Officials halt local general public COVID-19 testing, say 'Stay home' if ill



By Lew K. Cohn
Managing Editor

In the wake of Burnet County's first confirmed COVID-19 test, the Burnet County Health Authority has important advice for anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to coronavirus or may be suffering from the illness: Stay home.

If you have the symptoms, you should assume you have the illness,” Dr. Juliette Madrigal said. “Stay home and don't leave for any reason unless it is absolutely necessary, like picking up medicine from a pharmacy. If you have to go out, wear a mask over your face and use the drive thru. Get someone else to deliver your food or use the curb-side pickup if it is a necessity.

I would say at this point, the chance of you being exposed to someone who already has the disease is quite high. It doesn't really matter if you know this one particular person or not. We know many people in the county either have the illness or will come back positive for it in the next four days. If you keep running around Burnet County, you are going to come in contact with it if you don't take precautions.”

Madrigal confirmed that of 27 people tested at Baylor Scott & White Marble Falls, two came back positive for COVID-19 — one from Burnet County and one from Blanco County. Family and co-workers who have been exposed to the individual were being notified so they can begin self-quarantine for 14 days.

We have to assume that between family and co-workers they may have come into contact with, at least between five to eight people now have it,” Madrigal said. “Once it starts like this, it is a mathematical formula, so you can assume for every person who tests positive, we will have four more cases.”

The individual from Burnet County had actually taken steps early on to limit their risk of exposure, but still ended up getting the illness, Madrigal said.

This patient knew they were at self-risk so they quarantined themselves and their family early on and that's exactly what we want the rest of the population to be doing,” Madrigal said. “If you have any respiratory symptoms at all, we want you to self-quarantine for 14 days. If it gets worse, we will follow protocol for when you need to be seen at a medical facility.

This person (the index patient) did nothing wrong against the recommendations. They actually took all the right precautions, which shows that even if you do everything right, you can still get this.”

Madrigal said Baylor Scott & White Marble Falls is no longer performing testing for the general public due to a lack of available tests.

The hospital is only testing those already hospitalized or the very ill or healthcare workers who work there and may have been exposed to patients at this time,” Madrigal said. “If your doctor recommends that you need to be tested, you will have to find a site in Cedar Park or Austin as there are not enough tests in Burnet County.

Also, remember there is a four-day turnaround for test results, so anyone who is being tested should assume they are positive between the time they take test and when they get results back. There is no instant testing right now and all results have to be sent off to a lab.”

Madrigal said the numbers of confirmed cases may not go up in Burnet County due to the curtailing of testing in the county, but said “the number of cases we actually have is going to increase.”

She urged people to follow Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order issued March 19, which established a number of measures designed to limit the spread of COVID-19. (For a list of those precautions, please see Page 4.)

If you have been lax about your interactions with others, today is the day you need to do everything the governor and the CDC has told us to do,” Madrigal said. “I think if people don't take this seriously and don't do this, the government will have to take stricter measures like they have been in New York and in California, but I really hope we do not need to do that.”

Madrigal warned parents that some young adults in their late teens and early 20s have been responsible for increasing the exposure risk because “many of them are still going on Spring Break and having get-togethers” without taking the necessary precautions.

We've been telling people they need to have a golden circle or a few contacts they know and trust and try to keep their exposure as tight as possible to the same group of people,” Madrigal said. “When people get together, it's best if you meet outside and keep at least six feet between each other. In my neighborhood, they have been having a 'happy hour' in a circle outside at the end of the block. People are sitting apart from each other, but they are still able to socialize and exchange stories and keep up with each other.”

She said some neighborhoods are finding fun activities for families to enjoy and keep children from getting bored without requiring large group participation. One such activity is a “Bear Hunt.”

Families are putting a photo of a bear up in their window and parents will take their kids outside to walk through the neighborhood and get exercise,” Madrigal said. “They will go on a 'Bear Hunt' and see if they can spot the bears in the windows in the neighborhood.”

Find more local reactions and comprehensive news coverage in the Tuesday, March 24 issue of The Highlander, the newspaper of record for the Highland Lakes. Subscribe by clicking here to our e-Edition online.



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