WATCH: City of Lubbock virtual news conference on recent spike in COVID-19 cases

City of Lubbock COVID-19 news conference - 06/17/2020

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The City of Lubbock hosted a virtual news conference on Wednesday, June 17 at 11:30 a.m. regarding the latest information on COVID-19 in the community.

As of Tuesday, June 16, the City of Lubbock confirmed 61 new cases of Coronavirus, and nine recoveries. The total number of cases in Lubbock County is 955: 338 active, 566 listed as recovered and 51 deaths.

The City of Lubbock Health Department has identified an outbreak of COVID-19 among 18-25 year olds who recently visited bars where six foot distancing between groups was not observed. The city reports 47 of the 61 new cases are between the ages of 20-29.

The exposure dates are between June 6-14. Individuals with this exposure should monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and avoid any contact with high risk individuals, such as elderly and those with compromised immune systems, for the next 14 days.

The concern is that those young people will infect those that are more vulnerable as they visit family for Father’s Day. City Health Department Director Katherine Wells says to wear a face covering, practice social distancing and remember to wash your hands.

“Controlling the spread of COVID-19 requires our entire community. Please be smart when you’re out. Frequent businesses that have controls in place, practice social distancing, and wear that all important face covering. I’ve said that we’ve worked over the last couple of months to encourage people to wear face coverings. More and more data is coming out to show the importance of these face coverings. I’m wearing one, my family’s wearing one. We actually require a face coverings of all staff at the health department. And I encourage you all to do the same. We can’t continue to have weeks like this. If we continue to see this many cases we’re going to start seeing increases of hospital, number of people in our hospitals.”

A concern of Dr. Ron Cook, public health authority is that although most of the young people will do very well, but this virus has such an infectious nature to it. It can make a number of individuals very ill in a short amount of time.

“Many of these people are young, however, they will do very well. Most of the infections are related to areas where they went and were not socially distanced. They weren’t wearing facial coverings. And as a result, because this virus is such has such an infectious nature to it two to three times what normal flu or some of our other viruses have. It can make a number of individuals ill in just a short period of time, and that’s why we see this spread. I’m concerned about the number of cases that we’ve had in Lubbock in the last week. And so there are things that we can do to stop it and I’ll talk about those in a minute.

“Our biggest fear is really related to those individuals in these young patient populations. They’re not that symptomatic. And then they have other jobs and they go to their jobs and then spread it amongst their colleagues at work. And then we have to shut down those institutions where they have to go and clean. Then we have to isolate other individuals because they were possible exposed.What we don’t and what I fear most is that these infections will get back into a skilled nursing facility, a longterm care facility or a nursing home, or in patient populations that are so vulnerable to this virus. And that those individuals won’t do very well, won’t do near as well as somebody that’s younger. Younger people can still get very sick with this virus, although not to the same rate as someone who as vulnerable conditions. Our greatest risk right now is just complacency and apathy about this disease, so please pay attention to that.”

“If you’re an employer, please be diligent about screening your employees. Pay attention to those sanitation protocols. Make sure people are comfortable telling you they’re not feeling well and that they need to go home. Don’t make them stay and work and infect other people.

“We must respect this virus because of its ability to infect others, the ability of the virus to cause disease and suffering. And we’ve seen even death here in lubbock related to this virus. However, we must not live in fear of this virus. We must embrace the new paradigm where we have social distancing by second nature and that we wear facial coverings by second nature. This is our new paradigm in this pandemic, and we must start it now. And continue it. This virus is not going to go away, but it’s our new way of life, our new paradigm. This is not a sprint. This is a marathon and we are West Texas strong. We grew up out here because it builds character to be out here. And we can do this. We are West Texas strong and we can win this fight. And please remember, it’s not about you. It’s about your loved ones. We don’t get to pick who dies from this virus, but I can choose to protect them by social distancing. And by facial coverings. It’s about your loved ones. Let’s make sure we social distance. Let’s wear our masks, wash our hands and keep everybody healthy as we can.”

Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope started with showing some of the data from recent days and the past week. He discussed the spike in cases in the past couple of days.

“You know, one of the things that made us feel confident about reopening was our ability to control the spread of COVID-19. And if you look at the period of time between mid to late April and about 10 days ago, we kept our spread very low. In fact, the vast majority of those days under 10 new cases per day.

Now we continue to watch hospital data. The orange line is trending down. That’s good. That means our hospitals are getting busy or busier. I don’t think you would say busy yet. Remember, all hospitals are safe. They have care available. If you need to go to the hospital, go to the hospital. The blue line is the line that we take a lot of solace in. That’s our hospitalizations. Yesterday, we had 14 hospitalized patients: seven and ICU seven on the floors.

“We’ll continue to watch that number. But that is still a very positive indicator. Now you’ve seen this slide new, this is our test by date, and then the positivity rate in orange. I’m going to show you a new look at this because this is the last seven days and you can see the remarkable numbers of tests that have been done. You know, from a high of a 768 test on the 10th. Certainly Sunday, we only did 250 tests, but you can see the number of tests, but we’ve been watching the positivity rate and it’s been going down and it’s gone the other way this week. Now we don’t like the trend. However, it’s still not in a 911 kind of area. In fact, the state’s goal is to have this below 6%. Even with the cases we’ve reported in the last week, our positivity rate, if you look back to the last seven days is still just around 5%. So the barn is not completely on fire. We do have concerns and I don’t want to be mentioned as, as sort of waving this off.

“Finally, case count by age the last 14 days. I went back 14 days because that’s where we, we started saw bars start opening and we started to see some of this behavior that has been less than acceptable and is very much controlled. You can see this reflects that more than half of the positive cases in the last 14 days are in one age group. Okay, when you add the 10 to 19 it’s even larger percentage.

“So let’s talk about the big picture. You may have heard the governor talk yesterday, the governor talked about the fact that we’re going to have to coexist with Coronavirus. You know, we made decisions around reopening based upon the fact that we had learned how to slow the spread. We talked about facial coverings, we talk about our social distancing, we talk about washing our hands, but most importantly, we talk about using common sense. You need to avoid large groups, hang out with the same people you’ve been hanging out with. Use good judgment.

“We’re thankful that TABC, the Texas alcoholic beverage commission, with the governor’s support, mentioned yesterday that they will be aggressively working with our bars. And that if they’re not following the governor’s order, and by the way, they’re the only ones that can enforce that order. They’re not following that order that there’s not a first slap on the wrist that the first infraction is a 30 day suspension of their license. We need that. The vast majority of our businesses, our bars or restaurants have taken this very seriously. In fact, more nearly two handfuls of them closed down yesterday on their own to do extra cleaning. And a number of those have asked us to help test their employees and that’s something that we will readily and very willing to do.

“Now, we’ve had a couple that have not been very good actors. And we’ve taken by our initiative taken action to close them while they test employees and while they clean their establishments. Those places as they reopened will be watched very carefully. We’ve got to slow this spread.

“We have some sports tournaments in town this weekend - three on three soccer tournament and a softball tournament. We’ve seen their protocol, their safety plans, they’ve done a very good job in preparing for this weekend. We need to learn from these events. How do we expect to play football this fall if we can’t have 1,000 people at a softball tournament? So we’re going to learn and we’ll tweak and we’ll get better every week.

“We’re not going back to shutting down. But we’ve got to move forward safely.

“I’m so thankful for our businesses that have reopened safely.

“In fact, I talked to one restaurant owner yesterday who opened his dining room for the first time last weekend and was so frustrated by some of his clientele and their lack of willingness to take this seriously that he’s decided to close his dining room for the foreseeable future. He’ll continue to do takeout. That’s his prerogative, and we applaud him for keeping his employees and his customers safe.

“Back to what Dr. Cook talked about around the implications.

“We have a we have a large bank branch headquarters branch in our community closed down this week, because a part time employee who visited one of these establishments that I talked about previously, is COVID positive. And their protocol said they’re going to close things down for a week to protect their employees and their customers. I’ve heard from a number of other businesses that are dealing with the same situation because of this spread in our community. The implications are significant, not just to businesses, though.

“It’s to the people that we touch in our daily lives. It’s the impact we have on our neighbors. And I think most importantly, it’s to our loved ones. Father’s Day is Sunday. We need to be very careful about the way we gather with our families, with our fathers and our mothers, our grandparents. Please, please do this the right way.

“I’m so thankful for each of you. You’ll see me wearing my face covering. And this is a one that one of my friends gave me. That says hashtag Thank you. Thank you, West Texas. Thank you, Lubbock. Let’s do this the right way. Let’s reopen safely. Let’s protect both lives and livelihoods. God bless each of you.”

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