Community Leaders Urge Residents to Stay Safe

The Wilbarger County Covid-19 task force meets each Tuesday. Members include Vernon mayor Pam Gosline, Vernon City Manager, Wilbarger County judge Greg Tyra, Vernon ISD superintendent Jeff Byrd, Northside ISD superintendent Mark Haught, Harrold ISD superintendent Dave Thweatt, Vernon College president Dusty Johnston, WGH Chief of medical staff Dr. Travis lehman, WGH CEO Tom Siemers, and Vernon BDC managing consultant Rick Hardcastle.

“Everyone needs to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Dr. Travis Lehman.

While many health experts are pointing to pandemic fatigue as the cause behind the recent spike in cases nationwide, local officials are encouraging everyone to stay diligent in their efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Mayor Pam Gosline stated “The number of positive cases of COVID-19 is on an upward trend.  The trend is having a negative impact on the number of city workers available for essential services such as Fire, EMS, and Police.”  City Manager, Marty Mangum indicated that close to 10% of the city staff is currently out with a positive COVID test result.  To make sure that staffing for emergency services remains available, the city is asking that everyone do their part to keep us all safe.

Vernon ISD is also experiencing staff shortages due to positive or pending test results and has gone to remote school beginning Wednesday, November 18th. Face to face school will resume after the Thanksgiving holiday. Superintendent Jeff Byrd stated “VISD would appreciate everyone’s help with maintaining an open line of communication returning from the Thanksgiving break. Please notify us immediately if any household member has tested positive and please keep your child at home during your family’s quarantine.”

Wilbarger General Hospital officials report the hospital has seen an increase in the testing positivity rate from 30% just a week ago to 43% as of Monday, November 16 and a significant increase in hospitalizations. WGH CEO Tom Siemers said “The pandemic has hit all Texas hospitals hard.  The team at Wilbarger General is working extremely hard to take care of our patients locally.  Everyone is really stepping up.  We’ve expanded the COVID unit while maintaining segregation from non-COVID patients, added equipment, and are working with the State to add additional licensed staff.”

With Texas hospitals filling up, the numbers are only expected to rise following the Thanksgiving holiday. According to www.worldometer.com, Texas leads the nation in COVID-19 cases with over 1.1 million and counting. With over 20,000 deaths, Texas is second only to New York State for fatalities related to COVID-19. “Finding beds in Texas for critically ill COVID patients is becoming increasingly difficult,” Siemers said. “Resources are being exhausted very quickly.”

As the Covid-19 situation escalates locally and the holidays approach; members of the COVID-19 Task force urge citizens to take every precaution to protect themselves from the virus. The Covid Task Force meets once a week to discuss the rapidly changing situation.  Task force attendees include County Judge Greg Tyra, City of Vernon Mayor Pam Gosline, Wilbarger General Chief of Staff, Dr. Travis Lehman, City Manager Marty Mangum, Vernon ISD Superintendent Jeff Byrd, Northside ISD Superintendent Mark Haught, Vernon College President Dusty Johnston, Vernon Business Development Corporation Director, Rick Hardcastle, and Wilbarger General Hospital C.E.O., Tom Siemers .

Wilbarger County Judge Greg Tyra encourages the community to take every precaution over the holiday in a statement released from the county. “As the holiday season approaches, family gatherings and fellowship are always the highlight of the season. Please remember at your gatherings to practice social distancing, wear a mask if you cannot remain 6 feet away, wash your hands frequently, and stay home if you are sick.”

Vernon College president, Dr. Dusty R. Johnston, states “ Vernon College students and employees at all locations have been diligent this semester limiting exposure.  But, the in past two weeks exposures and positive cases have certainly increased. Approximately 1.5% of students and employees are currently positive.  I encourage everyone to do what they can to limit exposure in the coming weeks as we all try to turn the direction of this situation.”

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