COVID-19 cases on the rise

by Josie Fox

Governor Gregg Abbott set in motion plans to reopen Texas following Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic closures 55 days ago with the state reporting 1,248 new cases of the virus.

As plans evolved from the initial steps of Phase 1 and more businesses began to open throughout May, Texas appeared to be flattening the curve, with the lowest number of new cases (490) since March 30 reported on May 25. The drop in numbers led many places to feel comfortable opening up further, and expanding services within guidelines.

As Texas celebrated Memorial Day and moved into June, the number of tests available increased, along with the number of positive cases.

Tuesday, June 16 showed the highest number of daily cases since the beginning of the pandemic with more than 4,000 positive cases reported.

The average number of daily cases has continued to surge with more than 3,000 cases reported daily. As of June 22, the positivity rate has increased from 4.5 percent in late May to 9 percent within the last five days. The number of hospitalizations has also increased within the last five days to an average of 3,200 per day.

With the recent surge in numbers, some residents are questioning if Texas was opened up too soon, or if the low number at the beginning of June led to a false sense of security causing Texas residents to relax social distancing numbers.

In a recent press conference, Abbott addressed the spike of new cases and has urged Texas to follow the recommended safety protocols going into the July 4 holiday weekend.

“COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas, and it must be controlled,” said Abbott. “I know that some people feel that wearing a mask is inconvenient or that it is like an infringement of freedom, but I also know that wearing a mask will help us to keep Texas open.”

Abbott also stated that closing Texas again will be a “last option”, but Texans must stay home if they can.

Cherokee and neighboring counties are seeing a spike in the number of active cases as well. On Monday, June 15, Cherokee County was reporting a single active case of the Coronavirus, but by the weekend, the number of active cases had escalated to 19. Of those 19, two are reported from a local state facility and the remaining 17 were spread communally.

Officials with the Cherokee County Public Health Department posted on the department’s Facebook page, “We know that citizens of Cherokee County take their health seriously. As such, we are pleading with everyone to remain diligent in your fight against COVID 19.

“In the past week Cherokee County has experienced a tremendous surge in new cases of this deadly virus with the majority located in Jacksonville. Therefore, we are asking the public to take this threat seriously. Continue to practice good hand hygiene, observe social distancing protocols and wear a facial covering when visiting public places. Studies have shown that the use of facial coverings greatly reduces the spread of the virus and can significantly reduce the instance of community spread.

“Hang in there. We’re in this together!”

In Smith County, the weekend showed a spike of 38 cases, bringing the total number of active cases to 177. Recent increases in Nacogdoches County has led the city of Nacogdoches to cancel the annual Freedom Festival, opting to allow citizens to view the fireworks show from their vehicles only.

Texas counties that currently have mandated mask orders are Bexar, Cameron, Dallas, El Paso, Harris, Hays, Hidalgo and Travis.

There are currently 28 counties in the state with recommended mask guidelines including Cherokee, Anderson, Angelina, Gregg, Henderson, Nacogdoches, Rusk and Smith counties.

The increase of active cases has led some companies to reevaluate when their doors will fully open, or in the case of the cruise industry, when they will begin sailing again. Carnival Cruise lines recently made the decision to push back reservations to October, causing some county residents to once again reschedule vacations or cancel them all together.

For those looking to make summer plans, all hope is not lost as several attractions throughout the state are open. Six Flags over Texas opened the park in Arlington on June 22, by reservation only. The park is requiring all guests and team member to wear masks and non-invasive temperature checks will be completed on each guest and employee prior to entry.

Through reservations, the park capacity will be regulated and social distancing measures will be put into place for indoor venues, restaurants and queues.

Texas state parks are open for day use and limited camping in some areas with reservations currently being accepted through Sept. 7.

Masks and face coverings are strongly encouraged within the park, but are not required.

No groups larger than 10 people are allowed, with the exception of families living in the same household, and all guests are asked to maintain at least a six foot distance from any park guest that is not a member of their group.

All Galveston beaches are open to the public with beach parking available at East Beach, Stewart Beach, Sewall Urban Park and several beach access points on the west end.

City officials are enforcing social-distancing mandates and discourage visitors from gathering in large groups.

The website message to visitors states, “Educate yourself on the current state of COVID-19 and make the travel decision that is best for you and your family. Understanding the level of risk found in your travel destination of choice is a very important step. Continue to visit as we will monitor the situation and share information.”

Although many national parks are open and offering limited camping, visitors are encouraged to check local regulations prior to scheduling a visit as some states and locations have restrictions preventing individuals from specific locations to enter.

Publisher’s note: As the pandemic continues and events are ever changing, check the Cherokeean Herald’s website for updates pertaining to Cherokee County. All COVID-19 related content is available to all readers without a subscription.

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