On Friday, health, government, school and county officials met at Methodist Hospital South to discuss and share information on the COVID-19 virus. Present at the meeting were representatives from Methodist Hospital South, Methodist Healthcare, Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), Department Social and Health Services (DSHS), Atascosa County Emergency Management Office, Atascosa County Commissioners, Atascosa County EMS, Poteet Strawberry Festival, City of Pleasanton, City of Jourdanton, City of Poteet, City of Christine, Pleasanton ISD, Jourdanton ISD, Poteet ISD, and Lone Star Ambulance.
The meeting was organized with the help of David Prasifka, Atascosa County Emergency Management Coordinator. “Our goal was to have a unified meeting to show that the county is working together for one common goal – to protect the citizens.” Many topics were covered at the meeting such as protocols in the county, cities, hospitals, schools, emergency services and at local events and festivals. After gathering “all information from scientific and health agencies,” the Poteet Strawberry Festival Association made their decision to continue with preparations. The Association said they will work closely with health agencies and have met with volunteers to go over rules and extra preventative measures.
Methodist Hospital South, in collaboration with Methodist Healthcare, South Texas Regional Advisory Council (STRAC), Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Region 8 and other health entities, stated that it is working tirelessly to ensure Atascosa County and surrounding communities are prepared for, not only the current state of the virus, but also any future spread of COVID-19 throughout the community. Methodist Hospital South is focusing on overall preparedness efforts including reinforcing appropriate infection prevention protocols, helping to ensure there are needed supplies and equipment and providing contingency plans for staffing.
“We know the entire community is looking at us to keep them safe and healthy,” stated Pam Guillory, Chief Nursing Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Methodist Hospital South. “We have the comprehensive safety measures in place to guarantee a safe work environment for our staff and a safe hospital for our patients and visitors during this high alert for COVID 19. We have Infection Prevention professionals working to further discuss preparedness within the hospital setting and community. In addition, as a Methodist Healthcare facility, we have access to HealthTrust – a large medical supply group that can supply necessary personal protective equipment to our staff,” added Guillory.
In the event Methodist Hospital South would admit a patient who tests positive with COVID-19, the hospital is equipped with a negative pressure room and staff has been properly trained in emergency management situations, with an escalation plan that calls for appropriate resources, as needed. The CDC guidelines are also being followed for preparedness.
According to Methodist Hospital South, Atascosa County and surrounding areas have a low immediate health risk from COVID-19. “We need to remind our community this hospital treats patients every day with far more dangerous and deadly respiratory illnesses such as influenza, which has already caused 19 million illnesses, 180,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths this season in the U.S. alone,” stated Dr. Ashwini Kumar, Chief of Staff for Methodist Hospital South. “We believe that with certain basic preventative measures the spread of this virus can be contained, most important being hand hygiene.” The hospital is screening all visitors to help reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses and better protect the health of Methodist Hospital South’s patients, staff and the community in and around Atascosa County.
Atascosa County Judge Bob Hurley stated, “I have instructed the Atascosa Emergency Management Office to be diligent in staying up to date on all COVID-19 information released by the CDC and Texas Department of State Health Services as well as local health organizations. We will keep the public updated on all pertinent and available information on the Atascosa County website and via the local media.” Atascosa County released the following statement, “As of today there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 virus in Atascosa County. County, city and school districts have been checking their plans and have been keeping in touch with state and federal agencies. Please check the Atascosa County website at www.atascosacounty.texas.gov and click on the wellness tab for more information and best practices to ensure the health of our citizens.”
Pleasanton ISD Superintendent Matthew Mann stated, “As a district, we are following the Metropolitan Health District’s and the CDC’s recommendations. We are doing our best to make sure all students and staff are washing their hands, being diligent about disinfecting common surfaces and requesting that students and staff stay home when they are sick.”
At press time, The Texas Department of State Health Services is reporting a state total of 13 cases of COVID-19. The 13 cases were found in Collin County (1), Fort Bend (6), and Harris (6). These cases are all related to travel to areas with known community spread of COVID-19 within the U.S. or abroad. Public health departments are working to identify any close contacts of the patients while they were sick so they can be isolated and monitored for symptoms and quickly tested, if needed.
“Texas is not standing idly by on coronavirus,” said Senator Pete Flores. “Our state and local leadership is facing the threat head-on, with six public health labs ready to perform COVID-19 tests in Austin, Houston, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, and Lubbock. The remaining four labs in Tyler, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Harlingen will have testing capabilities very soon.”
“The state’s public health lab network will be able to test over 125 patients per day once the entire network is equipped,” said Senator Flores. “The ability to provide testing in Texas will help shorten the time for healthcare providers to receive test results and public health officials to take appropriate steps.”
DSHS, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and other state agencies continue their ongoing preparations so that all of state government is working together to limit the spread of the virus and protect Texans. The immediate risk to most Texans remains low. Nationally, according to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 647 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. with at least 25 deaths. Of the 647 cases, 83 were travel-related, 36 were person-to-person spread, and 528 are under investigation. Also, Johns Hopkins reported that as of Monday, March 9, there were 111,354 confirmed Coronavirus cases worldwide with 62,375 recoveries and 3,892 deaths.
Guidance from the CDC emphasized that older adults and people with underlying health conditions are most at risk for severe disease caused by the coronavirus, and should avoid crowded places, long plane trips and especially cruise ships.
Texas Health and Human Services recommends the following practices to prevent coronavirus: Wash your hands often, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds––especially before eating or after using the restroom. If soap is not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; avoid close contact with people who are sick. Always cover your cough or sneeze; clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. If you feel sick, please consult a doctor and stay home, if able.
Besides the County website, please contact the following state and federal agencies for the latest COVID-19 information. Texas Department of State Health Services at 1-877-570-9779 or email at coronavirus@dshs. texas.gov. More info can be found at dshs.texas.gov/ coronavirus/. A complete list of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID19) local health entities can be found at dshs.texas.gov/ regions/2019-nCoV-Local- Health-Entities/. Information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention can be found at cdc.gov/coronavirus/.