On Monday, Sept. 28, DSHS showed Matagorda County with 27 active cases of COVID-19. As of Thursday, Oct. 1, the county is down to just four active cases.
“I was surprised to see only four active cases for the county,” Thames said. “I am encouraged with these results. We know COVID is here and we haven’t done anything to permanently make it go away just yet without a vaccine. If we stay in the patterns we have now, we will have a great opportunity to reopen Matagorda County even more.
“It does open the county to open further but we have to keep this figure under 10 for seven straight weeks,” Thames said. “Then the county judge would have to petition the governor’s office. We are not just one and done and can raise up the occupancy level in the county. I want to stay as close to four as we can in the coming weeks.”
According to Governor Greg Abbott’s office, rural counties with 10 or fewer laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 and file for increased capacity for restaurants, retail and/or movie theaters if the county judge certifies and affirms to Abbott that the following standards have been investigated and confirmed to be met:
1. The county had ten or fewer COVID-19 laboratory confirmed cases on June 3, 2020, or on a later date if the county has 10 or fewer active COVID-19 cases, as verified by DSHS.
2. The county has created a list of testing opportunities in the county or the area.
3. The county has been in contact with your designated RAC to ensure the community is prepared for any needed health care transfers.
4. The county has provided public notice to the residents of your county, including:
• Signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
• Recommended health and safety protocols in line with CDC guidance.
• Information regarding how residents can get tested in the area.
• A link to the DSHS website where residents can go to learn about community spread in nearby communities, in order to help county residents, understand their risk to exposure if they travel regularly outside of the county.
5. The county has contacted each of the following types of facilities located in your county to ensure they are complying with HHSC and CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19:
• Nursing homes
• Assisted living facilities
• Industrial, agricultural, or business facilities
• City or county jails
6. The county is equipped and prepared to protect vulnerable populations, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
7. The county has documented procedures to be activated if a resident becomes COVID-19 positive, including procedures to close businesses or facilities as necessary in line with the plan to open Texas.
8. The county has contacted DSHS in order to create a plan to ensure contact tracing will occur within 48 hours of a positive test reported to DSHS.
If the county meets the above standards and chooses to do so, the county may allow business establishments subjected to 50% limit to go up to 75% of occupancy.
Matagorda County is already at 75 percent capacity.
Thames said he noticed in the Tribune’s recent poll questions that indicated that 70 percent of the respondents were still wearing masks in public even as it appears the COVID-19 crisis is slowing in the county.
“When you have 70 percent of our community still wearing masks that is a tell-tale sign of what is working for this county,” Thames said.
Thames admitted that he is horrible about forgetting to put on a mask after parking his vehicle and walking up to a businesses’ door and seeing the sign and then having to return to his vehicle to get his mask.
“I have seen people hanging their masks on their rearview mirror and I wondered why they would do that,” Thames said. “Well, I get why they do it now. It appears that people are still wearing the masks and social distancing when possible.”
He also said the phone calls to his office reporting yard parties have slowed down in recent weeks as well.
“We had so many family transfers that I am optimistic that people have figured out that social distancing and wearing masks is working,” Thames said. “You can still do the things you want to do; you just have to modify it with those simple things.”
Thames admitted that he expected numbers to rise when schools returned to in-person teaching but that has not been in the case in Matagorda County.
“My congratulations to all five of our school districts as they seem to have the protocols in place to keep people safe,” Thames said. “
While there is some concern that the public will see this low number and believe the crisis is over for this area, Thames said he is not going to worry about how the public reacts to this new news.
“It is like fussing at Governor (Greg) Abbott for keeping the bars closed for what might happen, I don’t feel like I can hold back positive information because I am scared that someone will mess up,” Thames said. “I have to report when we are doing good and remind everyone that the answer to keeping this virus at bay is simple.”
Thames pointed to the simple guidelines placed by the CDC and the state to work to keep COVID-19 in control. They include:
Wash your hands often
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- It’s especially important to wash:
- Before eating or preparing food
- Before touching your face
- After using the restroom
- After leaving a public place
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After handling your cloth face covering
- After changing a diaper
- After caring for someone sick
- After touching animals or pets
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact
- Inside your home: Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If possible, maintain 6 feet between the person who is sick and other household members.
- Outside your home: Put 6 feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household.
- Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus.
- Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people.
- Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
- You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.
- The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
- Everyone should wear a cloth face cover in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
- Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- Do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker. Currently, surgical masks and N95 respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.
- Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.
Clean and disinfect
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
- Then, use a household disinfectant. Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work.
Monitor Your Health Daily
- Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
- Especially important if you are running essential errands, going into the office or workplace, and in settings where it may be difficult to keep a physical distance of 6 feet.
- Take your temperature if symptoms develop.
- Don’t take your temperature within 30 minutes of exercising or after taking medications that could lower your temperature, like acetaminophen.
- Follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.
In keeping with a proactive approach to COVID-19, Matagorda County and the state of Texas provided free testing this past Thursday and Friday in the county.
The testing team will return on Tuesday and Wednesday Oct 20, and 21st at the Bay City Civic Center from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no cost and you do not have to have an appointment.
You will need to provide them with a phone number to get your results. The results are returned depending on how many get the test, but normally 3 to 5 days.