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Promoting drive-through testing service
Pearsall-area residents lined up in the City Hall parking lot Friday morning, September 4, to take COVID-19 tests that were administered free of charge by the Center of Advanced Wellness of San Antonio.
The testing session was arranged at short notice in a collaboration between the company and City Hall, where Administrator Federico Reyes said he believes it is vital for the community to take steps to promote health and safety.
At Frio Regional Hospital, a drive-through testing facility continues operating daily, offering free coronavirus tests
at 10 a.m. to the general public. Since it opened during the early summer, the facility has administered at least two thousand tests, according to CEO John Hughson.
Both City Hall and Frio Regional Hospital continue encouraging area residents to practice social distancing, to be vigilant for any health issues among loved ones, to undergo testing whenever possible, and to take precautions such as wearing masks, washing hands, and disinfecting all common areas in homes and businesses.
Reyes said he was contacted two weeks ago by a city councilor who was relaying a request that a testing center be opened at City Hall for anyone needing a coronavirus test, and said Friday that while he was pleased to have helped arrange the event at short notice, promotion was only possible via social media.
“We are happy to be doing the right thing for the people of Pearsall, and I am very pleased with the response,” the city administrator said. “More importantly, I believe we have to continue taking steps to beat the pandemic and not allow a new surge of infections affect our city.”
Staff at the testing facility in the City Hall parking lot confirmed Friday that test results from a finger-stick procedure would be available in ten to fifteen minutes while results from a nasal swab procedure could take at least ten days to return. In all cases, however, results would also be forwarded for tabulation by the US Centers for Disease Control.
At both the City Hall test site and at the drive-through facility in front of Frio Regional Hospital, procedures are administered regardless of whether a client can provide proof of insurance. Healthcare workers administering the tests ask clients for identification and other personal information.
The Center of Advanced Wellness has conducted free coronavirus testing at several sites across South Texas, with Pearsall being the latest.
“I think it was a good thing,” Reyes said of the event Friday. “We are working in any way possible to help with testing for all. We want to keep everyone safe.
“Our goal here was to promote awareness of health and safety in the community, to make a fast and easy test available to anyone who wanted one, and we will continue working towards that goal,” the city administrator said.
At Frio Regional Hospital, Hughson said an apparent surge in coronavirus cases in July has abated, and many of the patients who have been admitted for treatment are sent home.
The Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council (STRAC), covering healthcare facilities outside Bexar County (San Antonio), reported on Sept. 4 that there were a total of 51 COVID-19 patients receiving treatment at local hospitals, with seven new admissions, 15 patients in the intensive care units, and eight on ventilators. The previous day, STRAC reported 47 inpatients for its region, with three new admissions, 16 in intensive care, and six on ventilators.
Frio Hospital was listed by STRAC as having four coronavirus patients in its beds on Sept. 4.
Across the STRAC coverage area, Sept. 4 reports showed that there had been 323 persons receiving inpatient care since the virus pandemic began, with 145 having been admitted to intensive care, and 83 on ventilators.
STRAC also reported that the majority of coronavirus patients coming from outside Bexar County – 118 as of Sept. 4 – had been treated at Methodist Hospital.
In Frio County, Hughson attributes the apparent decrease in serious cases to a combination of factors that include awareness and safe practices but not least the treatment that Frio Regional Hospital provides to its patients.
The hospital was highlighted earlier this year for using a steroid treatment to address some of the symptoms of COVID-19, enabling many patients to quarantine at home during their convalescence.
On Friday, Hughson described the decrease in Frio Regional Hospital’s in-patient coronavirus cases as a drop-off leaving a mere three or four patients undergoing treatment at any one time.
To date, Frio County has reported 638 cases of coronavirus between March and the end of August, and four deaths. Statistics indicate that the majority of those patients were able to quarantine at home during their convalescence.
Hughson cautions against viewing the recorded numbers as indicative of a serious contagion in Frio County.
“These numbers are accumulative, so they won’t go down,” the hospital CEO said. “They have to be seen as representing the whole year of the pandemic so far in South Texas.”
Frio Hospital reports to and receives updates from the San Antonio-based STRAC, where tallies of coronavirus contagion in other counties are compared with each other. Overall, Hughson said, statistics indicate the region between Gonzales and La Salle counties has seen “a downward trend” in virus cases since July. That trend, he said, includes ‘acute admissions,’ which are severe cases of COVID-19 sickness, possibly requiring transport to an advanced-level care facility or attachment to a ventilator.
“That, to me, indicates that the severity of it seems to be lessening,” Hughson said. “This is because of the increased awareness campaigns, the testing, and above all the continued health and safety practices.”
Healthcare workers on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic are regarded as being at high risk for exposure and contagion, Hughson said, but vigilance and strict adhesion to safe practices have limited the number of local virus cases among staff at the hospital.
“We have not had a very sick workforce,” the CEO said. “And it’s because we wear masks and take all the precautionary steps. We have not slackened at all in our health and safety practices.”