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COVID surge prompts change at LISD

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From staff reports

For the second consecutive week, Caldwell County has reported a sizable increase in positive COVID-19 tests according to data from the state, with 472 new cases in the area showing up on the Department of State Health Services website.

As of Tuesday evening, Caldwell County had tallied 7,971 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March 2020. At press time Tuesday last week, the county had had a total of 7,499 cases. The county tallied one more fatality during the past week, making the total COVID-19 death toll 158 people since the state began reporting official numbers.

The numbers sometimes spike due to delayed reporting by the state, but Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden on Tuesday said that wasn’t the case this time. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the positivity rate for Caldwell County is currently 32.38 percent, a spike of more than 17 percentage points in the seven days that have passed since this newspaper’s last reporting deadline. Eighty-four percent of the hospital beds in Trauma Service Region O were occupied as of Tuesday afternoon.

Community transmission risk is categorized as “high,” meaning wearing a mask in public, indoor settings is recommended.

The new state-reported figures were reported on Jan. 4 — the first day of classes after the winter break for Lockhart ISD students. Due to the positivity rate reported by the CDC, mask-wearing will again be mandatory for LISD students and staff.

The district has a response matrix in place that was developed in September 2021 after the board directed staff to come up with guidelines that would help the district with decision making with respect to the current COVID-19 climate. The guidelines, which are comprised of four levels, go into effect when the COVID-19 positivity rate in Caldwell County falls below 25 percent. 

If the positivity rate is above 25 percent, mask-wearing is mandatory. The board approved the policy in October.

When the rate falls below 25 percent, the guidelines in the response matrix will dictate facial covering use and other measures.

For Level 1 guidance, a campus must have between 0 and .9 percent of campus students and staff with active COVID-19 cases. Daily disinfecting of campuses and additional cleaning of classrooms following a positive case continues. Masks are recommended and unvaccinated students and staff members are quarantined for household cases.

Mask-wearing is required at a campus for a period of 30 days at Level 3, which takes effect when a school has between 3-9.9 percent of students and staff with active COVID-19 cases. 

A campus is temporarily closed for 1-10 days when more than 10 percent of students and staff have active COVID-19 cases or there is an inability to adequately staff schools. At that threshold, the entire student body for that campus will learn via remote conferencing.

The LISD COVID-19 dashboard sat at zeros across the board as of Tuesday afternoon, but the district does not update the dashboard during holidays or on weekends, so no data was available.

Lockhart Mayor Lew White did not foresee City Council voting to impose any restrictions or make any changes at city facilities, thanks largely in part to Gov. Greg Abbott disallowing such mandates.

“There isn’t anything I can actually do other than urge people to mask and social distance,” White said. “The governor saw to that.”

The rise in positive cases reflects numbers seen statewide.

The number of Texans hospitalized each day with COVID-19 continued to rise over the New Year’s holiday, according to state health numbers released Monday.

As of Monday, more than 7,000 Texans were hospitalized with COVID-19, more than double the number two weeks ago but far below the pandemic peak of 14,218 on Jan. 11, 2021.

Health experts and history warn that the peak of the current surge in Texas is likely still ahead, as the highly contagious omicron variant of the virus rages through the state after Texans return from a season of gatherings and travel. Experts say it’s still unclear whether the current surge will overtake last year’s numbers of infections, hospitalizations or deaths.

Millions of Texans are now vaccinated and there are more treatments available to keep people out of hospitals. The omicron variant is also thought to cause less severe illness in some cases, although the data on that is far from conclusive.

But the omicron variant, which doctors say appears to be as contagious as the measles, could wind up sending more people to the hospital than during previous surges — even if it is a milder version of the virus — simply due to the sheer volume of people it’s infecting, Dr. Jason Bowling, epidemiologist at University Health in San Antonio, said in an article reported Tuesday by the Texas Tribune.

Omicron has become the dominant variant in the state less than a month after it was first detected. The delta variant took several months to become dominant in Texas.

The state’s hospitals and clinics were struggling with staffing even before the current surge, which has not only brought more patients into emergency rooms and ICUs, but also knocked out more staffers who are experiencing symptoms or have received positive COVID test results.

Help is on the way through state-contracted staffing being brought in from other states, with some 3,900 staffers — mostly nurses — expected to land in regions across the state this week. The state took similar action during last year’s winter and summer surges to bolster hospitals as they struggled to keep up with waves of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

CDC recommendations

If you test positive:

Stay home and isolate for five days, regardless of whether you have symptoms. For symptomatic people, Day 1 is the first full day after symptoms developed.

If you have no symptoms or if symptoms are resolving after five days, you can leave isolation but should wear a mask around others — even at home — for five more days.

If you have a fever — even a low fever that is going down — you should continue to isolate until your temperature is normal. 

There’s no need to test out of isolation after five days; tests can remain positive for months after COVID-19 infection, although you are no longer infectious.

For people who are exposed, and are boosted, or have received two Pfizer or Moderna doses in the last six months, or a single J&J dose in the last two months:

No need to quarantine at home after exposure.

Always wear a mask around others for 10 days.

Test if you develop symptoms, or five days after exposure. People can be infected even without symptoms.

If you test positive, you should begin to follow isolation guidelines.

If you are exposed and are unvaccinated or are eligible for a booster but haven’t received one:

Quarantine at home for five days, and continue to wear a mask around others for five more days to be sure you don’t infect someone else.

Test if you develop symptoms or five days after exposure.

If you test positive, you should begin to follow isolation guidelines.

Additional Vaccine Opportunities

The Vaccine Action Collaborative is organizing the following COVID-19 vaccination opportunities for people age 5 and up. These are open to people who need their first and second doses and boosters.

Jan. 7:  Red Rock Elementary, 4-7 p.m. ( 2401 FM 20, Red Rock)

Jan. 8:  Strawn Elementary Cafeteria, 4-7 p.m. (9160 Fm 1854,Dale)

Jan. 9:  St. John’s Catholic in Luling, 11-2 p.m. ( 500 E. Travis St.)

Jan. 14: Luling I.S.D Cafeteria, 4-7 p.m. (218 E. Travis St., Luling)

Jan. 22: Plum Creek Elementary Cafeteria, 4-7 p.m. (710 Flores St., Lockhart) 

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