their letter. “By not ordering a shelter-in-place, it may limit HCM’s ability to appropriately care for all who need our services.”

HCM staff is also aware that hospitals in Austin and San Antonio are seeing a rise of COVID-19 patients and if full, patients may be transferred to Hill Country Memorial.

Partin said that HCM does not have a lot of testing supplies and therefore will only test persons with moderate or severe symptoms.

“If they have very mild symptoms, they should plan on staying home,” Partin said. “If we had unlimited tests available, we would actually be able to see where this is heading. We just don’t have that capability yet.”

Hospital officials also attached a chart highlighting the need for potential need for beds versus its usual bed count, plus a potential surge in need of ventilators, which are in short supply around the U.S.

With zero social distancing practiced by day 56, the local hospital could see 152 hospitalized, 77 of those in ICU and 43 needing ventilation machines.

“Because of the risk of the rapid spread of the virus, and the need to protect the most vulnerable members of our community, which for us is disproportionately high, we strongly urge you to order a shelter in place beginning immediately and lasting through at least 11:59 p.m. on April 5,” officials wrote.

According to the Texas Health and Human Services Department, Kendall and Burnet counties have reported their first cases as well as Llano and Blanco counties.

“While we don’t have a case, we do know that it is coming,” HCM staff said. “We also generally know how fast it will spread once it gets here.”