As Independence Day weekend approaches, the local hospital is urging people to be responsible in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and the mayor of Kerrville has asked businesses to encourage customers to wear face masks and to require masks for employees.

At a Wednesday press conference, Peterson Health CEO Cory Edmondson expressed concern over the recent jump in coronavirus infections — cases almost tripled over the last approximately nine days, with 48 active infections as of Wednesday afternoon. He said the positive test result rate over the last nine days was at 11 percent, compared to the previous rate of about 1 percent.

"That's significant, and that's a big jump for our community," Edmondson said. 

Edmondson added that he's "not trying to be alarmist at all" and just wants to make sure people are informed.

"We need to be much more aware of what's going on," Edmondson said. 

Hospital recommends masks when keeping 6 feet of distance isn't possible

Edmondson advised people to take precautions advised by the CDC, which include wearing a face mask if it's not possible to maintain 6 feet of distance between oneself and other people not of the same household. 

"When I get outside of my office and I roam the hospital or the floors and I can't socially distance — if I can't keep a 6-foot distance between me and other employees — I'm going to wear a mask, and that's required," Edmondson said.

The hospital requires visitors to wear masks, and employees also must wear masks when out among other employees, he indicated.

Chief Medical Officer Mack Blanton was on hand at the press conference to talk more about masks. He said the U.S. surgeon general initially discouraged the use of masks to prevent COVID-19 infection because 1) there were concerns over social stigma surrounding mask-wearers, 2) it was feared there wouldn't be enough masks for frontline health care workers if everybody wore them, and 3) it was thought that masks were ineffective against COVID-19 transmission. 

"The reality is, although it's not perfect in preventing spread of the virus, it is very effective," Blanton said.

He said a mask can decrease the volume of potentially virus-carrying respiratory droplets in the air. Virus-carrying droplets can be emitted by both people who are symptomatic and people who have no symptoms, he said. Masks decrease the number of droplets emitted from an infected person and also decrease the number of droplets that are deposited on an uninfected person's mucus membranes, he said. 

"It's not perfect," Blanton said of most masks. He added that the type of mask that is totally effective is the N95 variety.

"So if everybody wore a mask, the chances of transmission of the virus would be markedly decreased, so I encourage the use of masks in public places," Blanton said. 

Blanton added the other infection prevention measures also are important, such as not going out when sick, not touching one's face with one's hands and washing hands frequently.

In the press conference, Mayor Bill Blackburn called face masks, "a necessity." In a Thursday post on his elected-official Facebook page, he issued a request to businesses in Kerrville.

"I am calling on businesses to require masks for their employees and that they encourage customers to use masks," Blackburn posted. "If you enter a business and the employees are not using masks, then take your business somewhere else."

Blackburn said a lot of people have asked him to require the wearing of masks in Kerrville, but said the governor has prohibited mayors and county judges from doing that. 

(8) comments

Jeff Tanner

The scientific data is unequivocal - all parties wearing masks significantly reduces the transmission of COVID-19. Why the resistance? Sometimes the risk to public health is greater than the rights of individuals to act in a specific manner. Examples that now seem obvious in hindsight include seat belts save lives, and not drinking and driving saves lives. It's silly at best and tragic at worst that these two issues were once fiercely debated. Time for public officials to step up and lead. At this rate of transmission and increases in testing positivity, the state will act and override our stubborness. Not wearing a mask in public when around others is selfish - it's really that simple and not at all about politics.

JOHN SHEEHAN

I called HEB corporate offices this week and asked why they are not requiring masks here as they do in San Antonio. The person very politely explained that masks are required in SA and Bexar by order of the Mayor and County Judge. Were Kerrville to mandate that masks be worn in businesses here, HEB would immediately comply. Try and hope behavior did not work for the state, and it will not work locally. We elect leaders to make decisions in our best interest irrespective of the degree of popularity.

Larry Hunter

Well even if the city were to start pressing the mask case harder, you still have the county. And they are not interested in restricting residents at all. They don't believe in masks and they don't believe in decreasing the party-like atmosphere at our low-water crossings and the like. I have been in one local restaurant to pickup an order to go, it's our biggest restaurant and there was no masks being worn by staff and no indication they had reduced capacity in either their bar or outside areas or on the dining room floors. There is a hotline to report bars ignoring the rules at the TABC. Perhaps people need to start using it. As to the KDT not supporting critical commentary - been there and know it happens.

James WESSELING

Maybe we need to have specific hours of shopping for those who don't want to wear a mask, just some retailers did earlier for older folks. Wonder which group would have more positive cases?

Thomas Collins

Time for Judge and Commissioners to show they have the public at interest and tell the Governor they are taking steps to require face masks. Get out from hiding behind the Governor and show some courage for once!!! Show you care...or out the door you will be next election...

Alan Pazdernik

If I remember right the gov was so impressed with the pres he just had to open up he is like someone else NOT HIS PROBLEM

Stephen Stange

All bars in Texas shut down now per Gov. All is proceeding exactly as expected, right Al?

Christopher Paterson

I agree, two of my employees contacted covid-19 at bars here in kerrville. No contract tracing was done at all. The bars where they got infected are still operating well over the 50% occupancy and not a thing has been done to correct the blatant resistance to the state rules set in place to prevent this. Other cities are shutting down establishments and fining them. Here in Kerrville we pack into the bars and restaurants and turn our heads the other way. The mandate for limited occupancy is not a joke. I am calling out the city officials to finally step up and do the right thing. Slice is acceptance, and now being silent is allowing the virus to sicken our community. I am sure this post will be taken down as have my other ones. I guess freedom of speech is not a priority either in Kerrville. I wonder what the San Antonio news would have to say about this or the pictures of the over packed bars here in kerrville?

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