Virus cases, deaths rising

Brazos Elementary closed, is reopening Friday

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There has been a sharp uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases in Austin County in the last week, especially in the schools.

Brazos ISD closed Brazos Elementary School for a week due to the number of cases and exposure at the school located in Orchard across the line in Fort Bend County.

“Due to the number of elementary students and staff who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or were placed into quarantine based on close contact per CDC guidelines, Brazos Elementary School will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020 for all staff and students. We will be using that time to deep clean the campus,” Brazos Superintendent Brian Thompson said in a letter to families.

The school is slated to reopen on Friday, Nov. 20.

As of Tuesday, Nov. 17, Brazos ISD reported on its website that there are 11 active cases in the district, all students. There are seven recovered cases involving students and staff. The most recent case was reported on Monday.

Sealy ISD is reporting three active cases, one a remote learner, one at Selman Elementary and one at Sealy Junior High. They were reported on Nov. 10-12. The district shows nine recoveries.

Bellville ISD is reporting seven active cases and 12 recovered cases. The new cases were reported between Nov. 12-16.

Another death reported

According to Austin County Judge Tim Lapham, the number of cases in the county has risen to 19 with another fatality.

“DSHS (Texas Department of State Health Services) is showing Austin County with 19 active cases. Another fatality brings us to 11 with 544 total cases,” he said in a report on Monday.

The DSHS website shows the death occurred Nov. 5. There were nine cases reported on Nov. 10 and five cases each on Nov. 12 and Nov. 15. Last week Austin County reported seven active cases and 525 total.

In his report, Lapham encouraged people to social distance and to prepare for company at Thanksgiving.

“With the upcoming holidays, it is more important than ever to continue with the precautions we have been stressing. People will be travelling and seeing friends and relatives. Hopefully the weather is nice and consider a meal outside if that’s an option for you. … Social distance as much as possible. I know you can do it and have been doing it. That’s why our numbers have been low thus far.

“And if you have a relative that is in a compromised state, probably best that all the grandkids aren’t packed the same room all day with them. Wear a facemask if it makes you and your family feel more comfortable, just don’t feel invincible if you do. Just like a firefighter’s facemask doesn’t make them invincible, the ultimate key is to not be exposed at all.”

Bellville Medical Center update

As expected, with the cooler temperatures and fall, COVID-19 numbers are increasing. Houston and Harris County are experiencing a high number of cases, with officials there implementing what they hope to be containment measures. Austin County has 19 active cases and, unfortunately, 11 deaths as of Nov. 16.

The CDC listed the following recommendations on Nov. 16.

“People age 2 and older should wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household. Masks offer some protection to you and are also meant to protect those around you, in case you have COVID-19, but don’t know it. A mask is not a substitute for social distancing and should still be worn in addition to staying at least six feet apart from others. However, masks may not be necessary when you are outside by yourself away from others, or with people in your household.”

Further recommendations from the CDC on that date include treating all family members as if they are high risk if the home includes anyone who is high risk. One member who is not high risk should be delegated to run essential errands. If someone in the household becomes ill, the CDC recommends isolating that individual to one room, preferably with a separate bath. If that is not an option, create as much separation as possible.

With Thanksgiving here, the CDC recommends celebrating the holiday with household members only or with a group of no more than six. If doing otherwise, they suggest bringing appropriate supplies to stay healthy – masks, sanitizer (alcohol-based not anti-bacterial, as COVID-19 is a virus, not a bacteria), drinking water.

Distancing six feet or more from guests not in your household and avoiding self-serve buffets and drink options and using disposable dinnerware are all CDC recommendations. Do NOT attend if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, are experiencing any symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

With both Pfizer and Moderna reporting 90-plus percent efficacy with their vaccines, it is hoped that emergency use will be approved, and vaccines will be available before the end of the year. In all likelihood, frontline workers such as doctors, nurses and first responders will be the initial recipients. With the number of vaccines being manufactured, it is hoped that most who want the vaccine will be able to receive it by late spring.

Cases rising across Texas

According to The Texas Tribune, which has been closely monitoring COVID-19 levels during the pandemic, as of Nov. 16, the state has reported 1,027,889 confirmed cases in 253 counties since the pandemic began. So far 19,579 people who tested positive for the virus have died.

“On Nov. 16, the state reported 11,838 available staffed hospital beds, including 933 available staffed ICU beds statewide. COVID-19 patients currently occupy 11.8% of total hospital beds,” the Tribune reported.

In a story by Shannon Najmabadi, the Tribune reports “the number of coronavirus patients in Texas hospitals has nearly doubled since October, and average infections are at their highest point in almost three months — leaving health officials bracing for a potential crush of hospitalizations going into the holidays.

Health experts say they’re up against a public yearning to return to regular life and tired of following precautions like social distancing and wearing a mask. Unlike the summer, when fear of the virus might have prompted people to heed health officials’ warnings, there’s now a complacency to strictly following safety precautions, experts and officials say.

“‘In July, everybody’s wearing masks. It was 100%. If somebody wasn’t wearing a mask, you could just feel the stares at them — and you’d see people like picking up their shirts and covering their noses with it,’ said Galveston County health authority Dr. Philip Keiser in a late October interview.

Now it’s falling into categories: some wear masks, some pull them under their nose or chin — and occasionally there’s open defiance, he said.”

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