March 31 turned out to be the most consequential day yet for coronavirus-related news in Kerrville and Kerr County since the beginning of the pandemic. On a day in which both Kerr County and Gillespie County confirmed their first cases of COVID-19, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a new “essential activities” order and confirmed that schools will remain closed until at least May 4.
First coronavirus case in Kerr County is a Peterson Health employee
Peterson Health issued two press releases on Tuesday, the first of which confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Kerr County. A few hours later, another press release revealed that the person who tested positive is an employee of Peterson Health.
“The individual, who had travel history, was admitted to PRMC after self- reporting symptoms related to COVID-19, then later discharged home for isolation,” stated the release. “The individual and all PRMC staff followed all standard precautions, accepted protocols and procedures to protect medical staff, employees, and patients.”
The press release did not disclose in what capacity this person works, and did not state whether or not the person had any contact with hospital patients. The type or destination for the person’s travel history was not disclosed, and we do not know when the person started showing symptoms, or whether or not they moved about in Kerrville before self-isolating.
Cory Edmondson, President and CEO of Peterson Health, stated, “We are proud of how this individual handled the situation from the beginning by recognizing the symptoms, self-reporting, and self-isolating.”
Gillespie County records first official case
Fredericksburg also received word of the first confirmed case in Gillespie County on Tuesday, when City Manager Ken Myers announced that “…a person who lives and works in Gillespie County had a positive result from a test administered at a Boerne healthcare facility.”
According to the article in the Fredericksburg Standard, “Hospital administrators are working to track down more information about the resident. No information was given as to the person’s identity or where he or she is employed.”
Abbott issues new directives to public, schools
In a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Governor Greg Abbott announced new directives asking Texans to stay home unless accessing or performing essential services such as healthcare, grocery stores, banking and financial services, utilities, child care for essential service employees, and government services.
From the Texas Tribune: “States that have adopted ‘stay-at-home’ policies or even some that use ‘shelter-in-place’ are very close to ours, which is, if you had to put a label on it, it would be ‘essential services and activities only,'” Abbott said,drawing parallels between Texas and even New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. “If you’re not engaged in an essential service or activity, then you need to be at home for the purpose of slowing the spread of COVID-19.”
Guidance on essential services can be found here: https://www.cisa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/CISA_Guidance_on_the_Essential_Critical_Infrastructure_Workforce_Version_2.0_Updated.pdf
The Executive Order follows the decision by President Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to enhance social distancing guidelines and extend the deadline for these guidelines to April 30th.
The governor also announced that schools will remain closed to in-person attendance until at least May 4. The entire press conference can be viewed below.
Local officials respond
City and county officials in Kerrville are still trying to figure out how this order will affect Kerrville and Kerr County. The order states that all Texans should remain at home unless accessing or performing those essential services, but enforcement remains unclear.
The Kerrville Daily Times reported the following responses from local leaders.
“I’m seriously considering if a lockdown is the best thing for us,” Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn said. “That’s pretty much on the table.”
“One thing we are emphasizing in all of this is that people need to start thinking about whether or not what they’re doing is essential, and if it’s not essential, don’t do it,” [County Judge Rob] Kelly said. “We’re trying to get people to stay home if possible, and work from home if they can at all, and only do things that are absolutely essential as they’re out on the roads.”
Kerrville’s City Council will hold a special meeting on Friday at 10:00 AM to officially postpone the May 2020 citywide election and to take potential action for COVID-19 response.
- Peterson Health press release number 1
- Peterson Health press release number 2
- “First COVID-19 case reported in Fredericksburg.” Fredericksburg Standard. March 31, 2020.
- Governor Abbott’s press release for March 31
- CISA guidance on essential services
- Texas Tribune article on governor’s order
- “Coronavirus rears its head in Kerrville just as Texas ramps up restrictions.” Kerrville Daily Times. March 31, 2020.