The COVID-19 case count in Bandera County remained the same last week as it has been for the last three weeks even as gyms, office buildings and other interests were allowed to reopen and area parks drew big crowds in a slowly rebounding economy.
While six cases of the deadly virus have been confirmed in the county since late March, four of the patients who tested positive have recovered from the disease and their cases are no longer considered active.
Both of the two active cases are close to the point of being declared inactive, said Bandera County Emergency Management Coordinator Carey Reed.
Still, 51 Bandera County residents were tested for the coronavirus in mobile screening sites set up in Mansfield Park over the last two weeks, and the results of those tests have not been reported. Reed said she had not been advised that any of those tests were given high chances of producing positive findings
She and Bandera County Judge Richard Evans encouraged residents to continue to employ common-sense health and safety practices like washing their hands regularly, avoiding anyone who is sick and staying a good distance from anyone else in a crowd to keep the coronavirus from spreading rapidly.
“I think everybody is trying to be pretty careful,” said Reed. “We have to keep it up.”
Statewide, the COVID-19 count grew to 48,693 cases as of Monday, May 18, an increase of more than 10,000 cases in a day. Fatalities from the virus in Texas were up by 11 from Sunday, March 17, to 1,347.
Gov. Greg Abbott said earlier in the week that the numbers were going up in part because the state was doing more testing for the virus, particularly in areas where a spike in the coronavirus count was seen as likely.
On Monday, May 18, the governor announced an even broader opening of the economy as his strategic plan to kick start the economy moved into a second phase.
That meant that all restaurants could allow more diners into their establishments – up to half of the restaurant’s occupancy, or twice the level that it had been before, as of Friday, May 22.
In addition, gyms and exercise facilities were allowed to open on Monday at 25 percent of their capacity, office buildings were allowed to bring 25 percent of their workforce back to work, child care, massage centers and youth clubs were cleared to open again and bars were told they could return to service on Friday, May 22, also confined by the 25 percent occupancy limit.
In Bandera County, the limit was boosted to 50 percent because the active coronavirus count was under six cases.
The governor’s new rules also allow public schools in Texas to schedule in-person summer schools beginning as soon as June 1, provided they comply with social distancing and other health protocols of the state.
Bandera County Judge Richard Evans said it was probably time for a broader relaxing of the restrictions on business and personal activity as people learn how to deal with the deadly pandemic.
He said some businesses have made their own decisions to do more things regardless of what the governor’s order said.
One business that had defied the governor’s back-to-work order was Strive 24 Fitness and Salon in Lakehills, whose owner opened the gym back up for business on May 1, 17 days before the state said gyms could resume operations.
Owner Vinny Mifsud said it was unfair to lump his small gym in with the gyms that draw bigger crowds and that he made a point of implementing strict cleanliness guidelines on the gym and hair salon throughout his 10 years of operation.
“There’s no reason I should have been closed,” Mifsud said.
The return to business on Monday was not real busy, but his regular customers enjoyed getting out and going through their regular workouts again, the gym owner said.
Strive 24 had not been officially cited for violating the governor’s executive order governing business operations since the case file on the gym had not been turned over to the County Attorney’s office for review, officials said.
Members were returning in fairly large numbers to Get Uber Fit in Bandera on Monday, one of the gym’s coaches, Karl Hayes said.
William Guilford was one of the members who was happy to see the gym and its weight room open again.
“It’s a lot easier when you work out together,” he said. “We’re all like a big family here.”