Kerr County bars must shut down until further notice and other businesses are ordered to step back their reopening efforts from 75% to 50% capacity, effective Wednesday, Dec. 30, because local COVID-19 hospitalizations have become too high.
At Monday’s Kerr County Commissioners’ Court meeting, Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly informed commissioners that the county has exceeded its hospitalization capacity with more than 15% of all hospital beds taken by COVID-19 patients. Kelly said, “My math tells me that 15% of 88 (beds at PRMC), if we go by the DSHS certifications, is 13 hospitalizations. And we are at 32. We are almost 3 times what the state allows us to be at this point.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-32 deems that no elective surgeries may be conducted at this time and retailers must scale back their reopening efforts to half their capacity. Kelly also received another notification Monday by the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission that Kerr County’s high hospitalization rate also means that bars must close until further notice. Bars are any establishment whose sales consist of 51% or more of alcohol.
Locally, the COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb. According to CEO/Executive Director of PRMC Corey Edmondson, “I tell you, the staff is fatigued and overwhelmed with the volume and intensity that these patients require in treating them….But they’ve been doing a phenomenal job of caring for our community and our county.”
Edmondson said that earlier in the pandemic the hospital was accepting patients transferred from San Antonio, but they no longer have the capacity to do so right now. When people show up to the emergency room, they are tested for COVID-19 if they are showing symptoms of the virus. If they are asymptomatic but feel they have been exposed to someone who was positive for the virus, they are referred to the hospital’s outreach clinic for testing. Those who have mild cases may self-quarantine at home.
Edmondson also dispelled rumors that flu cases are being lumped in with COVID-19 cases to hike up the pandemic’s numbers, adding that the distinction between the two and other illnesses is maintained. “We test for them differently. There’s a COVID test. There’s a flu test. There’s a pneumonia test. There’s a strep test.”
The most recent data available regarding current active novel coronavirus cases in Kerr County is from Dec. 23 due to the Christmas holidays. At that time, the county had 475 active cases of COVID-19, 1,901 recoveries, 33 deaths attributed to the virus and 25 inpatients at PRMC receiving treatment for COVID-19, according to Kerr County Emergency Management Coordinator Dub Thomas. It is expected that updated COVID-19 case numbers for Kerr County will be released Tues., Dec. 29.
As for recording the county’s COVID-19 statistics, Kelly said that what the county is doing right now gives officials the best estimate of the situation between the state agency (DSHS) and the local hospital, although it is not absolute. Kelly said, “What is pretty important right now is that these numbers are absolutely blowing up. The 500 cases we have now will become 600 or even 1,000 cases by the first week of January.”
PRMC received Moderna vaccinations last Wednesday and began vaccinating its health care employees on Thursday, Dec. 24. The predictions are that once the frontline workers, emergency providers and teachers are vaccinated, the vaccinations will be made available to the general population sometime in the spring.