COVID-19 infections rise, Hays County suggest safe holiday gatherings

by Sahar Chmais

As the holidays make their way, it is inevitable that families and friends will gather. Getting together is not ideal as COVID-19 infections spread more rapidly all over the U.S. and in Hays County, but if people will be together, there are tips on how to better implement it.

Hays County is seeing a surge in COVID-19 infections, similar to the climb after May. The rate of infection in Hays County, according to Hays County Local Health Department Epidemiologist Eric Schneider, is at 7.2. That number has gone up from 6.9 just two weeks ago. There are 10 hospitalized Hays residents, the highest number of simultaneous hospitalizations the county has experienced during this pandemic. Over the last few days, the county has also seen a rise in active cases: 104 new cases on Monday, Nov. 16 and 78 new cases on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

County infection numbers might not look as severe as other cities across the U.S., but over the holidays people will travel to see one another, causing another level of concern for Schneider. He said that large gatherings with people from all over the country is going to be a more dangerous approach.

To stop the spread, it would be ideal if there were no gatherings this holiday season, but since this is not an easy ask, Schneider came up with alternative ways families can practice safety this season.

Thanksgiving will pose mild weather with temperatures in the mid-70s, so it is possible for families to gather outdoors — picnic-style.  Outdoor gatherings help reduce the risk of catching the virus; families can also wear masks, wash their hands frequently and fist bump instead of hug.

Schneider expects the numbers will continue to rise with the back-to-back holidays from Halloween to Thanksgiving,  along with Christmas and New Year’s.

Kim Hilsenbeck, the county’s communications manager, stressed the importance of being vigilant with safety precautions. She also added that Hays County has five locations with free COVID-19 testing, listed on the county’s website, for residents to take advantage of.

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