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Burnet City Council discusses rise in COVID-19 cases and shortage of ICU beds

Seven of 12 people tested positive for COVID-19 at the Burnet Fire Department testing site Tuesday, Aug. 10, Fire Chief Mark Ingram told the City Council at its regular meeting that same evening. 

“When we were testing back at (the pandemic’s) height, we would have maybe one,” Ingram said. “On a busy day, we would get two who were positive. We’ve never had numbers like this.” 

In his briefing, Ingram reported on safety measures being taken by the city to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, which is making a comeback nationwide. Burnet County had 402 new active cases at the time of his presentation. 

“We’re attached to a 29-county area in our emergency management response, and in that entire area, there’s only 12 (intensive care unit) beds as of (Aug. 10),” Ingram said. “Where this comes into play is there’s nowhere for you to go. If you have a heart attack, you have a stroke, if you’re in a car accident, there’s nowhere to go.” 

Ingram said local health authorities have observed less severe symptoms in fully vaccinated people when compared to those who are unvaccinated and become infected. The new delta variant is proving to be more contagious than previous forms of the virus, resulting in younger people contracting it, he noted. 

“Before, it was mainly if you’d had a lot of birthdays you were at risk,” he said. “Now, with this variant, it don’t matter.”

A vaccination clinic hosted by the city of Burnet and Ascension Seton Highland Lakes for ages 18 years and older is 9-11 a.m. Aug. 27 at the Burnet Community Center, 401 E. Jackson St. 

Rapid tests for COVID-19 are now available daily at the Burnet Fire Department, 2002 S. Water St., for a $25 fee. The fire department was previously only offering tests three days a week. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 512-756-2662. 

“Are they coming in (for tests) more because they’re not feeling good or because they just want to check?” Councilor Joyce Laudenschlager asked. 

“Today, the majority of them were, ‘I’m not feeling good,’” Ingram said. “Of course, we get them where they were exposed somewhere and they can’t go to work until they get a note.” 

City staff also informed the council that surfaces in public spaces, including Council Chambers and City Hall, are being cleaned daily with disinfectant. The fire department is also looking into purchasing a chemical spray to disinfect the doors of ambulances and trucks between emergency calls.

Councilors asked whether they should begin conducting meetings over Zoom again. City Manager David Vaughn explained that the legal ability to host council meetings virtually would expire on Sept. 1. 

“Right now, we’re not allowed to mandate masks because of governor’s order, but certainly we could issue something recommending it,” Mayor Crista Goble Bromley said. 

“The best we can do is recommend it,” Ingram confirmed. 

brigid@thepicayune.com

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