If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
“The numbers are going in the wrong direction…”
As coronavirus cases continue to rise in Frio County, officials are warning citizens their disregard for public safety could trigger a countywide curfew order, among other restrictions.
Frio County Judge Arnulfo Luna called a meeting of local governments Monday evening, December 7, with representatives from Pearsall and Dilley in an effort to devise a plan that would help reduce the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases.
“I want to ask everyone’s opinion on how to keep the county safe with it spreading like wildfire,” Luna said of the virus surge, adding that the county has implemented a mandatory order to wear facial coverings and acknowledged the city of Dilley’s curfew for school-aged children between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Dilley Mayor Mary Ann Obregon said the council decided to implement the curfew after the closure of the schools due to an outbreak at the high school that forced the district to return to remote learning before the Thanksgiving holidays. Students returned to their classrooms this week.
“We have the curfew for the children,” Obregon said. “Because they are remote and we noticed the children out playing and not keeping up with their lessons.”
In July, during the first wave of the coronavirus, the city of Dilley enforced a curfew for all residents between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Councilor Alexandria Inocencio said that residents were upset, but that she believes the curfew was to protect residents and prevent contagion.
“We did have the police department enforce the curfew,” the councilor said. “People who worked late needed work letters and we told the officers to use their best judgement.”
According to Pearsall City Councilor Davina Rodriguez, the governor’s orders state that when hospitals are at a certain capacity, restaurants and bars have to close. The councilor said that she received news as of Monday morning that Frio Regional Hospital was at capacity and turning individuals away.
The hospital’s chief executive officer dismissed the report as untrue the following day.
“That is a completely inaccurate statement and, frankly, reckless,” Hospital CEO John Hughson said of the information that the councilor relayed at Monday’s meeting. “I have had the opportunity to speak with the county judge, city officials in Dilley and in Pearsall today. They have mentioned the same concerns.”
“That only includes San Antonio,” 911 Emergency Coordinator Ray Kallio said of the councilor’s statement regarding the governor’s order related to hospital capacity. “It does not include Frio County.”
Judge Luna said that as of Sunday, the county had 107 active coronavirus cases; there were nine patients at Frio Regional Hospital; the ICE facility had 34 cases; and the GEO facility for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement had three active cases.
Commissioner Jose Asuncion, who heads the COVID-19 Lifeline, presented data reflecting the uptick of coronavirus cases, indicating the county averages 22 active cases per day. In November, the average was two active cases per day; in June the number reached 16 per day.
“The numbers are going in the wrong direction,” the commissioner said. “I expect them to continue to go that way.”
According to state Executive Order GA-32, ‘areas with high hospitalizations’ means any trauma service area that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity exceeds 15 percent, until such time as the trauma service area has seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity is 15 percent or less.
The hospital was at 14.6 percent capacity as of Monday.
“I say we tighten up,” Councilor Rodriguez said. “We get stricter; we have to look at the safety of the citizens of Pearsall.”
Newly elected Pearsall City Councilor James Leal asked that citizens take more responsibility for their actions. Leal said he believes that ordering non-essential businesses already crippled by the virus to close for a second time would affect more than just the business owners.
“We have to take responsibility for our own actions,” Leal said. “We can try to close things down but ultimately the individual needs to take the initiative. We can make the rash decision to close down businesses but what about the employees? That waitress? That cook in the back? These business owners are already struggling.”
Pearsall City Councilor Roland Segovia disagreed with Leal.
“I have always been proactive in economic development but it is time we [become stricter] on the businesses,” Segovia said.
Obregon suggested not closing businesses but focusing instead on limiting gatherings, adding that she believes large gatherings are the root of exposure.
“You do not need to close businesses,” the Dilley mayor said. “What we can do is work on gatherings. Your merchants in town will listen and have people wear their masks. We cannot close businesses; we need our jobs.”
Judge Luna proposed making flyers to hand out throughout the county and urging people to wear their masks.
“My recommendation is we go back to the legal departments and find out what the declaration says and what we, as governmental agencies, can and cannot do to minimize the effect of what we have coming,” Dilley City Administrator Juan Estrada said.
Pearsall Mayor Pro Tem Julian Hernandez was vocal in his attempts to give the county an understanding of why basic health and safety precautions are necessary. Hernandez said he believes the surge in cases has suddenly put everyone in the county at risk of encountering someone with the virus.
“We all share a hospital,” Hernandez said. “We do not want to saturate the hospital with COVID cases. We need to use the commissioner’s data; it tells us we are in a bad situation. If we can get this done, hopefully we can look for improved numbers and businesses can stay open.”