As concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic grow and more information becomes available about the novel coronavirus’ spread, Highland Lakes health officials outlined recommendations to help slow the virus and protect residents.
On March 16, Burnet County Health Authority Dr. Jules Madrigal and Llano County Health Authority Dr. Jack Franklin sent out a joint letter to local leaders with their recommendations on how “to mitigate community spread of coronavirus.”
One of the most significant actions is to cancel any gatherings of 50 people or more. Madrigal and Franklin chose the 50-people threshold because it falls in line with a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation released March 15.
Madrigal and Franklin pointed to the rapid spread of the virus as a reason for these guidelines.
“Last week has seen an extraordinary uptick in the cases of coronavirus (COVID-19),” they stated in the letter. “More worrisome, the types of cases seen in the state of Texas have changed.”
State officials announced the first community-spread case of COVID-19 in Dallas on March 13. Previously, confirmed cases were the result of travel or contact with someone known to have the virus, the two medical doctors pointed out.
“Friday’s case in Dallas was contracted in the course of routine daily activity,” the letter stated. “There was no known associated sick contact and no associated travel to areas where the virus is known to be prevalent in the community.
On March 17, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced the first death of a Texas resident who had tested positive for COVID-19. The man was in his 90s and a resident of Matagorda County. According to the DSHS media release, people “65 and older or (those who) have an underlying health condition such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or cancer have a higher risk of developing severe disease if they do get COVID-19.”
As of noon March 17, Texas had 64 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,268 residents had been tested. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a March 17 media release that he expects the number of confirmed cases to “increase dramatically” as more testing becomes available. The governor said he feels confident that Texas will be able to test 10,000 people a week by the end of this week.
Along with limiting gatherings to 50 people or less, Madrigal and Franklin recommended:
- reducing activities such as religious services, particularly for groups with individuals who have an increased risk of severe illness;
- offering video/audio of events;
- determining ways to continue providing support services to individuals at increased risk of severe disease while limiting group settings and exposure;
- and canceling gatherings of more than 10 people for organizations that serve high-risk populations.
Other ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 include:
- washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or, if soap is not available, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
- 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 your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then washing your hands;
- and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.