Masks, Turkey, and COVID: Local officials share updates and tips to have a safe Thanksgiving

Daily transmission rate is four times higher than last month

VICTORIA, Texas- While there were no new local orders shared today, Ashley Strevel opened Thursday’s COVID-19 Emergency Management press briefing by reminding the community to continue heeding state orders issued by Governor Abbott.

State orders include the wearing of masks in public and the limiting of social gatherings. Visit gov.texas.gov for more information on the existing state of mandates. 

David Gonzales and Dr. McNeill took the podium to provide updates and remind the community to remain vigilant especially during the holidays. 

 

Transmission levels in Victoria

“As we see an all-time high in case counts across the country and state, we have now progressed to a minimal or moderate community transmission level, which means we have sustained transmission with high likelihood of confirmed exposure within communal settings for potential, for a rapid increase in cases, in comparison to September and October, where we are in none to minimal level transmission,” said David Gonzales, Victoria County Public Health Director. 

This means that Victoria county has moved up one level, and Gonzales explained that to gauge the increase in transmission the Public Health Department is looking at the seven-day moving average of new cases. They take the average of the past seven days of daily case counts and update that number on a daily basis. Gonzales says this gives a true picture of the risk to the community. 

 “Currently, that number sits at 25 new cases a day over the past seven days, which is four times higher than it was back in September and October, which is concerning,” Gonzales said.

The next measure they look at this the seven day moving average of patients hospitalized in our region with COVID as compared to the total reasonable hospital capacity. Gonzales said that “currently the number sits at 11%, which is important to know because of the 15% threshold that our governor has determined to be the point at which occupancy limits are lowered to 50% in many business establishments.” 

The total number of COVID patients hospitalized divided by the total hospital capacity is how the health department arrives at that percentage. 


How to have a safe Thanksgiving?

While Dr. McNeill is not advising the community to “cancel” Thanksgiving or Christmas altogether, he did strongly urge the community to use great caution when gathering for the holidays. 

“This is the pivotal point because remember we understand this disease a lot more than we did several months ago. We have a lot more [hospital] beds filled than we did two weeks ago. And right now we’re probably about halfway full as compared to what we were in July, but July was rough. So what I’m saying is that when we get to this point now is the time that we have to alter what we’re doing.” 

The CDC released guidelines for Thanksgiving. Dr. McNeill echoes these guidelines suggesting that families gather in small groups outside while still social distancing. And try to limit gatherings to the people you live with or immediate family. 

“If you’re going to have people over if you’re not going to follow these rules, then please wear masks. Please. Do your Thanksgiving outside.”

 

Where are the transmissions happening?

Gonzales says that their investigations do not reveal a single hot spot for community transmissions. The virus is spreading at social gatherings, workplaces, living facilities, and schools just to name a few. 

Currently, the Health Department reports that approximately 35% of all confirmed cases have only had one or no COVID-19 symptoms at all.

 

Test kit shortages

David Gonzales confirmed that “The only shortage we are hearing of is that some of the rapid test kits, the lab kits are becoming less available at this time, but the standard PCR mail outfits are still available.”

 

Vaccines

Moving forward, the Victoria County Public Health Department said they are planning to receive vaccines in December. A specific date has not been set, however, David Gonzales said that the first doses will most likely go to critical populations, including healthcare workers, essential workers, those likely to develop severe diseases, and people with underlying health conditions.  

The Public Health Department will share more information about the vaccine in the coming weeks.