Coronavirus (COVID-19)

With positive cases of the novel coronavirus showing up in Texas cities as close as San Antonio, the question had to be asked of Guadalupe County: Is Seguin and Guadalupe County prepared for a possible positive testing here.

The answer, local officials said, is yes, plans are in place for the event COVID-19 — the illness caused by the new strain of coronavirus — makes its way to Seguin. As of Friday, Guadalupe County had no confirmed positive test results for the virus, officials said.

“Guadalupe Regional Medical Center is carefully monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and has a preparedness plan in place for identifying, triaging, and treating patients with suspected COVID-19,” GRMC spokesperson Elizabeth McCown said Friday. “We are in close contact with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services via a daily call and are monitoring Centers for Disease Control recommendations as this scenario unfolds. GRMC is actively partnering with local emergency responders and (South Texas Regional Advisory Council) on emergency preparedness in addition to communicating with the local medical community. GRMC is ready to activate emergency response measures if necessary.”

Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster Friday as the coronavirus pandemic spread to all of the state’s biggest cities. The declaration came as the number of COVID-19 cases climbed and reached into San Antonio and Austin, where illnesses were reported for the first time Friday.

Abbott said that drive-thru testing for people, including first responders and high-risk patients, will begin in the state, with the first location in San Antonio. Texas has 39 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Friday afternoon, and 220 people have been tested so far.

People in Seguin who think they have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it, should check themselves for possible signs of the illness, McCown said. Those experiencing fever, cough or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19 in the last 14 days should contact their health provider, she said.

People visiting a health provider should alert staff there of symptoms if they suspect they have been exposed to the virus, McCown said.

Testing locally doesn’t come easily.

“There is not a quick and simple method to test for coronavirus widely available right now,” McCown said. “A test for COVID-19 can only be ordered by a physician with preapproval by the local health department or [Department of State Health Services] Public Health Region to ensure the patient meets Person Under Investigation criteria for testing to obtain DSHS approval to test.”

Seguin and Guadalupe County emergency management personnel continue to monitor and disseminate information from state health officials.

While other cities across the country have canceled events, the city of Seguin remains open for business with the exception of the library, which the city announced will close from Monday March 16 to Sunday, March 22, said Jennifer Sourdelia, Seguin’s public information officer.

“No city events have been canceled at this time,” she said Friday. “For those with events booked at the Seguin Events Complex, the city will re-schedule or cancel events with no penalty if customers choose to do so.”

Sick people required to appear at Seguin Municipal Court should call the court and have their court dates rescheduled, Sourdelia said.

For those wondering how to steer clear of the virus, city officials advised citizens to follow preventions measures outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; covering coughs and sneezes with tissues and disposing of the tissue; avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

Guadalupe County is preparing for a possible case of COVID-19 here, said Patrick Pinder, the county’s emergency management coordinator. He has been in daily meetings and has had daily contact with state health officials to get information updates.

With CDC recommending social distancing, Guadalupe County officials are considering key personnel staffing options, Pinder said. Guadalupe County is developing a Continuity of Operations Plan to ensure the county continues providing needed services while also protecting county employees, he said.

“Our stance is if the schools close, parents are going to stay home with their kids,” Pinder said. “The parents are going to want to stay home with them. That’s going to affect county business.”

He and other county officials are urging county residents to remain calm and continue their lives as normally as possible, the emergency coordinator said.

Meanwhile, the county will follow recommendations from the state level, Pinder said.

The governor’s disaster declaration allows state resources to be reassigned and used to prepare for and respond to COVID-19, Pinder said.

It also activates the state emergency management plan and the State Operations Center to enhance planning and response capabilities among other things, according to a news statement the governor released Friday afternoon.

Abbot directed state agencies to help facilitate telemedicine and provide flexible work and telework policies to employees, the statement read. He reassured the public that stockpiling supplies is not necessary.

Abbott said Texas Public Health Labs have the capacity to test more than 270 people per day, with more private labs coming online every day. San Antonio has announced the opening of the first drive-through testing facility in Texas, he said. Other major cities are working to implement drive-through testing sites that will be run and managed at the local level. Texas remains prepared, the governor said.

“The state of Texas is prepared, and we continue to take proactive measures along with the support of our federal and local partners to contain this virus and keep Texans safe,” Abbott said. “Declaring a state of disaster is a key component of these efforts because it allows the state to effectively serve the people of Texas without hindrance or delay. When Texans come together, there is nothing we can’t overcome — and it is up to all of us to work proactively and collaboratively to respond to this challenge and protect public health.”

Dalondo Moultrie is the assistant managing editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at dalondo.moultrie@seguingazette.com .

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