With COVID-19 cases still on the rise, local health officials are turning a worried eye toward Thanksgiving.
Dr. Laura Palau, assistant to Val Verde County/City of Del Rio Local Health Authority Dr. J.J. Gutierrez, spoke to Del Rio City Council members about the local COVID-19 situation during Tuesday’s regular council meeting.
“I know that the questions you (have) are mostly about the uptick in cases, so today we are reporting 25 new cases for a total number of 2,859 positive cases (since the pandemic started), with 129 deaths and five deaths still under investigation,” Palau told the council.
“Basically, what’s happening, we are kind of going uphill again, but we are not seeing the peaks that we were seeing in July,” she added, saying she believed a better job is being done of containing the new cases.
She said in September and October, she repeatedly said Val Verde County and Del Rio were not testing enough, but that situation has changed with the placement of a number of testing kiosks throughout Del Rio.
“We’re seeing that the testing has been going up,” she said.
“The reason we are seeing the positivity rate drop is that we are testing more,” Palau added.
She said the current local positivity rate of 16 percent is still high.
“People don’t just go and test because they’re traveling or as a precaution. They’re testing because they’re having symptoms, so the fact that we’re testing people because they’re having symptoms or because they were exposed to a contact, that means that we’re still getting a high number of cases,” Palau said.
“If we start creating a culture of testing as a precaution, just because, as a way to keep families safe, to travel safe, then we would see the positivity rate dilute a little bit more,” she added.
Palau also discussed the new cases per week.
“At the beginning of October, we had 79 cases per week, but now we are almost double the amount of cases that we’re seeing daily. Daily, right now, we’re seeing 20 new cases per day. Obviously, the number varies. Today was 25. Yesterday, it was around 50, 54, because of the weekend. We don’t report on the weekend, so it accumulates,” she said.
Palau also presented statistics of the demographics of the positive cases.
She said more young people are infected with the novel coronavirus.
“Particularly, our higher age group is persons 20 to 29 years of age, and I think this is very important because these are the people that go to the bars and events, so due to these people going out and traveling, those are the ones who start spreading the infection,” Palau said.
Among all of the confirmed cases, the average age of an infected person in Val Verde County is 41 years of age, and 54 percent of the persons who tested positive are female. The average age for a person dying of COVID-19 locally is 72 years of age.
Of the 273 active cases currently being monitored in the county, most of them, too, are on the younger end of the scale, Palau said.
“I believe this is the reason why we’re not seeing that many hospitalizations, because our confirmed cases are in young people,” she said.
Palau said family contact is the number one method of transmission of local COVID-19 cases.
“One person goes somewhere, work, an event, comes back and the whole household gets infected, and that’s how it spreads. This is something we need to consider for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and something the city and the county should focus on, is to give recommendations to families on how to have a safe Thanksgiving,” she said.
Other modes of transmission include community, work, travel to Acuña and domestic travel.
She said based on contact tracing, she and the local health authority have determined that 17.65 percent of positive local cases are asymptomatic.
Palau also discussed the situation in the local public schools.