OPINION — Community spread is in the hands of our community. Our citizens – each and every one of you – play a part in stopping community spread.
If you care about our local economy, if you care about our family-owned businesses, your hairdresser, your barber, your nail technician … then you should care about whether you are playing a part in the community spread of COVID-19. If you care about your neighbors, coworkers, friends, family and fellow citizens, then we need each of you to take personal responsibility for your actions.
Community spread happens in your front yard, your backyard, your street and your living room. Going outside does not stop the spread. Community spread happens at house parties, pool parties, backyard parties and street parties.
Each of you are accountable for your actions and each of you play a part in stopping the community spread.
Mask or no mask, we definitely know people have strong beliefs concerning wearing masks – positively and negatively. Yes, we know in March the news reported that masks were unnecessary. Why was that repeated? It was to make sure our health professionals had plenty of PPE (personal protection equipment) or face masks, gloves, medical gowns available for the hospitals, for the doctors and the nurses.
The controversy continues on mask wearing, but I ask, is it too much to ask in a time when we should be asking for the best in everyone? We know medical issues prevent people from wearing masks. We know people believe we have infringed upon their constitutional rights. However, by not wearing a mask you may be endangering others, which in turn endangers small businesses. The debate on wearing masks will continue, but I ask you, if your doctor tells you that you have high blood pressure, do you wait to react until you have a heart attack to listen to his advice?
With that being said, we cannot afford another shutdown in San Angelo or Tom Green County. Tom Green County is considered a hot zone or red zone, meaning our increase in cases and our positivity rate put us in a category that we should not be proud of. Two weeks ago, our seven-day positivity rate was 25.8%. This past week it was 31.3% positivity. The state considers any positivity rate above 10% to be a cause for concern. On May 1, we had 58 positive cases and 1 death. Today, we have 1560 positive cases and 13 deaths.
Many people have said that the number of deaths relative to the number of positive cases that they would take those odds any day in Las Vegas. If you are making that gamble, you are not only risking your life but others, as well. The number of deaths, however, is not the only impact on our community. The virus has impacted lives financially, emotionally and mentally. If someone tests positive, there is a loss of income, medical bills and potential long-term impact on one’s health. Those hospitalized end up with substantial hospital bills with or without insurance and no income.
If you work for someone and have tested positive, then you impact your employer’s business which could lead to closing the business for a two-week time period. The business, then, due to loss of income is forced to lay off more employees. It is incredibly selfish of you as an individual to think only of yourself.
I do not want our city to be a city that Governor Abbott shuts down due to our positivity rate. I do not want him to declare any more categories of business to shut down or occupancy reduced. I believe all business are essential to our local economy and essential to a family’s livelihood. We should not be in the business of picking or choosing which businesses and essential services should be open or closed. Every business is important in terms of services or product offered, family income, employment and re-investment back into our economy. But, once again, it is in your hands as a business owner or an employee or a customer.
So, if you are going to your hairdresser, your nail technician, your barber or your favorite retail store, remember to wear a mask and practice six-feet social distancing. Major big-box retailers are mandating masks as they know their employees deserve the extra protection from being exposed from possible asymptomatic customers or individuals who do not care if they expose someone else to the virus.
Our statistics show a heavy impact of positive cases in our Hispanic community. Of the total positive cases, 55% of the positive cases are Hispanic. We have, over the past two weeks, worked to get the community spread message out to the Hispanic community. We now report the daily numbers and information on COVID-19 in Spanish. We have asked our Hispanic community leaders to help in the messaging as well, utilizing Facebook, YouTube and SATV to get messages out in Spanish. We have also reached out to the Hispanic radio station to help us in communicating the message on how to stop the community spread.
Our largest age group testing positive is the 20- to 29-year olds. Even the 0- to 19-year olds are testing positive greater than our 50- to 59-year olds. The 0-19 age group has more positive cases than the 60-69 and the 70+ age group. They might not have the strong symptoms or health impact as the older age categories, but the 20-29-year olds are a major problem in regard to community spread. Why would you want to risk giving it to your parents or grandparents?
We know the community needs faster results from testing. The longer it takes to get results from testing, the longer one has to be away from work. Shannon announced today that they have purchased more of the Sophia tests that will produce faster results. This will make a big difference to help stop community spread and to limit the impact on family finances.
Lisa Curry, owner of the Waterford, announced she can now administer antibody tests. And as of this Wednesday will be able to administer PCR tests with 24 to 48 hours results. She cannot take insurance but the ability to get faster results is important.
So, what else are we doing as a city?
I have created a working group to review TABC licensing to determine if we can get support for more categories of licenses other than just the 51%, etc. I believe we need to be able to separate wine bars, live entertainment venues, beer pubs, vineyards/tasting rooms from the simple 51%. Too many businesses were impacted and forced to close due to a few bad apples who abused the guidelines.
In sports, even against opponents that are better rated or have a better record, you still go to the game with a strategy or game plan to win. Your coach will not allow you to throw in the towel before the game even starts. This spring season, many athletes in junior high, high school and college have had to give up their passion for competitive sports. So many athletes lost their big moment to showcase their talent and perhaps earn an opportunity to get a scholarship and be accepted at a school of their choice. We do not want to be in the business of canceling events. Those are difficult, emotional decisions that are very hard to make. But for the San Angelo community, we must make the tough decisions that we believe will help us win against COVID-19. With rising hospitalizations, positivity rates and more deaths, the best game plan will always be the strategy that gets us to the finish line and protects the greatest number of citizens. We need to win this game.
What we are going to have to do is learn to live with COVID-19. Whatever it takes. We must understand the precautions that must be in place to ensure safety in providing services, safety in living our lives and making sure that we maintain and protect the freedoms we have always enjoyed as Americans. This virus cannot be used to take away our cherished freedoms. But we also know that in order to continue to enjoy our freedoms, every citizen must do their part in helping stop the spread.
I ask for your help in making San Angelo a city that takes pride in standing tall and doing the right thing to protect our families, friends, neighbors and citizens. San Angelo has always been a city to take care of its fellow citizens. Our businesses need our support. Our local businesses’ success depends on you as citizens to help them survive by doing the right thing. Wear a mask, social distance and remember … it is in your sanitized hands.