“Victoria is an outbreak,” says Dr. McNeill about the widespread community transmission of COVID-19

VISD to send survey to parents asking for their preference on virtual or in-person instruction

VICTORIA, Texas- Community transmission and schools were the main topics in Monday’s Victoria County emergency COVID-19 press briefing.

Widespread community transmission not due to more testing

Dr. McNeill spoke first addressing some misinformation going around the community regarding community transmission.

“We are in widespread community transmission, we tried to avoid this,” said Dr. McNeill. “If you’re out there without a mask around a bunch of people you don’t know, consider yourself to have it.”

While Victoria County hospitals have not reached maximum capacity yet, they are getting quite full. There are 125 COVID-19 patients currently being hospitalized between DeTar and Citizens.  ICU beds are becoming fewer and fewer as the days go by, with some patients requiring the use of a finite number of ventilators.

In the event that area hospitals reach capacity, Dr. McNeill explained that it’s not really an option to send patients to other cities such as Houston or San Antonio, as their hospitals are already stretched thin.

Extra nurses have been brought into Victoria hospitals by the State which has helped a lot according to Dr. McNeill.

Dr. McNeill addressed a frequently asked question of whether the uptick in cases is due to simply more testing? “When people say, ‘you’re just testing more’, well there’s a reason we’re testing more. There’s more of it out there. If I test 100 people and 80 of them come out positive that I wouldn’t have tested before that doesn’t change the fact that there were still 80 cases out there. The numbers will go up the more you test, of course, but the reason they’re going up is because there’s more disease out there.

Pool testing has begun in some places, where they’ll test about 20 people and run all the tests in one batch.  If the pool tests positive then at least one person in that pool is positive and a test of each of the individual swabs will be tested to determine who in the group is positive.

“Some days we have a lot of tests available, some days we don’t we are at the mercy of laboratories. It’s a matter of getting the specimens collected. Another issue is getting enough of the swabs to take a specimen. And then the labs having the resources to keep up with the volume of specimens coming in,” explained Dr. McNeill.

Dr. McNeill reminds the community that masks are not a replacement for social distancing. Social distancing is an important step in mitigating the spread of this virus that is transmitted through water droplets that are sprayed into the atmosphere when we talk, laugh, sneeze, etc.

Before giving the floor to Dr. Quintin Shepherd, Dr. McNeill took a moment to read his new order imposing control measures to all public and private schools in Victoria County to prohibit face-to-face instruction until after September 7th. This order, which complies with Gov. Abbott’s most recent orders, goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. July 21st, 2020.

You can read the full order here.

“As the Local Health Authority, I strongly reccommend that parochial schools do not re-open for on campus face-to-face instruction until after September 7, 2020, but this order shall not restrict in-person istruction at any parochial school offering religious formation education.”

The order also explains that two weeks before schools re-open, the district should develop a plan of action and submit it to the Victoria County Local Health Authority and make the plan available for parents and the community.

 

Face to Face on-campus instruction will be delayed in VISD

Dr. Quintin Shepherd opened his statements sharing his condolences for the loss of one of the VISD staff members.

He continued the conversation about schools preparing for the start of the new school year by discussing the district calendar, registration, and technology.

Calendar

Dr. Shepherd said the district is planning a virtual start on August 18th, a few days later than originally planned.

Teachers and staff will undergo training from July 27-31st to learn how to use Microsoft teams, teleconferencing software that works similarly to Zoom.

In the first week of August there will be more training and staff preparation days for each grade level. Visit the VISD website to see the full calendar.

Registration

All parents need to complete registration for the upcoming school year as soon as possible. The district must have accurate counts of students who will be attending VISD schools so that they can build the classes. Families will not be able to sign up to receive a device or select an educational preference until they have registered their children. If you need assistance with the registration process please contact your child’s school or the VISD Student Services Department.

The school year will begin fully remote, however, VISD is still interested in learning what each family’s long-term preference is for their children. They will be sending a new survey on Tuesday to all families who have completed registration.

The survey will ask if parents want their children to remain in remote instruction for the foreseeable future or to change to face-to-face instruction when that becomes possible. Parents may change their preference until two weeks before face-to-face instruction is scheduled to commence.

Technology

Dr. Shepherd shared that about 2,600  laptops are on order and will hopefully be delivered in the next few weeks bringing the total number of laptops ordered since the Spring of 2020 to more than 5,200. Two thousand and six hundred hotspots have been ordered for families who do not have access to reliable WiFi for their children to complete coursework.

Any families who are able to afford to purchase a laptop or hotspot are encouraged to purchase their own so that someone less fortunate can have access to those being provided by VISD.

When it is safe to return to campus for instruction VISD is prepared with more than 150,000 face masks and 1,400 gallons of hand sanitizer. They are also working on getting plexiglass dividers.

Dr. Shepherd also assured families that meal distribution will continue.

Any decision to extend Dr. McNeill’s order will be taken once schools submit their plan of action two weeks prior to schools re-opening for face-to-face instruction.

For more information regarding VISD’s plan for instruction both virtual and in-person please visit their website.

Visit the Victoria County OEM website to get daily updates on COVID-19 cases, recoveries, and deaths in the county.

You can watch the entire press briefing in the video at the top of this article.