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.