First day of reopening marred by 21% surge in coronavirus cases in the previous five days

Here are the coronavirus updates to know in New Braunfels, Comal County and Guadalupe County. (Community Impact staff)
Here are the coronavirus updates to know in New Braunfels, Comal County and Guadalupe County. (Community Impact staff)

Here are the coronavirus updates to know in New Braunfels, Comal County and Guadalupe County. (Community Impact staff)

From April 27 to May 1, there were 25 cases of the coronavirus confirmed across both Comal County and Guadalupe County, bringing the total to 143 cases.

Nine of the week's cases were in Comal County where there are 13 active cases of the virus. Four patients are hospitalized while the others are self-quarantined in their homes, according to a press release from the county.

In Guadalupe County, 33 of the 85 confirmed cases are active. Four Guadalupe residents are hospitalized as well.

Together, the increase in cases this week represents a 21.18% increase over all cases since the first patients were diagnosed in mid-March.

New Braunfels is home to 32 of the confirmed cases between both counties.

May 1 was also the first day that many businesses were permitted to open their doors for customers, with restrictions barring more than 25% of the buildings occupant capacity.

Testing availability and accuracy

Questions about the timing of the state's reopening have centered around the availability of testing.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 841 Comal County residents and 600 Guadalupe County residents have been tested for the coronavirus between March 24 and April 2.

Neither county has released definitive information on its testing capacity.

On Friday, Comal County included in its COVID-19 update an announcement that antibody testing was now available by appointment by calling 830-221-1150.

“This is a win-win partnership between the county and Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL),” said Cheryl Fraser, the county’s director of public health, in a press release. “CPL can use our facilities to do the testing, and in return the county gets additional data about the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

The announcement suggests that the antibody test could determine if the patient has developed an immunity to the disease, but does acknowledge that research into immunity from the virus is ongoing.

A scientific brief released by the World Health Organization on April 24 states that no evidence has been found that people who have recovered from COVID-19 are protected from a second infection.

"At this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an “immunity passport” or “risk-free certificate," the brief concludes. "People who assume that they are immune to a second infection because they have received a positive test result may ignore public health advice."

The drive-thru testing site in New Braunfels that is operated by volunteer medical professionals and first responders is still available for testing of active cases. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 830-312-7980 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

County offices reopen Monday

Comal County offices will begin reopening on May 4 but social distancing requirements are still in place, requiring people to maintain six feet of distance from one another. There will also be limits to the number of people allowed in lobbies concurrently, according to another press release issued by the county on May 1.

“As we reopen, the county continues to work to protect the health of our community,” said County Judge Sherman Krause in the release. “We will continue to make sure our offices are safe for our employees and the public to use.”

Exceptions to the reopening include some major offices because they are relocating to the newly renovated Landa building. Openings can be verified by calling the county's main switchboard at 830-221-1100.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience thus far as we’ve taken these unprecedented steps of closing offices to protect our public health, and we ask for a little bit more as we balance reopening with the health and safety of not just the public but also our employees,” Krause said.

Most offices, including the County Courthouse in New Braunfels and annex buildings in Sattler and Bulverde, are reopening for normal business hours. Rural recycling drop-off locations will also resume service.

The county listed the following exceptions to Monday's reopenings:

  • The County Clerk’s Office, County Court-at-Law Clerks Office, District Clerk’s Office and County Court-at-Law No. 2 will remain closed to foot traffic but are available by phone and email while relocating to the Landa Building over the next two weeks.

  • The Tax Office will have special hours for seniors from 8 a.m.-9 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays. The general public will have access during the rest of the office's normal business hours. No vehicle title transfers will be processed after 4 p.m. and lobby capacity will be restricted, with customers required to line up outside the building.

  • The Sheriff’s Office will maintain public access to its foyer during regular business hours but the lobby will remain closed. Fingerprinting services and jail visitations remain suspended per instruction from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

  • The Extension Office will remain closed until May 18 at the direction of Texas A&M University.

  • The Office of Public Health and the Veteran Services Office will reopen Monday by appointment only.

  • Justices of the Peace for Precincts 1, 3 and 4 will only be available by phone and email. Precinct 2 is reopening Monday.

  • Most county and district court proceedings remain on hold by order of the Texas Supreme Court, with exceptions determined on a case-by-case basis and remote hearings taking place as necessary.

By Warren Brown
Warren joined Community Impact at the beginning of 2020 as the editor of its New Braunfels paper and now reports the news in San Marcos, Buda and Kyle. Warren previously wrote for the Dallas Observer and Fort Worth Weekly and he brings a passion for truth and equality to his reporting.