Dr. Jules Madrigal, the Burnet County local health authority, explained that while Gov. Greg Abbott is relaxing COVID-19 restrictions for some non-essential businesses, people should continue protecting themselves and others from the virus that causes the respiratory disease.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean things are safe but just that we’ve done a good job of shutting things done,” she said during the Burnet County Commissioners Court meeting April 28.
She added that residents should “use more caution than ever before.”
On April 27, Abbott announced his plan to reopen some non-essential businesses that have been closed or under limited operations during the statewide stay-at-home order, which will expire April 30. The new plan will allow restaurants, retail businesses, malls, and movie theaters to reopen May 1 with a 25 percent limited capacity.
However, Madrigal has some concerns.
“I still think it’s quite dangerous to eat in a restaurant at this time,” she said.
People can’t wear masks while eating at restaurants, and a cough or sneeze could spread the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.
“Realize some openings are based on science; some are based on other things,” Madrigal said.
She emphasized that, with the easing of stay-home restrictions, people need to be more vigilant about washing their hands and wearing protective face masks. The danger of COVID-19 has not passed.
Burnet County Judge James Oakley pointed out that the governor is simply allowing some businesses to reopen; it does not mean they have to reopen.
Madrigal and Oakley both noted that COVID-19 testing is increasing in Burnet County. Ascension Seton Highland Lakes in Burnet offers drive-through testing from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Burnet County Fairgrounds. A person’s physician must make the appointment.
Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls began offering appointment-only drive-through testing in March.
On April 25, the Texas National Guard operated a mobile site at the fairgrounds and tested about 50 people, according to Oakley. The county judge also received word that the mobile testing team plans to return to Burnet County in the next couple of weeks, but a location has yet to be determined.
In addition, some primary care physicians might have testing resources available.
Increased testing also means more positive COVID-19 cases, Oakley added. The most recent numbers on the Texas Department of State Health Services website has Burnet County with 15 confirmed cases, but Oakley pointed out the state’s numbers might not reflect the actual count. He and Madrigal said there were at least three new cases over the past weekend but only one made it on the state’s count.
The state updates the numbers at approximately 1 p.m. each day.
Oakley said it’s difficult for the county to know how many people have been tested for the disease because, while some testing sites, such as for the Texas National Guard event, report the tally, others don’t.
Madrigal added that all positive tests are reported.
“Everybody wants to know how many people have recovered,” Oakley said, “and that’s the tricky part.”
Madrigal said the term “recovered” is pretty vague.
“There really isn’t a definition for ‘recovered,’” she said.
Of the patients she’s been following, Madrigal described them as well but with lingering effects from COVID-19, such as a cough or chest pain.
The good news is Madrigal and other leaders are now using contact tracing to locate those who have come into contact with people testing positive for COVID-19. These people will be asked to self-quarantine and get tested.
“Keep the spreaders at home,” Madrigal said in describing the contact tracing. “It’s more individual now than the entire population being shut down.”
And if anyone is showing symptoms of COVID-19, Madrigal wants them to get tested.
She reiterated that while some non-essential businesses and activities can resume on Friday, everyone needs to protect themselves, take precautions, and use commonsense because the disease is still out there.
For more on how COVID-19 is affecting the Highland Lakes, visit the DailyTrib.com Coronavirus Resources webpage.