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Local Efforts in Dealing with COVID-19

July 2, 2020

There are some very dedicated people working around the clock to help protect all of us from COVID-19.  These include, but are certainly not limited to, healthcare providers and first responders who run the risk of exposure every time they come into contact with a potential positive case; the local, regional, state and national leadership trying to compromise between public safety and the economy – both of which are vital to us all; and the business owners who are attempting to maintain their livelihoods, and those of their employees, while providing a safe environment for their personnel and customers.

Locally, we created an ad hoc COVID-19 Leadership Team consisting of the following representatives.  This team has been meeting regularly since March to plan for, and respond to, COVID-19 related issues.

Camp County: Judge A. J. Mason and County Emergency Management Coordinator Doyce Winchester;

Camp County EMS: Executive Director Mike Reynolds, Asst. Director Braden Hooper;

City of Pittsburg: Mayor David Abernathy, City Manager Clint Hardeman, Chief of Police/City Emergency Mgt. Coordinator Richard Penn, and City Secretary Stacy Dorsett;   

Pittsburg Independent School District: Superintendent Terry Waldrep and District Nurse Laurie Smith;

UT Health-Pittsburg Hospital: CEO Patrick Swindle, Chief Nursing Officer Casey Mayben, Chief of Staff Dr. James Vanderburg, Infection Prevention Coordinator Chris Pepper-Townsend, Dr. Leslie Tingle, Dr. Moises Plasencia, Dr. Christian Ferrer, Dr. Amy Traylor, and Dr. Anna Hollingsworth;

UTHealth-Pittsburg Hospital staff have been working under our Local Health Authority’s umbrella and conducting free COVID-19 tests, providing follow-up interaction with those individuals who have tested positive, and conducting exposure tracking for persons who may have had contact with a positive case.  Again, there is a small number of people doing everything mentioned in this paragraph.  If any of these persons become infected with COVID-19, it can have a negative impact on them, their families, their co-workers, and obviously, all of us who depend upon the services they provide.

There are the parents who are keeping their families protected, and individuals doing the same for themselves and others.  And, there is the ‘high risk’ portion of our population that have literally been shut-ins for months, afraid to venture out.  According to the COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index (CCVI), Camp County ranks among the highest percentile of vulnerable populations in the nation.

The public education system, nationwide and right here at home, has a daunting task of determining how to conduct the upcoming school year, during a pandemic situation which has no vaccine and no specific treatment, while the positive cases continue.  The facets are almost endless.  Here are just a few of the challenges:

-How to conduct in-person school and ensure the safety of the children, teachers and staff;

-How to provide spacing in classrooms that were at capacity during normal times;

-How to bus students and maintain distance;  

-How to maintain distance between younger children who aren’t old enough to comprehend the risk;

-How to conduct virtual learning for those children who don’t have access to computers and/or the Internet;

-The schools serve a crucial secondary role, basically as child-care while parents were at work.  What happens if school days or hours are limited or conducted in shifts due to some of the above issues? 

-What if younger school-aged children are being raised by, or stay with, elderly grandparents while the parents are at work?  Some of those elderly may be in that higher risk category.  

-And, if a teacher, staffer or child tests positive, does the entire class or classes have to be quarantined?  Depending upon the activities that the individual was involved in, the exposure could impact an entire campus.

The goals of the COVID-19 prevention efforts nationwide and locally, has been and remains, (1) to reduce the exposure to the most vulnerable of our society and (2) to not overwhelm the healthcare system with patients requiring hospitalization, intensive care, and ventilators.  While we attempt to maintain a balance of keeping commerce operational, providing and sustaining essential services, and allowing some semblance of the social freedoms that everyone enjoys, we can’t lose sight of those two primary goals.  Until a vaccine is developed, we only reach that balance by person-to-person distancing, covering coughs and sneezes, proper hygiene and sanitization and staying home if sick, unless it’s severe enough to seek medical help.  Thanks to everyone who’s helping to reach those goals, both in front of and behind the scenes.  

David Abernathy

Mayor, City of Pittsburg, Texas

 

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