As COVID-19 cases climb, Burnet County officials say follow the order

Burnet County Local Health Authority Dr. Jules Madrigal said the best thing people can do to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to adhere to the county’s Stay in Place and Stay Safe order, only take necessary trips to stores and other essential places, and limit contact with others.

Madrigal offered these recommendations March 30 during a special meeting of the Burnet County Commissioners Court regarding COVID-19. She told commissioners and the public via a Facebook Live stream that the county has moved into the community-spread phase of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The county announced its second positive COVID-19 case on March 28 and its third on March 29. Madrigal said the patients had been out in the community before they knew they had the disease, including to stores such as Walmart and H-E-B.

The doctor said that though three confirmed cases might seem like a small number, the situation is more serious as there are people with the disease who haven’t tested positive yet, have it and don’t know it, or are asymptomatic.

“The main thing is it’s out there,” Madrigal said of COVID-19.

Burnet County Judge James Oakley offered some additional advice.

“You need to assume everyone you see has it,” he said during the meeting.

The judge pointed out that might sound harsh, but it’s an important attitude people should have to slow the spread of the disease.

Madrigal touched on a few things that medical professionals are studying in other parts of the country but emphasized that these are only in the beginning phases. The key, she reiterated, is for Burnet County residents to stay home as much as possible and limit contact with people who are not in their primary residence. This, Madrigal explained, is the best way to slow the disease’s spread and allow more time for medical professionals and researchers to develop treatments for COVID-19.

By slowing the spread, local health care resources can respond without being overwhelmed.

Madrigal noted that she’s seen some businesses not classified as “essential” try to work around the order, but asked that they don’t. Oakley said he knows the order will hurt business, but adhering to the order is the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arrendondo said Oakley didn’t want to issue such an order knowing how it would impact businesses and residents but knew it was the best way to best address the spread of COVID-19.

Under the order, people can go to stores deemed essential such as Walmart and H-E-B. However, Madrigal urged people to get in, get what they need, and get out. Don’t spend time mingling, she added.

COVID-19 is spread mostly by respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and even talking, the doctor said. While it can remain active on surfaces for up to three days, Madrigal said it’s typically passed by direct contact between people.

“Going out is the main way you get it,” she said.

Like Oakley, she understands the economic impact that people staying at home and following the county order has on businesses. Madrigal said her private practice is down 70 percent due to concerns over COVID-19.

Though Madrigal urged people to stay at home, she also doesn’t want them cooped up inside all day. Getting outside for essential activities is allowed under the county’s order.

One of the reasons she advocated people get outdoors — while maintaining social distancing standards — is for the sunlight.

“If you look at the cold and flu season, why it happens in the winter may be because of the lack of vitamin D,” Madrigal said.

Getting outdoors also helps people avoid “cabin fever.”

But she and Oakley urged people to use commonsense, whether while going outside or taking care of essential needs such as grocery shopping.

“Please use commonsense and respect the order,” Oakley said.

The judge said he will be talking with local officials in regard to clarifications of the order and possible amendments.

For updates on the order, follow the Burnet County Government Facebook page.

For more on how COVID-19 is affecting the Highland Lakes, visit the coronavirus resources webpage.

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