Thursday, December 03, 2020

Coronavirus Emergency Deepens

 

San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter stressed the serious outbreak of COVID-19 in West Texas and the impact on Shannon Medical Center.  Tom Green County Judge Steve Floyd could not attend the meeting as he'd been exposed to someone who tested positive.

Had 61 people been murdered in the Concho Valley in November citizens would be in an uproar. That's how many people died of COVID-19 last month.  

Deaths continue at a rapid pace for December, eight patients in three days.   It's long past time for everyone to do their part.  Yet, that's the message local leaders continue to give.  Lives depend on citizens wearing masks, social distancing and frequently washing hands until a vaccine can be administered in sufficient numbers to protect our population. 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

City Reports Eight COVID-19 Deaths

 

The City of San Angelo reported eight COVID-19 deaths today, exceeding the seven announced on August 7, 2020.

Deaths from COVID-19 soared in November, rising by 58 with one day left in the month.  Our community is in the midst of a serious public health crisis.  Protecting self and fellow citizens is priority #1 until vaccines can be delivered and administered to achieve herd immunity.

City Council should shed some like on our public health emergency preparedness activities and get as much information out as possible on patterns in transmission.  Public health officials have not gone before Council in quite some time.  

Leadership is required in times of crisis.  Mayor Gunther and Dr. Vretis have been front and center but those with official roles have not informed Council of the status of our growing emergency and plans to stem the rising tide of deaths.

Update 11-30-20:  The City reported three more deaths from COVID-19 bringing the total to 61 for the month of November and 151 since the pandemic began.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Over Forty COVID Deaths Since November 10th

 

On 11-10-20 the City of San Angelo reported 99 COVID-19 deaths.  Eighteen days later the total is 140.  

Over 100 patients are in Shannon Medical Center for COVID-19 treatment.  Shannon reported 102 COVID patients for each of the last three days.

San Angelo and Tom Green County are in the midst of a public health crisis.  Citizen behavior will determine our course until a vaccine becomes widely available.  Neighbors care for one another.  It's time for everyone to step up and take actions to minimize the spread of this pandemic. 

Update 11-29-20:  The City reported eight new COVID-19 deaths today bringing the total to 148.  This exceeds the seven deaths reported o August 7, 2020.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Tom Green County Office Closed due to COVID-19

 

The Tom Green County Clerk's office is closed until November 23, 2020 after half the staff in the office that produces records for the public tested positive for the coronavirus.

Tom Green County Commisssioner's Court took no action on a plan to use off duty police officers to request citizen compliance with mask and social distancing commitments made by local employers.

County Judge Steve Floyd said in last week's press conference, "My opinion of these (holding up a mask) is not real high."  He did say mask use is needed to turn the bad tide.  The Judge asked people who don't want to wear masks to stay away from places that require them.

Locally 86 people are in the hospital for COVID-19, exceeding the number shared last Friday that shifts coronavirus management over to the Texas Governor and Local Health Authority Dr. James Vretis.  

Signs of coronavirus spread are in county offices.  Action is needed.  Wear a mask, social distance and take Vitamin D.  For most citizens a vaccine is months away.  We need to get everyone to the point when effective vaccines are available.  That's what a community does.

Update 11-18-20:  City of San Angelo indicated Shannon Medical Center has 88 inpatients with COVID-19.   The County website has no information on the Clerk's office being closed.  No word yet on Judge Floyd losing his local discretion. 

 

Update 11-22-20:  Judge Floyd informed the public that the County Clerk's office reopened on Friday.  Floyd did that in a press conference hosted by the City.

Update 11-25-20:  Shortly after reopening the District Clerk's office Elizabeth McGill submitted her resignation.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Officials Hold COVID-19 Press Conference

 

The City of San Angelo and Tom Green County held a press conference this morning regarding the surge in positive cases in our community and record COVID-19 hospitalizations at Shannon Medical Center.  Mayor Gunter continued her encouragement to citizens to act responsibly to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.  County Judge Steve Floyd announced a new program where off duty officers would visit business establishments to check compliance with CDC guidelines.  Officers would encourage owners and customers to fulfill their commitment to reduce the spread via social distancing, use of hand sanitizers and wearing of masks.

Shannon Medical Director Dr. Chris Barnett said 67 patients are currently hospitalized for COVID-19.  Once enough patients are hospitalized for COVID-19 in our Trauma Service region Judge Floyd loses his ability to approve events and state requirements for restaurant and bar occupancy will go into effect.  San Angelo Live's Joe Hyde tried unsuccessfully to get a local official to give him that number.  Judge Floyd gave him the equation and suggested Hyde do the math.  That number is 84 COVID-19 patients in our trauma service region.

SAISD Chief Carl Dethloff referred to a Halloween surge in cases.  For the last two months I noted increased gatherings in our neighborhood.  I would see 15-20 cars at a house during Dallas Cowboy football games.  An extended family gathered to celebrate a loved ones birthday.  SAPD officers were called to a nearby Halloween evening party.  As I drove by each event I pondered the impact on those attending and our greater community.

Detloff provided data on SAISD contact tracing, saying 98% of cases arose from outside the SAISD family.   

For months I've expected the City's public health department to provide citizens information on local compliance with CDC guidelines and any patterns revealed from contact tracing.   That has not happened.

The City is responsible for public health emergency planning.  It has been rare for Health Services Director Sandra Villareal to speak publicly on the city's response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Yes, daily data is provided on the number of new positive tests, hospitalization and deaths.  They've all hit records, which prompted today's press conference.

At the end of the meeting one gentleman asked about enforcement and fines, while another sounded off about masks being tyranny.  It was a flat ending to a press conference intended to ring alarm bells.

Oddly, City Council budgeted less money for Health Services and public health emergency preparedness in the midst of a pandemic.  Something's not adding up.

 Update 11-15-20:  Hospitalizations rose to 78 today, an increase of 15 from yesterday and 11 above the concerning number shared in the Friday press conference. 

Update 11-16-20:  Shannon has 83 patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19.  Three patients have died each of the last three days for a total of nine deaths in that period.  Deaths stand at 111 since the pandemic began.  Judge Floyd is yet to issue a statement.

Update 11-18-20:  The City reported 21 deaths from COVID-19 in the last ten days.  That's an average of over 2 deaths per day.  The city issued a press release on hospitalizations exceeding the 15%.

Update 11-23-20:  The City reported a record 90 patients are currently hospitalized for COVID-19

Friday, September 11, 2020

Tellurian Postpones Permian Global Access Pipeline


Tellurianm dropped the Permian Global Access Pipeline from phase 1 of its plans to transform the global LNG market.  PGAP would've provided West Texas natural gas to the company's planned Driftwood terminal in Louisiana.  A company presentation indicated Tellurian deferred two pipelines.


PGAP crossed tributaries feeding Twin Buttes Reservoir and Lake Nasworthy.  Landowners along Spring Creek, Dove Creek and the South Concho River can breathe a sigh of relief for now.  

Tellurian could still develop the pipeline at a later date. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

City Staff Propose Health Services Budget Cut during Pandemic


City Council will entertain a proposal to cut the Health Services budget from $468,203 to $462,646 for the coming fiscal year.  Health Services is responsible for public health emergency preparedness.

Public Health Emergency Preparedness is responsible for planning, preparing for and responding to all types of public health threats and emergencies that impact the health of San Angelo. 
Other department charges for Health Services are $113,900 but there is no explanation of that number in Council's budget workshop packet.

Our current COVID-19 outbreak caused 364 hospitalizations and 40 deaths to date.  Roughly 50 patients have been "currently hospitalized" for the last two and a half weeks.

This public health crisis resulted in serious illness and loss of life for area citizens.  City staff should explain our local response to Council and the funds needed to address areas needing attention.

Mayor Brenda Gunter is doing her part, however it is not clear City Council is in support.  I have seen one Councilperson, Mrs. Billie DeWitt, offer her gratitude and support to the Mayor for her hard work.  Hopefully that will change.

Update 8-17-20:   Council talked about COVID-19 under health insurance but not as a public health emergency and what responses may be needed in the coming fiscal year.

Friday, August 07, 2020

Positivity Rate Remains High


San Angelo's post Memorial Day coronavirus explosion waned slightly after peaking with two nursing home cases announcement.  Our community has a long way to go to get below the recommended 5% positivity rate.  Tom Green County is currently at 17% positive since testing began and over 24% positive the last seven days.

Update 8-11-20:  Local Health Authority James Vretis said testing volume is way down, even though our positivity rate remains high.   Did the illness suddenly go away or are public health officials flying blind?  Time will tell.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Case Doubling Rate Beginning to Slow


Tom Green County's COVID-19 cases finally slowed its rate of doubling since the end of May.  While an early sign it could indicate citizens are taking our epidemic more seriously.   Hospitalizations remain over 40 patients per day and unfortunately deaths keep creeping up.  Twenty people in our area have died from this disease.

Neighbors take care of each other.  We can get through this together.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

San Angelo's 28% Positive Rate Also Applies to Council

The City of San Angelo is in the midst of a public health emergency, according to its declaration.  A city function is public health emergency preparedness.  Yesterday, four citizens died from the coronavirus, over a 25% increase in deaths.


One might expect local public health officials to update City Council on the emergency, identify areas needing improvement and seeking support and resources from Council to do so.  That did not happen on 7-21 and has not occurred since cases have gotten out of control.


Mayor Brenda Gunter and Local Health Authority Dr. James Vretis have been front and center in tackling our local health emergency.  Months ago City Attorney Theresa James indicated she was doing contact tracing. Cases have since soared.


The city has gone to having people with positive tests submit a form to be released from their caseload.  In a recent interview Dr. Vretis indicated some citizens are not taking their situation seriously.

I submitted public comment for the last Council meeting requesting city staff update City Council on our local outbreak.  Only one member spoke after public comments, Councilperson Billie DeWitt,  Mrs. DeWitt complimented the Mayor on her hard work.  No other Council member spoke on the public health crisis facing our community, which was not on their agenda.

Consider how the number of people in the hospital on a daily basis rose over the last month.



Mayor Gunter shared many concerning statistics.  Yet at the end of the meeting no Council member asked for an update from city staff on our health emergency when planning their next meeting.


Broken sewer lines got more attention from Council.  The Mayor is swimming upstream on this crisis.  As most Council members have held their tongue it is hard to know if  they are fouling the water.


Two out of seven council members, 28%, have been vocal on a huge problem the city is charged with addressing.  Ironically, the positive test result rate for the last three weeks is almost 28%.  Both numbers show San Angelo has a long way to go. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Texas and Tom Green County See Rising Cases


Texas experienced a significant increase in positive COVID-19 cases since June 1st, recently exceeding 10,000 new cases per day, not once, but five times.

Our local graph looks much the same.


Tom Green County had 106 confirmed coronavirus cases omn June 1st.  It's now 1,343.   Rising case counts means more hospitalizations and deaths.



One June 1st Tom Green County had 19 active cases.  That number soared to 802 on July 16th.


What are the local health department's plans to stem this concerning rise?  Local elected officials should want to hear such plans at their upcoming City Council meeting. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Cases Doubling at a Faster Rate


The time it has taken for positive COVID-19 cases to double was nearly three weeks as cases went from 95 to over 190.  The next doubling took less than two weeks (190 to 380).  The most recent doubling took less than ten days (from 380 to 760).  This pattern, along with Tom Green County's 25.8% positivity rate, should be most concerning to elected officials and local public health officers.

San Angelo City Council plans to meet Tuesday for a budget workshop.  Council has not heard a presentation on our community's deteriorating public health situation, which includes nearly two dozen positive COVID-19 cases for residents at Regency House, an area nursing facility.

Public Health Emergency Preparedness is responsible for planning, preparing for and responding to all types of public health threats and emergencies that impact the health of San Angelo.
What increased resources are needed beyond the City Attorney for contact tracing as cases have soared?  How has mask usage changed over time, especially since Governor Abbott's executive order?  Should cases and hospitalizations continue rising at a rapid rate how long before our local hospitals are challenged in responding to the level of need?

City Council representatives know people in their districts and are in a position to influence behavior.  So far, Mayor Brenda Gunter has been out front in leading on this issue with Local Health Authority Dr. James Vretis.  I am sure health department staff have worked hard, but that department has been whittled down severely since I moved her in 1995.   Today's city news revealed:

Our health department is behind on getting people released from quarantine/isolation due to the increase in positive cases of COVID-19. If you are currently under quarantine or isolation (either a positive COVID-19 case or a contact to a known case) and have met the requirements to be released, please fill out this form on our website.
Our current case explosion merits public presentation and sharing of strategies to stem the increase in cases.  Data on the effectiveness of those strategies could be shared.  Tuesday, July 21st is Council's next opportunity to lead on this issue.  We will know by then if there has been another doubling (from 760 to 1520).

Update 7-14-20:  Case count is now 1160, with active cases at 664.  Nine people have died.  Eight deaths occurred in the last three weeks

Update 7-15-20:  Case count is now 1265, with active cases at 740.  Texas set new records today with 10,791 new positive cases and 110 COVID-19 deaths.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Cases Continue Rising



Positive COVID-19 cases for Tom Green County rose by 357 this week.  Shannon Medical Center's Dr. Chris Barnett informed the community that they use the rapid turnaround PCR test for ER patients and hospital staff.  The turnaround time in Shannon's drive-through testing is 7-10 days.  He noted citizens have sought antibody testing and those results can be used to identify people able to donate plasma that can be used to treat coronavirus patients.  Numbers from the antigen test started on June 30th and 54 are included in this week's total.

COVID-19 invaded at least one area nursing home, Regency House   The company's website had a statement:

On Saturday, we learned that a Regency House resident who was sent to the hospital had a positive test result for COVID-19. At that time, we arranged to test all team members and residents to manage the situation proactively. The results have been received and 23 residents and 8 team members have had a positive test result. All effected residents have been moved to an isolated wing to prevent spread of the virus. The effected team members are isolating at home. 
The company had positive cases in nursing homes, one in Austin and another in San Antonio. 

The weekly report for our area indicated a large number of pending tests, nearly 1,100,  


With a seven day average positivity rate of almost 26% there could be an additional 280 cases in the testing pipeline.  Dr. Barnett said testing would get worse before it gets better due to lack of capacity and a shortage of supplies.. His worry is the rate of increase of new cases, a portion of which end up in the hospital.


Dr. Barnett encouraged everyone to do their part to minimize spread.  That means wear a mask, social distance, stay away from large gatherings, wash your hands and don't touch your mouth, nose or eyes.

City Council will hold a special session on Tuesday, July 14th but it won't be on the coronavirus.  It's a budget session dealing with water, wastewater, storm water and solid waste/landfill.

Update:  The City announced 58 new positive cases today and two additional deaths.  Currently 39 patients are hospitalized for COVID-19.  Total positives are 919, 865 PCR tests and 54 antigen tests.  Six people have died from the disease to date in Tom Green County  Texas had 10,351 new cases today.  Sadly, that's a new record.

Update 7-14-20:  Case count is now 1160, with active cases at 664.  Nine people have died.  Eight deaths occurred in the last three weeks    Texas had 10,745 new cases yesterday, breaking the old record.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

San Angelo's Tale of Two Holidays


The City of San Angelo announced 84 new COVID-19 cases today.  There are 39 people currently hospitalized with the coronavirus.  From the Friday of Memorial Day weekend to the Sunday after July 4th cases rose by 528 or 555%.


As of July 3rd 63 patients have been hospitalized with the coronavirus.  That number is at least 75 as of today's report.

City Council will entertain a budget amendment for nearly $1.1 million in CARES funding and coronavirus related expenses.  What is not on the agenda is a report on the massive increase in cases and the city health department's strategies to address the rise.

Mayor Gunter has been out front on the pandemic and encouraged citizens to act in ways that minimize COVID-19 spread.  She recently wrote:

Leadership is thinking about others, not just about yourself. Leadership is not standing in the middle, it is making the tough choices even when you know you will be criticized and ridiculed. We, as a City and as elected officials have been challenged to make all the right decisions to protect the health and safety of all our citizens

I know that our local health authority and our city attorney, in conjunction with myself as Mayor and our City Council, have worked every day to try to make the right decisions with the information we have.
I believe the Mayor.  As the situation deteriorates in our community I want to hear from our elected and paid officials about plans to address the rise in cases and hospitalizations.  City Council is an appropriate forum for such a presentation.  I hope it happens soon.  

Update 7-6-20:  The City released two press releases today on COVID-19.  The first stated that coronavirus testing is only done to confirm a positive case.  Officials referred to the item as a clarification.  I would characterize it as the first time leaders have informed the community of its testing strategy.  The second informed the community that the public will not be allowed at the upcoming boat races on Lake Nasworthy.  A gold standard pandemic response includes halting inbound infections, as well as aggressive testing and quick/thorough contact tracing.  How many boaters are coming from areas with a high incidence of COVID-19?     

Update 7-7-20:   City Council approved the nearly $1.1 million budget amendment for CARES Act funds from the state.  There was no public presentation on our deteriorating COVID-19 situation and the city's comprehensive response, however officials indicated they would soon pay for housing coronavirus patients so they can recover in isolation.  Officials said the city is not testing patients therefore CARES Act funds cannot be used for testing at the present time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Clearing Up Released vs Recovered COVID-19 Patients


Health Department Director Sandra Villareal tried to explain to San Angelo Live the difference between recovered and released COVID-19 patients. Finding her explanation confusing I researched the difference.

Most communities are not classifying cases as recovered. Arizona will report recovered patients but the method for calculating the measure is unclear.  AZ Central reported:

Jessica Rigler, the Arizona Department of Health Services assistant director, elaborated on the complexity of defining “recovered,” saying there is no standard definition. The state initially took repeated tests of infected individuals to find out exactly when they tested negative, she said, but as case numbers increased and testing supplies fell short, that was no longer viable. 

The state considered an algorithm for identifying recovered cases by going back 30 days and comparing total cases with death certificates. By knowing the number of people who died in the past month, the state can estimate the number of people who have recovered, Rigler said.  

Minnick, the spokesman, did not answer a question about the final process the state used to determine who counts as recovered.  Only a handful of other states report on recovered cases.

Recovered patients should meet clinical criteria that is consistently applied.  COVID-19 is a tricky virus that can harm the body in multiple ways.  Clinicians do not know the long term implications of the disease so using the word recovered could be premature.

The City's website states the following on released patients:

The removal of positive cases from quarantine/isolation is based on guidance from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and Center for Disease Control (CDC); therefore, the health department will report the number of positive cases that have been removed from isolation in adherence to these guidelines. Because removal from isolation is on a case-by-case basis, a cumulative count will be reported on a weekly basis every Friday. 

As a local health department, we are under the umbrella of DSHS. When it comes to case management, DSHS does not report on the medical management, recovery or follow-up of patients on any infectious disease. We follow suit.

DSHS and the local health department are focused on identification of infectious disease (in this case COVID-19) and the notification of contacts of said case(s), as well as providing and adhering to guidance issued by DSHS or CDC. The health department would also report any deaths associated with the disease. Medical management, follow-up and recovery information of patients are between the individual and their medical provider or physician. 
The CDC utilizes three different strategies to release patients from isolation.  They are:

1.  Symptoms based strategy
2.  Time based strategy
3.  Test based strategy -- A test-based strategy is contingent on the availability of ample testing supplies and laboratory capacity as well as convenient access to testing.
Sandra mentioned the first two strategies.  When asked Villareal said "they can retest" but framed it as a means to become a plasma donor.  I thought the test for antibodies after having the disease was different from the test indicating the presence of active COVID-19 virus.

San Angelo's Local Health Authority recently ordered citizens to wear masks in stores.  His order revealed the "length of time it takes to get a COVID-19 test result back has increased to seven days."  That may explain why the City is not using a test based strategy to release patients from isolation.   It simply takes too long.

Update 7-7-20:  The City of San Angelo informed the public of its testing strategy and its non-testing method for releasing positive patients.  Public information officials called it a clarification but it is the first communication the city had for citizens on its testing practices.  Today's City Council meeting revealed the city is not performing any tests.  Those are being done by area hospitals.

Monday, June 29, 2020

City and Goodfellow AFB Restrict Lake Nasworthy Access to July 4th Fireworks


Goodfellow Airforce Base was the first to restrict access to its Recreation Camp at Lake Nasworthy for the July 4th fireworks show.  The base website stated on June 26th "The Goodfellow Recreation Camp will not be a viewing area for the fireworks display at Lake Nasworthy."


Today the City of San Angelo announced all Lake Nasworthy parks will close Friday July 3rd at midnight and remain closed until July 13th.  It's not clear at this time if the fireworks show will go on.

Update 6-30-20:  The fireworks show is a go. The Lake Nasworthy Homeowner's Association encourages residents to come out, legally park and treat the fireworks show like a drive in theater.  As normal viewing will be closed this sounds a recipe for a traffic nightmare.  The trash debacle is normally seen the next morning.  Hopefully viewers will do as requested and take their refuse with them when they leave.

Twin Buttes Reservoir will be open over the July 4th weekend.  For decades the July 4th weekend was an annual trashing event.  The property remains without restroom facilities despite promises from the City, the Bureau of Reclamation and Parks and Wildlife to make improvements.

Update 7-1-20:  The Lake Nasworthy Homeowners Association announced Tuesday, June 30, that it would be moving forward with the annual fireworks show July 4. In light of this announcement, the City of San Angelo will open certain parks to allow citizens to view the fireworks. These parks will be open from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.  Lake Nasworthy parks that will be open from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. July 4:
  • Mary E Lee Beach, 2160 Mary E. Lee Road
  • South Concho Park, 1608 South Concho Drive
  • Pecan Creek Park, 8400 Country Club Road
  • Knickerbocker Park, 6402 Knickerbocker Road
  • Hillside Drive, 6600 block of Knickerbocker Road
  • Fish Hatchery Road Park, 3500 block of Country Club Road.
Update 7-3-20:  The Homeowner's Association postponed the fireworks show.  Lake Nasworthy parks are once again closed until July 13th.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Texas Reopening Pauses: Current Case Explosion


Pandemic diseases spread at a rate determined by actions of their hosts, actual and potential.  Texans mixing more resulted in an increase in positive cases in June.  I noticed the change in late May when shopping.  Few people wore a face mask as stores became increasingly crowded.

The City of San Angelo reported 31 new cases today, bringing the total to 342.  It was 95 before Memorial Day weekend.  Lots of events loom.  How many will be super spreader events?

Update 6-29-20:  Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says the coronavirus "has taken a very swift and very dangerous turn in Texas over just the past few weeks."

Update 6-30-20:  Texas had 6,975 positive cases today, a new record high. The exponential growth theory remains in play.

Update 7-17-20:  Texas new cases have been over 10,000 five times in the last week

Thursday, June 25, 2020

City Acts to Reign in Coronavirus


San Angelo officials undertook a flurry of activity to address weeks of growth in coronavirus cases.  Yesterday afternoon the city published:

The City of San Angelo has issued an order that prohibits any outdoor public events over 100 people and all public events with more than 100 people in any City facility. This is effective immediately. This also applies to outdoor events in the county unless approved by the county judge.
In addition, it requires masks to be worn in all auditoriums/theaters and performance halls by employees, volunteers and audience members.
The City gave an exception to events approved by City Council's Special Events process.


It's not clear which upcoming events fit that exception.


Wake the Desert canceled this year's event due to the coronavirus.


The flurry came after cases rose from 95 before Memorial Day weekend to 282 this afternoon. Mayor Brenda Gunter shared her concerns with citizens on March 16th.  City Council as a whole and Tom Green County Commissioners Court failed to address the growth in cases in their recent meetings.  Public health officials made no presentation and elected leaders asked no questions of those officials.

Commissioner's Court did approve spending over $1 million in coronavirus aid.


County Judge Steven Floyd did not think citizens were up for everyone wearing a mask, a component of a gold standard pandemic approach.


Another element is rigorous contact tracing.  Two days ago the city said it would classify all cases as community spread from this point forward.  The City Attorney informed Council several meetings ago that she was doing contract tracing, but that was before our local numbers soared.

This afternoon Local Health Authority Dr. Vretis ordered shoppers to wear masks to prevent further disease spread.

Effective 12:00 a.m. on June 27, 2020 all retail stores that have a posted occupancy load of 100 persons or more within Tom Green County, Texas shall require all customers 10 years or older and all employees to wear a mask or cloth that covers the mouth and nose while they are within the store or within 6 feet of a person from another household when they are outside the store and on store property.
His order revealed the "length of time it takes to get a COVID-19 test result back has increased to seven days."  A week's delay in diagnosis makes contact tracing very difficult.

That means San Angelo is behind the curve on three elements of a gold standard pandemic response, everyone wear a mask, rigorous contact tracing and aggressive testing.

Texas had a record 5,996 new cases today.  The U.S. hit a record 36,975 cases yesterday.  A gold standard pandemic response is sorely needed but elected officials don't have an appetite for it.

Update 6-26-20:  San Angelo reported 29 positive cases today (311 total), while Texas had 5,707.  The United States reached another record with more than 44,000 new cases.  Dr. Anthony Fauci said contract tracing was not going well.

Update 6-27-20:  San Angelo had 31 new cases today bringing the total to 342.   Texas passed Illinois today to become the state with the 4th largest number of cases.  Not long ago Texas was over 20,000 cases behind Illinois. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

City Council Special Meeting is Not on Coronavirus


The City of San Angelo experienced a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases since Memorial Day weekend.  Positive cases are up 170%, from 95 on May 31st  to 256 today.

City Council will hold a special meeting June 24th at 5:00 pm but the topic is not our deteriorating public health situation.  Instead, city leaders will consider spending up to $6.5 million for improvements for Goodfellow Airforce Base.

I hope base leaders inform City Council of their efforts to contain COVID-19.  Everyone on base must wear a mask.  Goodfellow has had two positive cases to date.

Mayor Gunter and Dr. James Vretis attribute the rise to people ignoring steps needed to contain the disease. 

"Each time an individual is in close contact with another, they increase their chance of exposure to coronavirus," Vretis said. "Over Memorial Day, we saw many gatherings of greater than 10 people who obviously were not from the same household."

Vretis said they have seen the percentage of shoppers wearing masks continuously decrease.
Oddly, Vretis and Mayor Gunter approved a gathering of up to 1,000 people at Lake Nasworthy in the midst of the recent rise of cases.   The Beers, Bands and BBQ Bazaar event will be held July 24-25, 2020.  In between is July 4th holiday, when families gather to celebrate the founding of our nation.

The way to get our community to a vaccine is through following public health measures.  Texas hit 5,489 new cases today.  Before Memorial Day weekend new cases ranged from 500 to 1,500 per day.   Exponential spread of the disease would be disastrous for Texas citizens.

A second person died of the disease in San Angelo and eleven people are currently hospitalized.  To survive in West Texas required fortitude and the help of neighbors.  Citizens can show both characteristics by wearing masks and social distancing.  That's mighty neighborly.

Update 6-24-20:  Texas Governor Greg Abbott said yesterday: “I did authorize local officials to have the authority to establish regulations in gatherings of 100 or more people,” he said. “This was intended to allow local authorities in particular to regulate gatherings for Fourth of July celebrations. We did not specify what restrictions or regulations they could impose. It’s possible they could require masks in such an environment. It’s going to be up to local officials in that regard.”

The City announced 16 new COVID-19 cases today bringing the total to 272.  Texas daily case count reached a record 5,551.  Council approved the $6.5 million funding for Goodfellow improvements needed for the grant application.  A Goodfellow leader spoke but on the project was silent as to coaching Council on coronavirus control.

Update 6-25-20:  Mayor Gunter and County Judge Steve Floyd issued an order that prohibits any outdoor public events over 100 people and all public events with more than 100 people in any City facility.  It also equires masks to be worn in all auditoriums/theaters and performance halls by employees, volunteers and audience members. The order does not apply to events approved through City Council's Special Events process.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Coronavirus Accelerating in San Angelo


New COVID-19 cases the last four days were 15, 10, 20 and 20.  The highest daily count prior to Memorial Day weekend was seven.  Cases more than doubled since the last Friday in May.  Case, case, case, cluster, cluster, boom.  We appear to be entering the boom phase.  Everyone wear a mask.

Update 6-20-20:  The city announced nine new cases for each of the last two days.  Total is now 232 positive cases.  The state of Texas reported 4,430 new cases today, a record number.

Update 6-22-20:  Cases total 250 today.  That's a 163% increase from 5-29-20. City Council will hold a special meeting on 6-24 but it is not on the coronavirus explosion.  Council will entertain spending up to $6.5 million in improvements for Goodfellow Airforce Base.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Coronavirus Spreading in San Angelo


The number of positive COVID-19 cases soared over the last two weeks for San Angelo and Tom Green County.  City statistics revealed 53 new cases since the start of Memorial Day weekend.

City Council will deal with a possible super spreader event in their upcoming meeting.


It's not Mardi Gras but is a sizeable gathering where people are highly unlikely to wear masks and social distance.


This is the only one of two COVID-19 related agenda item Council will consider, according to the posted agenda.  The other item involves the issuance of health permits.

Should COVID-19 cases continue to rise it may be wise to postpone the Beer, Bands and BBQ event.

Update 6-15-20:  The City announced 15 new positive cases today with total positive cases reaching 164.  City officials revealed an error from April 26 when a positive case was not added to the count. That is why the total went up 16 today, 15 new plus the April error.

Update 6-16-20:  Ten new coronavirus cases today brings the total to 174.  Several council members asked about a plan to reduce the risk of attendees getting COVID-19.  Event sponsors submitted a risk minimization plan to the city prior to our recent increase of cases.  That plan was not included in council's background packet. Participants are to wear a mask and social distance.  I'm not sure why that would happen at Beer, Bands and BBQ Bazaar when it isn't happening in the grocery store.  Anyway, Council approved the event by a vote of 6 for and 0 against.  This came after Mayor Brenda Gunter encouraged citizens to self isolate to reduce disease spread at the beginning of the meeting.

Update 6-17-20:  The City announced 20 new COVID-19 cases today.  That's 45 new cases in three days.   Add the missed case from April and the total testing positive is now 194.

Update 6-18-20:  NYT highlighted our community as a COVID-19 hotspot due to our soaring number of new cases. Cases have more than doubled since Memorial Day weekend began going from 95 to 194.  Case, case, case, cluster, cluster, boom!  Add another 20 postive cases today.  Total 214.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

City Animal Shelter Seeks Bids for Adoption Services


The City of San Angelo issued a request for proposal (RFP) for animal adoption services.  Proposals are due May 12th.  Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden previewed the new arrangement with the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee in October 2019.

The scope of services includes:


In October staff indicated by memo changes from the prior relationship with PAWS.  They include:
  1.  Assigning the spay/neuter and rabies vaccine expense of adopted pets to the selected vendor; 
  2.  Allowing the selected vendor to set and collect their own adoption fees; and 
  3.  Opening the hours of operation to be set by the selected vendor no longer requiring them to match city shelter hours.
Those changes were not in the draft RFP shared with the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee or the current version on the city's website.

The City contracted with Concho Valley PAWS for shelter veterinary services in 2018 but received little service in 2018 or 2019.  PAWS performance under the vet contract has hardly been "exceptional."

PAWS contract with the city expired the end of February but is renewable in one year terms.  I believe the city and PAWS are timing the new arrangement with the opening of PAWS new facility.

Concho Valley Homepage reported:

In 2020, Concho Valley PAWS’ adoptable animals will be getting a new home — the “David and Judith Hirschfeld Adoption Center.”

“We have leased land directly next door to the San Angelo Animal Shelter so the accessibility to the animals is functional,” explained Wilson.

The center will be built in two phases. Phase one has been underwritten by David and Judith Hirschfeld. 

“The front building will offer office space for our adoption staff, a spay/neuter clinic, a training room, a party room and an education room,” added Wilson.
 Phase two is the physical space for adoptable animals, with plans for over 50 kennels.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted shelter operations yet there is no mention of this in the RFP.
The medical community recently learned the coronavirus can be passed on to pets.  

While San Angelo has avoided widespread, serious COVID-19 cases over 58,500 people have died in the U.S. from the disease.  Serious illness or death is not a valid reason for the shelter to accept an animal under its surrender policies.  

Also, there is also no language regarding who performs spay/neuter surgeries prior to adoption or the mandatory microchipping. Why is this notable?  Local ordinances require:

All animals adopted from the animal shelter shall be spayed or neutered and microchipped prior to release.  No animal shall be eligible for adoption unless spayed or neutered and microchipped.
The City has hidden behind Concho Valley PAWS in the past when asked for compliance information.

Animal Services has provided an update that this (rabies certificate) is not a document of the city – an external vendor provides these services.
The City's standard contract language addresses ownership of documents and public information obligations.  A new arrangement looms, one that gives more responsibility to the contractor. 

Update 5-15-20:  The city's website indicated:

It's interesting City officials could send an RFP to area rescues after ignoring repeated offers from one listed rescue to buy the city's excess veterinary surgical equipment.  The City donated said equipment to Concho Valley PAWS which was under contract to conduct spay/neuter surgeries for the shelter but not performing.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Coronavirus Testing Demand Drops in San Angelo


San Angelo Health Department statistics indicate COVID-19 testing fell in half since April 11th.  Local Health Authority Dr. James Vretis lamented the drop on KLST yesterday.  Dr. Vretis hopes to test employer and other groups to better understand the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community. He indicated tests are available for the public at Shannon's remaining drive up testing location at the corner of Beauregard and Oakes Street in downtown San Angelo. It is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm.


With fewer tests being conducted the number of positive cases remained at 41 for the last six days.  However, six of the last nine positive cases were the result of community spread. 

Update 4-24-20:  The City reported a 42nd case of COVID-19, a woman in her 40's who was diagnosed in another state.  She lists her residence as San Angelo and that is why her case is added to the total for Tom Green County.