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Coronavirus COVID-19 Local News

COVID-19 Explodes in Hays County, Rep. Zwiener Urges Commissioners to Do More

Texas House Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-45 (Hays and Blanco counties), right, is asking Hays County to do more to combat the virus and to release more specific information about how it is spreading throughout the community.

Nearby Hays County reported 69 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, June 15, bringing its total of lab-confirmed cases to 938.

There were 142 new cases reported on Saturday and another 54 cases on Sunday, according to HaysCountyTx.com.

Hays County, on the northeast border of Comal County, now has 666 active cases of the virus. Some 267 people have recovered from the virus. The number of negative tests is 4,824. The results of another 112 tests are still pending.

Hays County Epidemiologist Eric Schneider said the high numbers of positive cases reported over the last week should remind residents they’re still in the middle of a global pandemic.

“We need everyone to continue working together and protecting our community,” he said.

To stop the spread of the virus, Schneider urged residents to wear masks, stay physically distanced from each other and wash their hands often.

Unlike Comal County, Hays County confirms sex and ethnicity of those tested. Click here for more information.

Rep. Zwiener Urges Greater Transparency

In a letter to Hays County commissioners on Friday, Texas House Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-45 (Hays and Blanco counties), asked the county to do more to combat the virus and to release more specific information about how it is spreading throughout the community.

Zwiener asked commissioners to:

  • Invest in permanent and free drive-through testing sites as well as mobile testing that can visit hot spots, high-risk worksites and individuals who are unable to leave their homes. “Requiring people to call ahead and schedule testing appears to be a significant barrier.”
  • Ensure testing sites are accessible to and conveniently located for Hays County’s large Hispanic population.
  • Provide more information to the community about contact tracing and ensure the health department has enough resources to complete contact tracing quickly and efficiently.
  • Set clear standards for when public-health advisories are issued for public-facing businesses. “We have seen several San Marcos restaurants reopen only to quickly close again due to staff testing positive for COVID-19.”
  • Coordinate more closely with businesses about reducing their risk of becoming a COVID-19 hotspot.
  • Dramatically expand public-facing communications about personal risk management.
  • Get the word out about testing opportunities, risk management, and the ongoing situation across the county. “Our attention to COVID-19 has slipped, and consequently many people do not realize that cases are higher than ever in Hays County.”
  • Release trend data, which Hays County believes would violate essential HIPAA protections.

“It’s especially critical to be transparent about decisions regarding spending the almost $5 million in CARES Act funding that the county is eligible for,” she said.

However, Zwiener said on her Facebook page today she was stunned and horrified to learn county officials issued a statement to Austin NBC station KXAN-TV saying they have no plans to release any information that identifies particular business types or industries where individuals have tested positive for COVID-19.

“We understand the basis for questions regarding trends that point toward potential clusters or hotspots,” the county said in its statement. “However, we do not believe providing this type of information will assist with policy decisions or messaging. In fact, it could be harmful to businesses that are already struggling and trying to get back on their feet.”

Zwiener said Hays County is allowing social media rumors to set the “narrative.”

“Sunshine and transparency are always the better choice, and I hope Hays County shifts direction soon and chooses to prioritize public safety and proactive communication,” she said.

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