(TNS) - On the same day the city debuted its new color-coded coronavirus advisory system with Laredo already at the highest warning level, officials continued to express worry over Laredo’s increasing positivity rate, incidence rate and hospitalization rate for the novel coronavirus.
Nineteen more cases were reported on Monday afternoon, bringing the city’s total to 948 since testing began in March. Laredo is coming off its most cases over a one-week span with 199 last week — more than double the previous high.
Laredo has 6,790 people who have tested for the coronavirus while 5,100 have been negative. The number of active cases in Laredo up to 382, 16 of which are health care workers.
Sixteen people are currently hospitalized and 12 of these are in intensive care. The city remains at 22 deaths.
A total of 742 cases are still pending results.
The city on Monday unveiled its color-coded system to inform the public of their risk of contracting the virus based on the number of active cases in the community. With more than 250 active cases, Laredo is currently at a Level 4 risk, or the highest level of Red on the scale. This means Laredoans are asked to stay home as much as possible.
If the city gets to a point where there are less than 50 active cases, Laredo would be at a Level 1 risk, or Green, as residents would be permitted to resume normal daily activity while using face masks.
Level 2 is Yellow, less than 150 active cases, while Level 3 is Orange, less than 250 active cases.
Yellow asks residents to remain vigilant by using face masks, practicing social distancing outside the home, limit gatherings to groups of 10 and practice good hygiene. Meanwhile, Orange stresses contact be minimized with all people and masks be worn while implementing physical distancing and practicing social hygiene.
The City of Laredo and Texas National Guard have partnered this week to offer free testing to the public at Sames Auto Arena from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. However, in order to deliver results in an acceptable time frame, they can only perform around 400-600 tests a day, Interim Fire Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator Ramiro Elizondo said.
Guardsmen will count to the 400th person in line and let everyone after them know that they may not be able to test them, city spokesman Rafael Benavides said.
So as around 2,000 people are tested this week through this program, officials are hopeful this will bring down the city’s positivity rate, which is currently 15.7%.
Interim Health Director Richard Chamberlain noted that of the city’s total positive cases, 15.9% have been asymptomatic and 65.8% had been exposed to another positive case.
Health Authority Dr. Victor Treviño said the city continues to receive photos of mass gatherings where no one is wearing a mask. Indoor mask gatherings in particular can amplify the virus’ spread by 40 or 50 fold, he said.
“It’s up to us to decide how long we want this virus to stay in our community,” he said.
Treviño will be meeting with local school districts to establish uniformity and minimum health standards to address outbreaks, as schools will be back in session this fall.
Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz and Webb County Judge Tano Tijerina last week signed twin amendments to their emergency orders that mandate all public-facing commercial businesses require their employees and customers to cover their nose and mouth if they cannot maintain a social distance.
This is meant to be a middle ground to compromise between Laredo’s economy and public health, Saenz said. Business owners will be subject to a $1,000 fine if patrons and employees are not wearing masks.
“This is what is required. ... I personally, council as well, we don’t want to shut down the city. It would be disastrous. As it is we’re trying to recuperate, recover, to a certain degree, what we’ve lost in the past,” the mayor said.
Results for Nuevo Laredo had not been announced at press time. The Tamaulipas map listed Nuevo Laredo at 490 positive cases and 36 deaths.
Julia Wallace may be reached at 956-728-2543 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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