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'We are still in the middle of a pandemic'
Hays County Epidemiologist Eric Schneider stressed the importance of staying safe during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday as COVID-19 cases increase in the county and throughout the state.
Schneider stated that having large, indoor gatherings this Thanksgiving is not recommended.
“I know it's hard. Everybody is having a little bit of COVID fatigue right now,” Schneider said. “They've been dealing with this since March. You know, haven't seen loved ones, haven't seen family, and everybody wants to get together for the holidays and I understand that completely. It's not something that we are recommending in any sort of way.”
Schneider added that if people gather they should do so outdoors, wear masks and wash hands. He stressed that indoor gatherings could result in virus spread.
“Having large gatherings of people from all over indoors is just increasing your risk of somebody who might just be asymptomatic and could be spreading it throughout the whole family,” Schneider said. “COVID is not one of the gifts that you want to give this year during the holidays.”
Schneider spoke Wednesdays during a press conference to discuss the rise in COVID-19 cases in Hays County. The Hays County Local Health Department has seen a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases as the virus continues to spread throughout the country. Schneider said the county has seen an increase from 30 cases per day two weeks ago to 50 cases per day. The local health department reported two fatalities Thursday, raising the total to 95 coronavirus-related deaths in Hays County.
As of Thursday, there have been 6,899 total COVID-19 cases and there are 648 active cases in the county, according to the local health department. Eleven county residents are currently hospitalized by the disease.
Despite an increase in hospitalizations over the last two weeks, Schneider said hospitals have plenty of space for coronavirus patients.
“At the moment, our hospitals, there's plenty of beds, there's plenty of ICU space,” Schneider said. “We have not heard of anybody being overrun. A lot of the COVID patients that are having extreme issues — need ICU, need intensive care — they are being transferred to hospitals usually in Austin or in San Antonio, away from our three hospitals that we have here.”
With the holidays season coming up, Schneider is worried the county could see a similar surge of cases as seen in the summer.
“About what the number of cases that we're seeing right now, (Wednesday), is about what we were right at the beginning of May,” Schneider said. “Then we had the Memorial Day, Father's Day, Fourth of July surge that sent us skyrocketing and the rest of Texas skyrocketing as well. That is our concern that we have right now is the fact that Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas and then New Year's coming up — large gatherings, people wanting to get together. We're hoping that we don't see the exact same kind of increase, but unfortunately at the moment we are kind of trending in that exact same pattern.”
Schneider said the community will need to continue to work together to limit the COVID-19 spread.
“We need everyone to understand that we are still in the middle of a pandemic,” Schneider said. “This is all of us working together to try to make sure that we don't have to go into a quarantine, in a lockdown again. You know, we're not here to try to shut down businesses, shut down schools, anything like that. But you know if we continue to see the rate that we're going at right now and we see the same thing that happened in June and July, that's something that the elected officials are going to have to address if we start to see a spike again. So, it is up to all of us to try to make sure that we're protecting each other.”