LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The city of Lubbock will be closing down large public venues and athletic facilities for the rest of the year, and taking all city meetings virtual in an attempt to control a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
These plans do not include closing Jones AT&T Stadium or any other Texas Tech facility, although the university has canceled tailgating and is taking other precautions.
Lubbock city leaders held a news conference on Wednesday, as COVID-19 numbers continue to climb.
Mayor Pope says Lubbock will not lock down
Mayor Pope does NOT anticipate a lockdown for Lubbock.
“There are so many businesses that are considered essential, it sends a confusing message.”
He said a lockdown has a disproportionate effect on people who own and work for small businesses. Mayor Pope said in the Spring we had a safety net of federal support with CARES Act for businesses and unemployment for workers that do not exist today.
Mayor Pope said that is why it’s so important that we take these other measures to slow the spread.
Public Health Director Dr. Katherine Wells issues reminder about quarantine rules
Dr. Katherine Wells said the city has diagnosed an average of 450 cases per day in the past week and “this is too much for a community our size.”
There are 5,285 active cases in the community and we have lost 283 residents to this virus.
Dr. Wells said people are suffering with long-term side effects and she has had to sign condolence cards for people in the health department who have lost loved ones.
Dr. Wells repeated warnings about public health precautions washing hands, social distancing, wearing masks, and following the guidelines on quarantine and isolation if you or a loved one has been exposed. Stay isolated and get tested.
Dr. Ron Cook says ‘This Thanksgiving must look different’
Dr. Ron Cook said, “The city of Lubbock is in trouble. We have to do something different than what we’re doing now. Our hospitals are full.”
Dr. Cook said there are currently 12 patients holding in the emergency room at UMC with no beds available.
Dr. Cook said for every 1,000 positive tests, about 11 hospital beds are needed.
Dr. Cook said, “Our numbers have skyrocketed since the first of September. We have seven times the number of COVID patients in the hospital than we had just a couple months ago. At UMC and Covenant, 50% of their total number of patients are COVID patients.”
Dr. Cook said, “This Thanksgiving must be different. It must look different. Most viral spread is in small groups, especially small tight groups not wearing masks, and usually around food.”
Dr. Cook recommends no groups larger than 10, and try to stay close to people who live under your roof. Make sure you wear a mask unless you’re eating, and try to make the group size small and make it as brief as possible.
Dr. Cook said we are way above the curve right now and we’ve “got to get back under the curve.”
Dr. Ron Cook said we have not seen many cases of reinfection from people who have already had the virus, but it is possible that people could get it again after 90 days. Dr. Cook said he hopes antibodies from the vaccine will last longer than 90 days but that has yet to be determined.
“I would not take any chances.”
Director of Emergency Management Joe Moudy says state resources are running short
Director of Emergency Management Joe Moudy thanked the state of Texas for their quick response providing mobile medical tents. The state has provided a total of 350 staff to assist the hospitals and medical facilities in Lubbock.
Right now, 82 of those staff members are assigned to the mobile medical tents outside our hospitals. These contractors work six days a week in 12-hour shifts for about two weeks before they rotate out.
This staff is shared with El Paso and Amarillo and they are running short.
Latrelle Joy urges smaller Thanksgiving with virtual gatherings
District 6 Council Member Latrelle Joy said she has family members who will miss Thanksgiving due to quarantine orders. She’s encouraging Lubbock residents to use virtual methods of communication and celebrate with immediate family this year.
She encourages Lubbock residents to remember the elderly and others who have been stuck in their homes since March.
Joy said we just can’t have large gatherings of people from other states this year because Lubbock is a hot spot.
“This year we cannot do that,” Joy said. “That is not safe and we should not do that. We’ve got to avoid those large groups where we don’t know where people have been.”
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope closing public facilities for 2020
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope shared data from the city dashboard, saying the spread is “running rampant” in our area.
Mayor Pope said we’re seeing a lot of new cases in the 6 to 17-year-old age range, not in the classroom, but in extracurricular activities. If kids are carpooling, they need to wear masks, Pope said.
The city of Lubbock will be closing public facilities and large indoor gathering areas, including athletic facilities, for the rest of the year.
All city meetings will be conducted virtually going forward.
The mayor expressed approval of the Texas Tech plan, providing students an eight-week break from Thanksgiving through Jan. 20 when students go back to school.
The mayor said they are working with school districts to try and limit exposure during indoor events like athletics or presentations. Mandatory mask ordinances will continue inside athletic facilities.
Mayor Pope will be meeting with big box retailers to recommend occupany limits even lower than what the state of Texas currently recommends.
“Three of our bars have been shut down because they can’t follow the rules,” Pope said.
Pope said bars have been a clear vector for the spread of COVID-19, particularly people who have been between multiple bars and entertainment venues.
Mayor Pope expressed his condolences to the families of those who have lost loved ones. He encouraged people to shop online but to shop locally.
“Don’t take your kids to the grocery store, don’t take them to Home Depot. Take them to the park.”
He encouraged families to minimize exposure by having food and groceries delivered. Schedule virtual meetings with friends and family.
“We’ve got to stay the course,” Pope said. “We’ve got to remain disciplined and patient.”
Pope pointed to hope for the future, as he expects front line healthcare workers to receive the vaccines before the end of the year, but he says it’ll be “quite a bit into 2021” before they are available to the rest of us.
Today’s meeting included:
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope
City of Lubbock Public Health Director Katherine Wells
Public Health Authority Dr. Ron Cook
District 6 Council Member Latrelle Joy
Director of Emergency Management Joe Moudy