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.