Over the last week, Del Rio went from a community with zero coronavirus cases to one with five and likely more on the way.
Four of our five were attributed to people who traveled out of the state with one linked to community spread. As local officials announced the changes daily, I read a lot of concerns that I would like to address.
First, I feel very comfortable with County Judge Lewis Owens and Mayor Bruno Lozano leading our community during these trying times. I promise you neither man imagined this when they decided to run for the job, but they have addressed it well and addressed it side by side.
There have been some accusations about these two men hiding information from the public, but I don’t buy it. The reality is they don’t know a whole lot either. In fact, in one case last week the state released information about a positive test before local officials were notified.
This is a constantly changing process, but the city, the county and Val Verde Regional Medical Center have worked well together to release as much information as they can.
And therein lies another problem. In times of crisis, people crave information. There is understandably a lot of fear and concern in the community as an invisible virus is attacking us. None of us no exactly where it is, so we ask for more and more information.
As each confirmed case was announced last week, one constant thing I heard was people demanding information. They asked for names, they asked where they people might have shopped or eaten lunch or where they work. All things I would like to know, too.
But unfortunately, the law limits what can be released. Medical privacy laws are very strong and unless the individual who is sick agrees to release information that might identify them, officials are pretty much forced to keep quiet.
Of the five cases announced last week, we learned some things about three of them. The first was a family member of an Airman at Laughlin and was related to international travel. That information was released by Laughlin with the permission of the family.
Another case was an employee of Border Federal Credit Union and worked at the branch on Bedell Avenue. That information was released by the credit union with the permission of the individual.
Most recently, we learned Dr. Daniel Chartrand has COVID-19. That information was released by VVRMC with permission from the doctor.
There will be more cases, and some of them will have personal information, some of them will not. This newspaper, elected officials and the hospital cannot force an individual to waive their privacy rights. So, we will learn what we are given. Sometimes that’s a lot, sometimes it is almost nothing.
So, what are we to do? That’s actually the easy question to answer. If you want to protect yourself, your family and your loved ones, you have to assume the coronavirus is everywhere. When you go to the store, assume someone there has been infected. When you go to work, assume the same thing.
Most people who are infected have symptoms, but the degree varies greatly. A few have no symptoms at all, but they can pass it to others while never knowing they were infected. So, the best thing any of us can do is assume it’s everywhere. When you go out, follow the safety steps recommended by local, state and federal officials. Stay at least six feet away from anyone else, wash your hands often, use hand sanitizer, use Lysol or some other cleaner to disinfect your house and things you bring inside.
The strong steps being taken by the government are meant to protect us. But we do have a role to play. Stay home as much as you can, but if you do go out, take the necessary steps to protect yourself.
David Rupkalvis is the publisher of the Del Rio News-Herald.