LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - City and school leaders gathered for a virtual news conference on Wednesday.
Lubbock-Cooper Superintendent Keith Bryant described the start of the school year as "extremely positive" with 85 percent of students back in person and more expected to switch from virtual to in-person instruction as the year goes on.
Mayor Dan Pope expressed concern about house parties around Texas Tech, warning students that they will be responding to reports and actively patrolling to enforce the law.
Councilman Steve Massengale encouraged citizens to shop local and reminded everyone to visit the Lubbock Safe website if they need to host an event with over 10 people.
Lubbock Director of Public Health Katherine Wells said COVID-19 case numbers are heading down at the national, state and local level. She encouraged everyone to get a flu shot and continue with social distancing and mask precautions.
Lubbock Director of Public Health Dr. Katherine Wells
Wells opened the news conference with updates on COVID-19 cases.
The health department is reporting 6,975 cases as of Tuesday evening. The average number of new cases has been less than 50 a day over the last week.
"This is a great sign for our community as we move into the fall," Wells said.
Wells said the state and national numbers are also improving.
The city is reporting 1,467 active cases with more than 5,000 residents now recovered. The city reported seven additional deaths last week for a total of 94.
Wells laid out the strategies the health department will be employing for the fall:
Supporting schools and businesses when they have COVID cases:
The goal is to make sure those cases have been properly isolated and those who have been in contact with the case are quarantined.
Encourage flu vaccinations:
"We really will be facing a twin epidemic when the 2020-2021 flu season starts," Wells said.
Wells said hospitals could fill up with influenza patients from late fall to early spring. Wells encouraged residents to do everything possible to reduce the number of hospital and outpatient visits this flu season to ease the strain on the health care system, particularly when we have COVID hospitalizations at the same time.
Continue contact tracing and investigations:
Wells said notifying people who may have been exposed and making sure they stay in quarantine is a key part of controlling the spread.
"Get a flu shot, wash your hands, maintain social distancing...wear that all-important mask," Wells said.
Lubbock-Cooper ISD Superintendent Keith Bryant
Lubbock-Cooper ISD Superintendent Keith Bryant spoke about the anxiety felt by parents and staff heading into this year.
Bryant emphasized the "extremely positive start" his district had in the first week of school.
Bryant said there are two cases of COVID-19 in the district, but both cases originated outside the classroom.
Bryant said they have about 85% of their students back for in-person instruction. Bryant said students currently attending class virtually will have the option to come back in person after the first three weeks of school, and again at the end of each nine-week grading period.
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope said our positivity rate is “going in the right direction” and hospital data has “stabilized” at about “half of where we were a month ago.”
Pope said the majority of active cases are still in the 18 to 24 age group, but this number is "much lower than it has been at other parts of the summer."
Pope said “We’ve got to stay this course” when it comes to social distancing and using masks.
Pope said he was "pleased" with the way schools had reopened, saying there were "many more positives than negatives."
"We've had a few cases, but those plans that were in place have been executed," Pope said.
Pope expressed his concern about house parties in the neighborhoods around Texas Tech now that college students have returned.
“A house party that is outside and gets over 50 is in violation of both the governor’s order and the way we are handling large groups. Any group larger than 10 needs to self-certify. Any above 50 needs to run through our Lubbock Safe and would need my approval.”
Pope said the city is not only responding to these parties but are patrolling, “and we will enforce the law.”
Lubbock City Councilman Steve Massengale
Lubbock City Councilman Steve Massengale spoke about Lubbock Safe businesses and the approval process for outdoor events.
The governor's order calls on the mayor to approve any gathering over 10 people. Massengale said they have approved 53 events under 50 people so far where organizers have been able to self-approve, with 73 outdoor events with over 50 people.
Organizers send in their plans which are then approved by the mayor.
"Anybody who's planning an event, remember that anything over 10, we need to see it," Massengale said.
Anyone seeking approval for an event can start at the city of Lubbock website https://ci.lubbock.tx.us/lubbocksafe
"We are currently at 972 businesses that have voluntarily self-certified themselves to be Lubbock Safe," Massengale said.
Massengale said, "The West Texas entreprenuerial spirit has responded as expected as we continue to work through the virus."
Massengale encouraged shoppers to "think before you click" and try to shop locally and support local businesses.