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Local Officials Urge Diligence in Combating Virus

Sunday, June 28, 2020
 Local Officials Urge Diligence in Combating Virus

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise across the country, Gaines County has been able to keep its total relatively low; the most recent was confirmed on June 22. “Right now, we have 15 cases in Gaines; we report confirmed positive cases once we receive paperwork from a lab or doctor’s office,” said South Plains Health Department Executive Director Zach Holbrooks.

Seminole Mayor John Belcher contributed the considerably low numbers to the towns’ willingness to follow social distancing and sanitizing guidelines. “We need not be fearful but cautious,” the mayor said. “We need to move forward with whatever the new normal is going to be and continue with the CDC regulations. We will probably continue to see numbers go up around the state the more we move around and open up. The key is to work to keep those numbers down. This recent spike makes us pay attention and reminds us to be diligent.”

The South Plains has recently seen an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in some counties, said Holbrooks. “It’s likely due to a multitude of reasons. Social gatherings, a relaxation of precautions, (i.e., gloves, masks, social distancing, handwashing, etc.) We had many milestone events in May with Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Graduations, etc. That was, I think, the beginning of the initial spike we saw in early June.”

Due to the rising numbers of confirmed positives throughout the state, Texas Governor

Greg Abbott today issued an executive order limiting individual businesses and services to contain the spread of COVID-19. According to the press release, “This decision comes as the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 and the number of hospitalizations has increased. The positivity rate in Texas increased above 10%, which the governor previously stated would lead to further preventative action.”

Gaines County Judge Tom Keys agrees this is not the time to let our guard down. “The people of Gaines County need to continue to be vigilant and use social distancing, hand washing/ sanitation, and masks. There has been a variety of opinions put forward concerning the use of masks. I don’t know if I have the definite answer on the efficacy of using a mask to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

The judge, a former nurse, believes that handwashing, masks, gloves, and other Personal Protective Equipment are essential during a health crisis. “I spent 35 years in nursing and went through the identification and spread of HIV/AIDS, as well as things like H1N1, Swine flu, Ebola, and various health scares,” he said, adding that the precautions taken during those times eased the spread of viruses. “They worked then; they will work now if we will all use them and use them correctly.”

Asked if he sees wearing masks as essential, Judge Keys said, “I think very helpful is a better way to put it. With appropriate social distancing and hand sanitation, masks should not be needed. However, if you cannot assure social distancing, then a mask can provide an extra level of protection.”

When it comes to the topic of testing, Judge Keys says he is still working out his thoughts on increased testing. “Some folks see increased testing possibly as a source of infringement on their personal liberties, and a way to keep the pot stirring to keep the citizens locked up and the economy repressed. However, because so many with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic, there is no telling what the true infection rate in our community might be.”

“If increased testing and identification of positive cases can take some folks off the streets for an appropriate quarantine period, it will help safeguard everyone else,” the said.

“Overall, I think increased testing is a good thing as long as the data generated is not misused as a way to take us backward into closing down our economy.” That is something on which many Gaines County residents would agree.

The changes made by Governor Abbot are based on links between certain types of businesses and services and the recent rise in positive cases throughout the state. They include:

All bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages are required to close at 12:00 p.m today (Friday, June 26). These businesses may remain open for delivery and takeout, including for alcoholic beverages, as authorized by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Restaurants may remain open for dine-in service, but at a capacity not to exceed 50% of total listed indoor occupancy, beginning Monday, June 29, 2020.

Rafting and tubing businesses must close.

Outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people must be approved by local governments, with certain exceptions.

“We will probably continue to see numbers go up around the state the more we move around and open up.The key is to work to keep those numbers down.”

-Mayor,John Belcher

“Overall, I think increased testing is a good thing as long as the data generated is not misused as a way to take us backward into closing down our economy.”

-Gaines CountyJudge, Tom Keyes