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“It doesn’t hurt,” hospital CEO says
A rise in the number of active coronavirus cases in Texas and the threat of a pandemic resurgence prompted local government officials this week to ask the public to exercise precautions.
Measures such as wearing masks in public and continuing social distancing, according to Frio County Judge Arnulfo Luna on Monday, may help deflect a resurgence of the coronavirus in the region.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is starting to increase in our area,” Judge Luna wrote in a prepared statement. “I am asking the public, in order to keep our numbers down and to keep our community safe, to please consider going back to wearing face masks in public places.”
In La Salle County, Judge Joel Rodriguez acknowledged the elevated threat level in the coronavirus pandemic and noted that he believes community members should be aware of the contagion risks in the weeks leading up to the start of the new school year.
School districts in Frio and La Salle counties have indicated they expect to reopen fully in August for in-class instruction.
“I urge the public to take care as our citizens prepare for their children to go back to school,” Judge Rodriguez said Monday, but stopped short of recommending a return to mask-wearing requirements. “We should take precautions to ensure the safety of so many children who still can’t get vaccines before age 11.”
The Texas governor lifted all restrictions at the beginning of June, eliminating laws requiring the public to wear masks and ending the mask mandates to which local governments subscribed. Masks wearing became optional at that time, and privately owned businesses removed their signage requiring all patrons to wear masks.
City and county governments followed suit, with mask wearing becoming optional in June. Social distancing recommendations have remained in place at businesses, government buildings and public facilities, including requests that patrons observe six-foot spacing, although the health and safety practices are not enforceable by law.
At Frio Regional Hospital this week, CEO John Hughson said he believes the public should use common sense and exercise sensible precautions to avoid catching or spreading the coronavirus, adding that he does not have statistics at hand on the number of new virus patients who are unvaccinated or whether they have fallen victim to the aggressive Delta variant of COVID-19.
Hughson points to data from Methodist Hospital in San Antonio that reflects an apparent fifty-percent spike in the number of active virus cases, with 124 undergoing hospital care on Monday compared to 80 last Wednesday.
“That represents a fifty-percent increase, but I don’t think the statistic can be echoed in Frio County,” Hughson said. “We are not overwhelmed by patients here. We had five last week with a relatively low degree of acuity. Most were discharged home, and only one was transferred to San Antonio.
“If our low numbers increase by just one or two patients, that would translate to a fifty-percent spike,” the hospital CEO said, “but it can also be seen as a natural fluctuation.”
Hughson agrees that precautions such as masks and social distancing make sense in a time of potential threat.
“It doesn’t hurt to wear a mask,” he said Monday. “There are different opinions on it, some of them political. If it reduces the chance of exposure to the coronavirus, then it makes sense.”
On June 25, Methodist Hospital System reported having 48 coronavirus patients in its care. By July 13, that number had risen to 86. Meanwhile, numbers of virus patients at Frio Regional Hospital have remained in the low single digits.
“Are we now seeing the rise in coronavirus numbers that we were told to expect after the July 4 holiday? That’s a possibility,” the hospital CEO said. “We can’t know that, but it may be expected after people attended public events.”