New Braunfels, Comal County officials advise residents not to panic over coronavirus

(Courtesy Adobe Stock)
(Courtesy Adobe Stock)

(Courtesy Adobe Stock)

In Austin, San Antonio and Houston, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus has steadily grown over the past two weeks, with more than 40 individuals testing positive in Texas.

As of March 14, there have been no positive coronavirus tests or presumptive positive cases in Comal County, according to New Braunfels Mayor Barron Casteel.

New Braunfels Fire Chief Patrick O’Connell said that there is little cause for concern as of yet for local residents.

“There's no evidence of community spread here,” O’Connell said. “If you don't have a travel history and you haven't had intimate contact with somebody that has a positive travel history, then there's nowhere for you to come in contact with the virus.”

All the same, the city of New Braunfels and Comal County are working closely and bracing for positive cases of coronavirus.

O’Connell said that New Braunfels Fire Department phone operators are actively screening calls for travel history and flu-like symptoms. When responding to calls that meet these criteria, fire department employees wear protective equipment and the ambulance is thoroughly disinfected afterward.

Government operations

Public meetings were canceled for March 12. Casteel said it was a precautionary measure to protect elderly community members that might have attended a planning meeting for a veterans memorial.

City Council meetings and various board meetings are still scheduled, although residents are being encouraged to watch them remotely on the city’s website or local access channel.

“At the very moment, we are not recommending any closures or shut down,” said Jeff Kelley, the emergency management coordinator for Comal County, in relation to local government offices.

Coronavirus testing and precautions

Officials in both city and county offices are sharing the similar messaging for residents about prevention. Residents should take precautions to avoid potential transmission and form healthy habits before a case occurs locally.

Prescribed steps include regularly washing hands, covering coughs with elbows or tissues, maintaining distance from other people, not touching your face and working from home when possible, especially if symptoms of the virus are presenting.

“The single most important thing to do is the same thing you would do with the flu, and that’s use those hygiene practices,” Kelley said. “If you fall ill, stay home.”

There are no testing kits for coronavirus in Comal County. Samples are instead sent to either San Antonio or Austin, according to Kelley. Previously, they were sent to Atlanta, Ga., home of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We wouldn’t receive them under any circumstances,” Kelley said. “Even in normal situations, that’s where those samples are being sent for testing.”

Labcorp’s and Quest Diagnostics’ testing services are coming online, according to O’Connell and Kelley.

Should positive tests begin cropping up locally, government services and utilities will not break down, according to city manager Robert Camareno.

“We’re taking steps to ensure the city of New Braunfels will continue to provide essential services to our community,” Camareno said.

See related: Coronavirus perception impacts New Braunfels businesses and organizations


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