The seriousness of the coronavirus surge across Kerr County continued on Wednesday after Peterson Health reported 20 new cases and a rise in hospitalizations, and the Texas Department of State Health Services said the county suffered its 19th death.
There were no details about the death, but it did not occur at Peterson Regional Medical Center, which was caring for 13 coronavirus patients.
In three days, 62 people have tested positive for the virus — and that’s just at Peterson, where 156 people have tested positive this month.
Wednesday’s positivity rate was 19% — the highest this month. Since Nov. 9, the positivity rate has been 11% — outside the state’s recommendations for what’s considered safe.
The increasing numbers have prompted local officials, led by Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn and Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly, to have a community briefing on Friday. That 10:30 a.m. meeting will address where the community stands when it comes to slowing the spread of the virus.
On Tuesday night, Kerr County Emergency Management Coordinator W.B. “Dub” Thomas urged people to take the virus seriously.
“COVID-19 has created a serious situation in the United States and worldwide. Kerr County is not immune. We are just as susceptible,” Thomas said.
“It’s my hope that more local citizens will begin to recognize the pandemic for what it is and take the very simple steps they can to protect themselves and their families,” Thomas said, adding that the simplest way to protect yourself and others was by wearing a mask in public places.
“It’s come to my attention that many people in our community mistakenly think that Kerr County is still exempt from the governor’s statewide, mandatory mask order,” Thomas said. “So, let me clarify: We are NOT exempt.”
But where it stands is that the month of November could see the most cases in Kerr County since the pandemic started. With a Nov. 3 screening event hosted at the Hill Country Youth Event Center that added 19 cases to the total, Kerr County has had at least 175 positive cases. In July, Peterson had 183 people test positive.
This also does not necessarily account for the huge outbreak at Waterside Nursing and Rehabilitation, where 81% of the facility’s 100 patients have tested positive for COVID-19. That reporting is done by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and varies from day to day in its numbers. At least five people have died there, although on Tuesday the state said it was seven, only to reduce it back to five on Wednesday.
A source who works at the Waterside facility has told The Kerrville Daily Times that seven is accurate.
If seven deaths is correct, pending the state’s count on Thursday, there would have been eight deaths in Kerrville nursing homes since September. That would drive the Kerr County death toll to at least 27.
The staff at Waterside has also been hit hard by the virus, according to the Nov. 4 state report, with 28 employees having tested positive by that point in the month.
In the same state report, Kerrville’s other nursing homes were seeing signs of rising cases among staff members, including at Hilltop Village, River Hills and Alpine Terrace. In total, 48 staff members at Kerrville’s five nursing homes had tested positive at some point between the start of the pandemic and Nov. 4, according to state data.
On Wednesday, Texas reported more than 8,400 new cases and 187 deaths. The Texas Tribune reported that Gov. Greg Abbott has no intention of returning the state to a lockdown similar to the spring, but is carefully monitoring the metrics.
The news website reported that public health experts and elected officials acknowledge they are up against a stronger sense of “COVID fatigue” than ever — a malaise that appears to be reflected in the state response.
“The numbers are quite alarming, to be honest, because it’s not showing any sign of slowing down,” said Rajesh Nandy, associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. However, Nandy added, “it seems like at this point, there’s not a lot of will, even among people, for a full-scale stay-at-home (order) like (Abbott) did in March because, of course, it has other consequences.”