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County’s COVID-19 count hits new high

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The number of COVID-19 cases in Bandera County soared to 48 in the week ending on Monday, July 13, and the number of active cases more than doubled to 22, which makes the county subject to the governor’s order to wear protective face masks while outside the home.

Caseload counts released by the Bandera County Emergency Management office on Monday showed the number of COVID-19 cases increased to 48 from 27 a week earlier, that 22 of those were considered active cases, up from 9 on July 6, and that 26 were considered recovered, an increase of eight cases in a week.

Bandera County Emergency Management Coordinator Carey Reed stopped short of calling the increase alarming but did concede that the numbers were concerning, and County Judge Richard Evans said he too was concerned about the count, though some of the increase can be explained by the increasing number of people who are tested for COVID-19.

“People with underlying (health) conditions should stay home. You’ve got to be smart about it. If it’s too crowded inside a place, you don’t go in there,” the judge said. “If people are feeling bad and have symptoms, they need to stay home.”

Reed said with the deadly virus spreading rapidly across the state and reaching more heavily into rural areas like Bandera County, residents should redouble their efforts to follow recommended health protocols like washing their hands regularly, keeping six feet of space from themselves and anyone else when they’re in the public and not going around sick people.

She said they might also want to consider additional safety steps like keeping doorknobs and other objects that are routinely touched by a large number of people sanitized and finding another way to greet people than shaking hands.

That has been seen as one way of spreading the virus from people to people.

Bandera County also extended the closure of the county park at Medina Lake from Wednesday, July 8, because of the large number of people coming to the lake from neighboring Bexar County, where the COVID-19 outbreak has reached record levels and resulted in 194 deaths.

City officials also will have a decision to make concerning the crowds that are expected to attend the Day of the American Cowboy celebration that is planned for later in July. Crowds of larger than 100 people are not allowed unless the mayor or county judge authorizes a larger crowd.

Since the county’s active case count exceeded 20, it was taken off the list of counties that had been made exempt from the governor’s proclamation of July 2 that people in Texas wear face coverings over their nose and mouth when in a commercial business or other building and in an outdoor space when it is not easy to maintain the six-feet of social distancing recommended.

Anyone under the age of 10, anyone with a medical condition that prevents him or her from wearing a mask, anyone exercising outdoors who can maintain a safe distance from someone else and anyone driving alone or with members of their household were made exempt from the facemask rule, as were a limited number of others.

While the increased count was troubling for local officials, they also noted that the manner in which state officials calculated the caseload had changed, which makes the count difficult to interpret.

Reed said officials had begun counting cases in the “pending investigation” category as active cases. In the most recent report, Bandera County had 18 cases in that category, or double the count of a week earlier.

Officials also had begun requiring a physician to declare that a patient who had COVID-19 had recovered from the virus. If physicians do not communicate that finding to the state, it could keep the number of recovered patients from growing at times, Reed said.

Evans said he was frustrated to see that different emergency agencies had different counts on the COVID caseload and that changes in the way in which patients are characterized as recovered could keep the count of active cases higher than they actually are.

“I don’t have much confidence in the numbers,” he said. “It makes it hard when you’re trying to make decisions.”

The judge said he had hoped to keep the active case count at between 8-15, but with the new reporting rules in place, that could be impossible to do.

Officials were pleased to see that Bandera County continued to have no deaths from the virus as of Monday, when the death toll from COVID-19 had risen to 3,235 statewide.

A week earlier, 2,655 Texas residents had died from the virus.