Another day and we get another day of omicron fun. So, there's that. We should have a spectacular day when it comes to the weather. Today's high should be gentle and kind 72 degrees.
IS COVID HEADING TOWARD A PEAK?
There are emerging signs, at least according to some, that the omicron variant of COVID-19 may be slowing down in some of the nation's largest cities, but a slowdown in Texas may be a ways off.
The New York Times and Washington Post reported that cases were leveling off in New York City on Wednesday. There are a lot of buts in the story, including the but about other parts of New York state that see rising numbers. In South Africa, where omicron was first detected, the cases showed a massive spike and then collapsed.
The Texas Department of State Health Services' data shows that omicron was most likely in the state before Christmas. DSHS reports confirmed numbers on its public-facing dashboard, but the real story rests in a downloadable spreadsheet.
DSHS said there were more than 75,000 cases on Tuesday, confirming molecular and antigen tests. However, when you look at the molecular testing data, you see a different story. Those 75,000 cases are likely two weeks old. By the way, DSHS is still catching up. They don't even have reportable data from the last four days. So, what you're seeing on the website is probably their best estimation.
In Kerr County, DSHS reporting has always lagged (don't get us started on the fatalities). It's never been clear to us, based on our correspondence with DSHS, if they ever count anything that Peterson Health reports.
Peterson said 217 people tested positive since Monday afternoon for the virus. We asked Peterson President and CEO Cory Edmondson why the healthcare system provided three-days-a-week updates during the surge. His answer was simple: The staff is stretched thin.
And with all of these numbers, the proof continues to be in the hospitalizations and toll on Peterson Health and other hospitals. Peterson is in good shape right now, but what happens if it has to admit 20 people by the end of the week? That's the real crisis facing our community.
ONE AIRLINE ARGUES FOR LESS QUARANTINE, AND ANOTHER DEFENDS VACCINATIONS
One of the fiercely debated storylines to come from the omicron surge was the story about Delta Airlines urging the CDC to drop the 10-day quarantine to five days. The CDC tried to say Delta had nothing to do with its decision, but there's some smoke there. Supporters of the move argued that Delta was using sound science in its plea to the CDC.
However, United Airlines made news this week when its President and CEO Scott Kirby said since the company instituted a vaccine mandate, the company has had no COVID-19 related deaths of vaccinated employees.
"In dealing with COVID, zero is the word that matters — zero deaths and zero hospitalizations for vaccinated employees," Kirby told employees.
ON THE LEAD LIVE TODAY
Delayne Sigerman will be our host today, and she will chat with Tara Bushnoe of the Upper Guadalupe River Authority. Geoff Gannaway will join Bushnoe, and the two will discuss UGRA's large rainwater system incentive program. The program aims to capture rainwater, and UGRA provides grant incentives to a select few who meet the criteria. Of course, we'll also discuss the latest with cleaning up the river and managing the feral hogs. We may even ask if there are beavers along the river.
GET READY FOR THE WEEKEND
Live Music by John Arthur Martinez
Southern Sky Music Cafe, Ingram
Open House at The Dietert Center
The Dietert Center, Kerrville
- Come visit Kerr County's largest center for senior citizens, along with all of the programs offered by the staff and volunteers. https://dietertcenter.org
Live music by Joe & Gino
Cafe at the Ridge, Kerrville
Live music by Bill Blankenship
Southern Sky Music Cafe, Ingram
Stand-up Comedy at Babez Seafood Bucket
Babez Seafood Bucket, Kerrville
- Stand-Up Comedy show starring Daryl Felsberg, featuring Brandon Davidson. Victor Gonzalez hosts this night of laughs.
Sunday, Jan. 16
Turtle Creek Olives and Vines
- Kerrville's Turtle Creek Olives and Vines will be taking a sophisticated look into small-batch, unique Cabernet-based offerings. With selections by our sommelier, Andre Boada, three wine bar stations will feature small bites paired perfectly with the wines.
The Kingston Trio
Cailloux Theater, Kerrville
- The Kingston Trio, the biggest name in the history of folk music, Billboard Magazine's "Lifetime Achievement Award" winners, members of the Hit Parade Hall of Fame, The Vocal Group Hall of Fame and four-time "Grammy" Award winners, will be in Kerrville for one show only.
A FEW MORE TAKEAWAYS FROM THE KERRVILLE CITY COUNCIL MEETING
So much happened during Tuesday night's Kerrville City Council meeting that we couldn't get it all into Wednesday's newsletter, and we'll probably still be reporting out of it through the weekend. However, here are a few other things to consider from the meeting:
- Place 1 City Councilman Roman Garcia came up with an interesting idea for the public safety building bond election — ranked-choice voting. Garcia's idea was to utilize the system to give voters several choices on what they would like to spend — or not spend. For instance, a ranked-choice could allow the city to put more money on the table for the public safety building. A group is trying to build momentum to enact ranked voting in Texas.
- One thing the City Council will have to do in the coming weeks is a vote to raise a self-imposed debt ceiling. That will be one of the first steps toward calling an election — most likely for May — for the general obligation bond.
- Mayor Bill Blackburn spoke out against allegations that the city underestimated the cost of the public safety building. Opponents of the city's initial effort to use certificates of obligation, which do not require voter approval, questioned the city's figures of roughly $17 million. Blackburn admitted the city needed to do a better job communicating its intentions; he made clear the certificates of obligation were for land purchase, architects and other expenses to get the project started.
- Now that the public safety building committee has handed its report to the City Council, members of that 10-person group will likely lead the effort to form a political action committee that will work to pass the bond. That decision could come down Friday.
- Kerr Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Gil Salinas broke some news that Ingram Independent School District will receive $188,000 grant to help students at Tom Moore High School earn certifications in welding, cyber security and other tech and industrial disciplines.
3 THINGS WE LEARNED ABOUT RICH PACES
Rich Paces is one of five Republicans running for the Precinct 2 seat on the Kerr County Commissioner's Court. Paces is a retired petroleum engineer who moved to Kerr County — near Camp Verde — in 2015. He's drawing experience on two fronts — inspiration to contain a liberal agenda; and his years of work in multinational oil and gas. We sat down with Paces on Wednesday for an in-depth conversation. Here are three takeaways from our conversation:
1. His introduction to public service in Kerr County was through Habitat for Humanity.
"When I retired in 2015, I started kind of thinking about how blessed I was," Paces said. "I felt really compelled, a calling to give back, to serve the Lord, and especially to serve my community. So, that's when I started looking around for opportunities to serve and I started building homes with Habitat for Humanity in Kerrville. And I'm real handy and love to use my hands in that kind of way, and it's a great bunch of people. It's a great Christian mission."
2. On growth in Precinct 2, including Center Point, and what that means for Kerr County.
"It's coming," Paces said. "So, I guess, I just want to make sure that the growth that we see is properly managed, properly planned, and and appropriate for the location that it's being proposed, doesn't jeopardize our available water because that's that's a huge issue and it's on a lot of constituents mind."
3. We discussed the management of quarries along the Guadalupe River and the impact on residents in Precinct 2, where most of them operate.
The quarries, in particular, are a concern to a lot of the people that live near them," Paces said. "You know, when you've got air pollution effectively with all the dust that gets generated. And then you've got all the heavy equipment that makes quite a bit of noise.
"I mean, I kind of I live on a hilltop in Hidden Hills Ranch and I kind of look down over that stuff. Fortunately, I'm not too close to it. But on certain days, when the wind's in the right direction, I hear it. So, I can only imagine how obnoxious that is for people that live a lot closer to it. Yeah. And I and I do hear complaints when I'm out, you know, knocking on doors and campaigning.
"On the other hand, hey, you know, landowners have a right to use their land. And as long as they're in full compliance with Texas law, you know, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. You know, that's the main one to keep a close eye on. And if they're in compliance, it's kind of hard to do anything about it. I think it's great that the commissioner's court formed this committee that's effectively being led by Judge Kelly."
To watch the full interview with Paces, click here: https://fb.watch/avkBg300sE/
If you want to listen to the podcast with Paces, click here: https://anchor.fm/louis-amestoy/episodes/The-Kerr-County-Lead–Jan–12–2022-e1csivm
SEN. TED CRUZ IN THE NEWS
The U.S. Supreme Court decided it would hear a case brought by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who argues he should be able to loan his campaign money and then charge the campaign interest for the loan — and we're not talking about low-interest rates. In reality, this is a First Amendment case. Still, some worry this could set off a trend of politicians loaning their campaigns money and then charging exorbitant interest rates resulting in a personal profit.
The Federal Election Commission set a rule to limit that because Cruz wasn't the first to think of it. Others, including Democrats, have attempted something similar. At issue, at least for Cruz, is he technically lost $10,000 because he didn't pay back a loan on time — on purpose. The intent was to challenge the constitutionality of the rule. Cruz, however, has won two rounds in the federal courts, and the Supremes will hear the case on Jan. 19.
THE AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN
As part of continuing unrest in the newspaper industry, the Austin American-Statesman will no longer publish a Saturday print edition. Considering how shifting advertising revenue has made Saturday newspapers weak, it's not surprising. However, the newspaper's owner, Gannett, will unveil a "Saturday" experience via an E-edition, which means a replica of the printed newspaper but delivered electronically.