In the last 10 days Comal County’s COVID-19 death toll has soared from 9 to 29, fueled in large part by outbreaks in residential care facilities where some of those most vulnerable live.
On July 3, Comal County officials announced the death of a Canyon Lake man in his 80s, the ninth COVID-19 death in the county. On Monday, July 13, officials announced seven new COVID-19 deaths — the 23rd through 29th — including three residents of Kirkwood Manor in New Braunfels, which has now seen seven deaths from the pandemic.
The latest residents to die included a man in his 80s who died at the facility on Saturday and a woman in her 90s who died there Sunday. A third, officials say, was a man in his 80s who died in a New Braunfels hospital on Tuesday, but his death wasn’t reported to the county’s public health office until Friday evening.
The county announced death No. 22 on Saturday afternoon, a Kirkwood Manor woman in her 90s with underlying health conditions, who died there on Friday. Officials say the facility has reported 48 cases of COVID-19 that involved 32 residents and 16 staffers. Three are still hospitalized in addition to the seven deaths.
The other four deaths announced Monday didn’t have connections to residential-care facilities, with each of them dying in New Braunfels hospitals.
Friday’s deaths included a man in his 80s from the north side of Canyon Lake; a man in his 60s from New Braunfels and a man in his 70s from the south side of Canyon Lake. A woman in her 50s from New Braunfels died on Saturday.
County health officials said it’s not yet known whether the deaths announced Monday included those with underlying medical conditions.
As the outbreaks have blossomed in residential-care facilities throughout the area, Comal County and city of New Braunfels officials have been working to provide any assistance they can, from additional personal protection equipment to connecting them with state resources.
County Judge Sherman Krause commented on a productive Zoom meeting held last week with administrators at those facilities, which concluded with all agreeing to keep that dialogue open.
Those who need personal protective equipment and other resources can call 830-221-4618 to request them.
County officials have been releasing reported information about COVID-19 cases at facilities and service providers across the area. On Monday that included:
• River Gardens, New Braunfels: 80 cases (58 residents, 22 staff), 1 death, 3 hospitalized
• Colonial Manor, New Braunfels: 58 cases (32 residents, 26 staff), 3 hospitalized
• The Heights of Bulverde: 57 cases (33 residents, 24 staff), 6 deaths
• Kirkwood Manor, New Braunfels: 48 cases (32 residents, 16 staff), 7 deaths, 3 hospitalized
• Hope Hospice, New Braunfels: 7 cases (staff)
• Legend Oaks, New Braunfels: 3 cases (1 resident, 2 staff), 1 death
• Sundance Inn, New Braunfels: 3 cases (staff)
• EdenHill, New Braunfels: 2 cases, both hospice workers
• Elan Westpointe, New Braunfels: 1 case (staff)
• Advanced Home Health Services: 1 case (staff)
While many facilities have taken special precautions including closing visitation, the staff that work there still have opportunities to be infected without knowing it, Paul Anthony, Comal County’s Public Information Officer said. That makes the actions of the people around them particularly important.
“Staff can still catch COVID-19 from restaurant workers, grocery store clerks, friends, family and neighbors, and then carry it into nursing homes without realizing they have it,” Anthony said. “As we’ve stressed repeatedly throughout the pandemic, following social distancing guidelines — including wearing a mask — is not just to protect yourself; it’s to protect others to whom you might unknowingly transmit a deadly disease, and those to whom they might in turn transmit it. Just because you never get sick doesn’t mean you can’t infect others, including truly vulnerable members of our community."
New cases releasing Tuesday
In keeping with its recent process, county officials didn’t update weekend test and case numbers on Monday. They said the newest information, which will be released on Tuesday, will not include data reflecting the last week or two.
“COVID-19 is so widespread in our community that the actions we take now will take some time to show up in the data. We see days of lag time between infection and the onset of symptoms, plus as long as a month between symptom onset and death in the most serious cases,” said Cheryl Fraser, Comal County public health director.
“That means the steps we take today are preventing deaths a month from now, and the cases and deaths we’re seeing today are the result of actions not taken in June.”
On Monday the public health office reopened to the public; hours are by appointment only weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those needing non-coronavirus-related services, such as immunizations, can call 830-221-1150.
Residents wishing to be tested for COVID-19 can call the county’s dedicated hotline, 830-221-1120, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.