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Steps to slow COVID-19 spread; ‘Don’t stockpile,’ says governor

COVID-19 response in Texas

The shelves were empty of toilet paper at the H-E-B in Marble Falls on the morning of March 13. In a Friday media conference regarding the state's COVID-19 response, Governor Greg Abbott told Texans there was 'no need to go out and stockpile supplies.' Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell

Burnet County Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Barho said COVID-19 will hit the county, so residents should take action now to help alleviate the pressure on health care services later.

“We know we’re going to have a significant and large number of cases,” Barho said. “This is a very serious disease, and there is no cure. Right now, all (medical professionals) can do is treat the symptoms. But what we can do right now is slow down the spread of it.”

Currently, Burnet County has no reported cases of COVID-19.

The concern, Barho said, is what medical officials call “community spread.” According to the Centers for Disease Control, the term means the “spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown.”

Barho pointed out that slowing down the spread of COVID-19 means limiting large gatherings, cutting down on travel, and, whenever possible, performing tasks over the phone, by email, or other means in lieu of face-to-face contact.

Taking these steps, according to Barho, can help spread out the number of infected people over a longer period rather than a short span, lessening the stress on the health care system.

Barho explained that someone who is severely ill from COVID-19 might have to be placed on a respirator.

“But we just don’t have enough respirators to take care of a large number of people,” he said. “There’s just not enough.”

Burnet County Health Authority Dr. Juliette Madrigal, M.D., outlined COVID-19 facts in a media release.

  • The virus is spread by droplet transmission (airborne) from people coughing, sneezing, or talking to one another.
  • It appears that about 50 percent of people who have the virus do not show symptoms.
  • For every one person who gets the virus, he/she will give it to an average of four other people under normal circumstances.
  • The disease has a 14-day incubation period, but 95 percent of patients show symptoms within six days.

• The mortality rate is 1-3 percent. The rate is significantly higher in the elderly but very low in young children. At this point, it is similar or maybe higher than the flu. That being said, even young people can become extremely ill from the virus and can transmit it accordingly.

“Our goal at this time is to slow the spread or ‘flatten the curve’ as much as possible,” Madrigal stated in the release. “We want to spread out the illness and make the timing of the cases more consistent and predictable. By slowing it down, we are preserving medical resources, able to develop vaccines, drugs, and learn the best possible ways to protect ourselves.”

Along with limited person-to-person contact, especially larger public gatherings, Barho said there are a number of preventive steps individuals can take to slow the spread.

“A lot of that’s already out there, like washing your hands, staying home if you’re sick,” he added. “Some of those commonsense things.”

Preventive measures include:

  • washing hands often or using a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol;
  • avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands;
  • avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
  • staying home if you are sick;
  • covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or using the inside of your elbow;
  • and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily.

When preparing for the possibility of staying home, Barho urged people not to “hoard” supplies.

During a March 13 media conference, Texas Governor Greg Abbott went further.

“There is absolutely no need to go out and stockpile supplies,” he said.

The governor acknowledged that some grocery store shelves might be empty of certain items, but those will be restocked. He added that the state is in good shape when it comes to food and other supplies.

For more information on COVID-19, Madrigal recommended the Centers for Disease Control and the Texas Department of State Health Services websites.

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