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Outlook 2022: Tackling coronavirus will be a persistent Kerr County headache

The virus doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon, nor is the division about how to deal with it.

The coronavirus pandemic has befuddled everyone, and its ongoing disruptions will continue to be felt deep into 2022. Kerr County has abandoned leadership in the wake of the pandemic; most of the commissioner's court has had it and has become even more dismissive of the economic dangers associated with the infection.

Gov. Greg Abbott neutered local governments about making hard decisions about public health to compound matters. That means no mandates. Abbott mandated against mandates.

As we write this assessment, COVID-19's omicron variant has clearly shown its hand in Kerr County as infections rise, but there is a smidge of good news here. While omicron is highly infectious, it does not appear to be as severe — unless you're unvaccinated, have underlying conditions or are elderly. Or at least we hope it is.

If the virus is mild, it has given leaders — both Democrats and Republicans — cover from doing anything about the illness. Since this is a top-down event, President Joe Biden's sudden inability to get testing kits or antibody therapies into the hands of people who need it — free of charge — is problematic. Now, he seems to be waging a petty war with red states, including Texas, about who is helping who.

In a true sense of trickle-down policy, this do-nothing action from the feds and state directly impacts Kerr County, where the population remains vulnerable to the various strains of the virus. The county is stuck with a fully vaccinated rate of 48%.

Messaging about vaccines is heavily muted and guarded because of the political backlash.

And as all of this happens, the virus marches on with one strain after another. The delta variant killed more than 50 people in Kerr County in the summer and fall of 2021 — the death toll is probably higher. Hospitalizations were longer, averaging about a week for those at Peterson Regional Medical Center. The impact on Kerr County's healthcare community is still to be determined. Still, the hospital was jam-packed with "respiratory illnesses" when those symptoms generally don't exist — August through September.

In the final week of 2021, Peterson Health saw four consecutive days of 25 or more cases, including 56 on Dec. 30. The question as we head into 2022 is the worst of COVID-19 behind us (we can only hope) or is it going to continue to haunt us until we finally take collective action against the virus? We'll see, but we're not optimistic.


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