Thursday, September 30, 2021

Record Month for COVID Deaths

Sixty five people died from COVID-19 in September, according to statistics from the City of San Angelo Health Department.  September's deaths exceeded the previous record of 64 deaths in January.  

Local Health Authority Dr. James Vretis attempted to mandate masks in Tom Green County Schools as deaths began increasing in August.  San Angelo Live reported reactions from local leaders:

“I learned about it the afternoon the order was put out,” said Tom Green County Judge Steve Floyd. Tuesday afternoon, the controversial mask mandate for all schools in the county was about to be released when Floyd first heard about it. Two days later, Floyd said Thursday morning that he was on the phone with the Texas Attorney General’s office. Tom Green County had landed to AG Ken Paxton’s “List.” The Republican ally of Governor Greg Abbott had compiled a list of counties that were defying the governor’s order forbidding the issuance of a mandate to wear a mask. Tom Green County was highlighted.

“I said, ‘look, I had nothing to do with it. I don’t have that authority,’” Floyd relayed his plea to Paxton’s office. Floyd said the mandate came exclusively from Tom Green County Health Authority Dr. James Vretis and Vretis is not in the county judge’s chain of command. In fact, Vretis, in his capacity as health authority, answers ultimately to the governor himself.

Mayor Brenda Gunter was more surprised with the mask mandate for schools than Floyd. She said the first she heard of it was when citizens blew up her phone. Some even stopped by her restaurant to give her a piece of their minds.

“I had no idea this was going to happen,” she said.

Floyd heads up an informal countywide coronavirus task force with key leaders, like from the city, county, school districts, Angelo State University, and Goodfellow Air Force Base. He said the committee met via teleconference on Monday and nothing was mentioned about issuing a mask mandate the very next day.

By mid-morning Wednesday after the issuance of the mask mandate by Vretis, many school districts were announcing intentions to not follow the order.

“If we have a mask mandate, who is going to enforce it?” Floyd asked.

Local leaders finally spoke out publicly via a series of videos on September 10th, doing so after positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths had risen dramatically.

Will anything happen to Dr. Vretis? Tom Green County Judge Steve Floyd washed his hands of the whole affair. “He works for the City of San Angelo. That’s for Brenda to decide,” he said.
I think Dr. Vretis deserves a West Texas "Neighbor Caring for Neighbor" Award.  Vretis tried to stem the loss of life that was predictable.  He got nothing but push-back.  City Council, outside Mayor Brenda Gunter, has sat on their mouths throughout this pandemic.

Texas state and local leaders pinned their hopes on the Delta variant flying through our community (it has) and reaching herd immunity (remains to be seen).  Shannon Medical Center hospitalizations are down from the seventies to the fifties on a daily basis.  

I feel for Shannon doctors and nurses who worry about verbal outrage and physical violence from patients.  I can't imagine trying to serve patients who denigrate their physician's professional medical knowledge.  

I was told West Texans helped one another in times of crisis when I moved here nearly thirty years ago.  Since the pandemic hit our community I tried to avoid bringing COVID-19 to elderly relatives.  Large sections of our community did not share the same concern.

Since the Delta variant hit Vretis showed more West Texas caring than state officials, local leaders or many Conch Valley citizens. 

Update 10-13-21:  Fresh off our deadliest month Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning vaccine mandates.   Health professionals know the Texas Governor is not working on their behalf.  Private hospitals no longer have the freedom to protect their staff and patients.

Update 11-10-21:  A report from the Texas Department of State Health Services examined data from Jan. 15 to Oct. 1 and found that unvaccinated people were much more likely to get infected and die of the coronavirus than those who got their shots.  In all age groups, the state's unvaccinated were 40 times more likely to die than fully vaccinated people. The study also found that the unvaccinated in all age groups were 45 times more likely to have a coronavirus infection than fully vaccinated people.  Republican leaders sharpened attacks on public health strategies throughout the pandemic.

Update 12-28-21:  Red Team oriented San Angelo Live interviewed the "out of line" Dr. Vretis as the latest COVID surge begins, courtesy of the Omicron variant.  With cases rising rapidly I see few people wearing masks in area stores.  Neighbors continue to not care for neighbors.

Update 12-31-21:  After banning mask mandates and preventing businesses from requiring employees be vaccinated, the Omicron variant punched a hole in Governor Abbott's reliance on antibody treatment for at-risk Texans.  Abbott blames the Biden administration which is like this Biblical passage.  "You can see the speck in your friend's eye, but you don't notice the log in your own eye."  Abbott did more to foster the spread of disease with his anti-public health stances.

Update 1-2-22:  America's sad state of affairs in public health is reflected by:

"Hundreds of state and local health officials across the country have retired, resigned or been forced out in partisan rancor over the pandemic."

Update 1-4-22:  The test positivity rate reached 28.3% for the last week of the year.  The Omicron variant is less deadly, an answered prayer.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

COVID Deaths Almost at January Levels

San Angelo's Health Department reported three more COVID-19 deaths today bringing the total to 402.  Over the last thirty days the city issued news reports on 62 deaths.  That's nearly the level of January 2021 when 64 patients died from COVID-19. 

Shannon Medical Center physicians shared their concerns about the Delta variant via video on August 24, 2021.  They painted a dire situation and asked citizens to get vaccinated and wear masks in public places.  

Nearly 40 more deaths occurred before local leaders rang the alarm to citizens in a series of videos on September 10th. Five days later ASU President Ronnie Hawkins announced a return to 100% face to face classes for on campus students beginning tomorrow.  Hawkins recommended masks and getting vaccinated, however there are many ASU employees and students who've refused both public health strategies thus far.  

Recent shopping trips revealed few citizens wearing masks.  Deaths are a lagging indicator as it can take weeks to months for people to perish from COVID-19.  Vaccines take time to build immunity.  Wearing a mask is the most immediate thing a citizen can do to protect their neighbor.

Update 9-21-21:  Deaths now total 406.   That's 65 deaths announced in the last thirty one days, which exceeds the highest monthly death toll since the pandemic began. 

Update 9-23-21:  Deaths reached 410 today. We remain in a bad time for people perishing from COVID-19.  

Update 9-25-21:  With 412 deaths announced yesterday, the last month has seen 65 deaths from COVID-19.  

Update 9-28-21:  Total deaths are now 424.  The City announced 7 new deaths today.

Friday, September 03, 2021

Resurfacing Rio Concho Again for $1.4 million

City Council will take up seventeen items in the Consent Agenda when it meets on September 9th.   Item eleven is:

k.  Consider awarding ES-05-21 Rio Concho Full Depth Reclamation to Reece Albert, Inc. in the amount of $1,396,642.86 and authorizing the City Manager to negotiate and execute all related documents

The Rio Concho rehabilitation, from S. Magdalen to Bell Street, involves a full depth reclamation (FDR) of the roadway. FDR is a reincorporation of the existing asphalt pavement and the existing base material along with cement and asphalt additives to provide a solid foundation for a new pavement surface.

Years ago the city tried to rehabilitate portions of Rio Concho with its new $1.2 million Benedetti machine.  

The pilot operation produced a less than uniform surface for drivers. The City eventually returned the Benedetti machine after failing to make it work as intended.  

Another gateway to the Downtown Business District is slated for renewal.

Update 9-11-21:  City Council approved the $1.4 resurfacing of Rio Concho in the Consent Agenda with no discussion of the item.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Number of COVID-19 Deaths Rise in August


The City of San Angelo Health Department reported 46 COVID-19 deaths for August, 18 of which were reported in the last week.  Yesterday there were over 150 new positive tests and nearly 80 patients hospitalized with COVID-19.  

COVID-19 vaccination rates in Tom Green County remain below the Texas average of 53%.  Locally only 38% of the population is fully vaccinated, while 44% received at least one dose.  Vaccination rates in surrounding counties are lower than Tom Green County. 

Masks and social distancing remain important measures as vaccinated persons can get COVID-19 and have a similar viral load as the unvaccinated.  

Shannon Medical Center doctors sounded the alarm on rising hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths from COVID-19.   Death data is a lagging indicator as it can take weeks to months for some patients to die from the illness.  

I don't know what the future holds for this deadly disease.  But, I do know I can help my neighbor by masking up, getting a booster shot when recommended and minimizing contact with others until we reach herd immunity.  I pray that is soon.

Update 9-1-21:  The city reported seven more COVID deaths today.   There are 178 new positive tests and 80 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19.

Update 9-11-21:  City and community leaders finally spoke out asking citizens to do their part to minimize the spread and impact of SARS COV-2 and COVID-19.  This came after 59 deaths announced over the last thirty days.  

Update 9-17-21:  Five days after releasing a video on the seriousness of San Angelo's COVID situation ASU President Hawkins announced a "return to 100% face-to-face classes for our on-campus students beginning Monday, Sept. 20, 2021."  He recommends everyone wear a mask on ASU's campus and getting vaccinated for those physically able.

Update 1-4-22:  The test positivity rate reached 28.3% for the last week of the year.  The Omicron variant is less deadly, an answered prayer.