Active case count down, caution still urged to prevent more
The coronavirus case count and other indicators for Gillespie County and the region are showing positive signs and local officials hope this continues.
Dr. Jim Partin, chief medical officer for Hill Country Memorial Hospital, said Tuesday in spite of the now four deaths due to the virus, the active case count and rolling positivity rate have both declined in the past week.
“I do feel like we are trending in the right direction, not just here but throughout much of Region 8,” Partin said of the 28-county part of Texas Department of State Health Services territory. (The region stretches southward to La Salle County and from Val Verde County on the Mexican border eastward to Calhoun County on the Texas coast.)
“It’s not just here either. The numbers in San Antonio are trending downward, including hospitalizations, ICU patients, ventilations are all getting better in the area,” Partin said. “We know the races are coming up and schools will be opening soon, so we need to continue to wear masks and wash hands and put this virus to rest as best we can.”
HCM CEO Jayne Pope thanked the city for its leadership in calling for the mask ordinance on June 29.
“When we think about where we were pre-July 4th, and where we could have been now without the ordinance, the difference could have been devastating,” Pope said. “The mask mandate and education from the city has been critical for us.”
Partin said Gillespie County continues to dodge the high case count in spite of the thousands of visitors to the city.
“We are on calls Monday through Friday with entities in District 8 and we are so fortunate our numbers are significantly lower than some other rural areas in the region,” Partin said. He credited the smaller increase in cases over the past month to the safety precautions taken by locals.
Of the four deaths in Gillespie County, Partin said while he could not give names of the deceased, he did say the age range of those succumbing to COVID-19 was from the high 40s to the low 80s. (The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, prevents the disclosure of other medical information from hospitals due to privacy concerns.)
“It was not just all 80-year-olds,” he said. “This virus can have devastating effects on everyone.”
City Manager Kent Myers said Tuesday that the June 23 testing held here by the Texas Military Department shows a 6% positivity rate, with 17 of the 242 tests administered returned positive.
A second testing held last Sunday had 279 administered. Results from those tests have not yet been received by local officials.
Myers said he was unsure if the 17 positives were included in the current DSHS case count.
Work is continuing and officials are hopeful for establishment of a contact tracing entity headed by volunteers. This could potentially be helpful as school ramps up and exposures to any positive individuals.
“We have 50 people who have volunteered to be contact tracers,” Partin said. “But this program has to be sanctioned by a local health authority, and that authority must be established by the county judge.”
Partin said Dr. Jim Lindley, former CEO of HCM, has volunteered to lead the authority and plans to meet with County Judge Mark Stroeher soon to explain the program.
Partin said the authority would be sanctioned by the state and not leave the county with any liability, it would come with a high-quality training program, and it would be done at no cost to Gillespie County taxpayers.