As of this Tuesday, June 23, there have been 85 cases in Medina County (excluding local prison outbreaks counted separately). That’s up quite a bit from 57 last Tuesday, June 16. In the weekly conference with Medina County officials, Medina County Health Unit Patricia Mechler reported that the State has notified Medina County of 16 new cases pending investigation right now.
The uptick in cases is hitting closer to home, as community spread became evident this past weekend. Devine ISD and First Baptist Church of Devine, are taking a proactive approach to warn community members who may have been exposed, sending out notices this past Saturday, June 20 ahead of State investigations which take time to compile and report to the public.
Because State officials are overwhelmed with tracking and investigating COVID cases right now, our own local health unit is stepping up to investigate the newest 16 cases as soon as possible.
“In the SA area we’ve seen some really big increases, as much as 538 new cases in a single day,” stated Patricia Mechler, Medina County Health Unit Director (on Monday). “People are starting to relax, but now more than ever, we have all the more reason to be more cautious. You don’t want to get into one of those situations, and then find yourself thinking later–’Wow I could have had a mask on, but I didn’t.’ The more we open, the more exposure we have, and the more we need to wear masks, especially in large groups such as churches, or any other meeting of organizations.”
Emergency Manager Keith Lutz states, “There are still hospital beds available even though we’ve got this massive increase in positive cases, so that’s good. We look to SA Metro Health which usually provides daily updates.”
The City of San Antonio reported 6,882 cases as of this Monday, June 12. Four hundred and six COVID patients are hospitalized right now, with 133 being in the ICU, and 64 on a Ventilator. There are estimated 4704 staffed hospital beds in the SA area, and right now about 1,300 are available (28% open). There are 693 ventilators in the SA area, and right now, 527 are available (76%).
Some of these 16 new cases being investigated here in Medina County are confirmed, while others may be labeled as probable, and the zip codes of patients as well as the origin of where they contracted it are some of the things the health unit is working to determine.
“We are trying to get that information now, instead of waiting for the State to come in and do an investigation because they a lot of cases to investigate right now. We are adding a new column to the charts we release called ‘Pending Investigation’ and we are at 16 pending right now. Our cases are going up, and we are also testing a lot more cases. The number of people tested as of May 19 was 364, and as of June 19 that went up to 959.”
Lutz states, “We are stepping up and saying we are gonna start working on contact tracing and investigations now instead of waiting. We don’t want to get left behind as the State works on Bexar County cases. We are one of very few small counties who has our own health department and the ability to do this. Trish and her team are doing a great job. Our local health department is actually bringing in another person to help with these investigations as well.”
“When the State contacts us with a list of 16 names, we are telling them we want to start investigating those cases right now. Residents can rest assured that we are doing everything we can to stay on top of cases in our county,” Lutz added. “That is one of the reasons we wanted the prison cases removed from our charts because we did not have accurate information on those. Only the prison has accurate information on those cases.”
Mechler adds, “This involves contact tracing, finding out who patients are and where they’ve been. And then calling all of those people to try to advise them and notify them of possible exposure. Cases and investigations are getting more lengthy as we open up and the circle of people we have contact with gets bigger.”
Officials point out that this is not a one-way street, and any help that COVID patients can give them in how and where to contact people who have been exposed is critical.
“There are a lot of times, that the State hasn’t been able to contact someone and it would be lost to investigation–and that’s where Keith comes in many times to help us find and make contact with some of those people. We haven’t lost one yet.”
Judge Chris Schuchart commented on the turmoil over SA area leaders trying to curb the spread by doing everything they can to require masks in public.
“The Governor has made it very clear in his orders that there should not be a fine for people not wearing masks, and Judge Wolff’s order in Bexar County is instead focusing on requiring businesses to have a procedure that will essentially fine the business if customers are not using masks. I think that small businesses are being hit hard enough as it is, and we will continue following the Governor’s guidance.”
“The reporting of new cases is getting more and more distanced between the date of positive test and the date it is reported to us to the point that some of the cases are recovered by the time they are reported to us,” Judge Schuchart said.
“It takes time for the State to receive the test results, and then time for the State to get those results to us,” Mechler noted.
To make matters worse, many small communities must rely on the State to come in and investigate each case. However, local officials in Medina County are working hard to close that gap and keep the community informed as they can by stepping up to do their own investigations as soon as they receive names from State officials now.
The Reverend of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Sabinal also announced on June 20th that it would close face to face masses until further notice after possible exposure to COVID.
See separate articles on notices sent out by Devine ISD and First Baptist Church.
The latest cases added on press day 6/23/20:
1 case 78861- community spread, 1 case 78016-community spread, 1 case 78039- close contact, 1 probable 78016- close contact
On June 22nd- Two new cases added in the 78861 zip code, due to close contact
And on the same date, 16 new cases were added as “Pending Investigation”
On June 18th- two cases were added. One case was in 78016, transmitted by close contact
1 – 78861, related to travel outside the County within Texas
On June 17th- 1 case due to travel outside the County within Texas in the 78861 zip code.
On June 16th-1 new case in the 78016 zip code, community transmission; and 4 new cases in the 78861 zip code, close contact.