There are two things that we're assured of right now — if COVID-19 doesn't make you sick, the cedar fever will knock you out. That's our state of things here in Kerr County. COVID-19 is on fire, and there seems to be this yellowish haze of gunk floating over our heads. Website pollen.com says five days of high pollen counts are ahead of us. The forecast calls for the highest counts on Saturday and Sunday — that should make for a fun weekend. The website says counts on a scale of 9-12 are the highest and come Saturday and Sunday; those counts should be 11 or higher.
When it comes to the omicron variant of COVID-19, that might be weeks away from settling down.
ON TODAY'S THE LEAD LIVE
Delayne Sigerman joins us, and we'll catch up with her about her holiday. We'll also chat with Kathy Turner of the Veteran's Affairs Medical Center in Kerrville about homeless veterans.
COMING FRIDAY ON THE LEAD LIVE
The Kerrville Farmer's Market is set to return on Friday, and market director Kayte Graham will give us a preview of what to expect from the 2022 season. Peter Calderon will visit us to tell us about the work a Kerr County committee is doing on getting ready for a capital facilities bond in November. Calderon will discuss some of the specific improvements for the Hill Country Youth Event Center — much of it related to health and safety. Finally, in the 10 a.m. hour, we'll talk to Schreiner University professor Dr. Ben Montoya, who is doing a four-part lecture on George Washington for the Sons of the American Revolution.
TODAY IS AN ANNIVERSARY — NOT A GOOD ONE
It's still a difficult moment for most of us to process — the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. A year later, the U.S. Department of Justice will prosecute 725 people, including Kerrville's Elizabeth Rose Williams, charged with illegally entering the Capitol. Willimas faces a fine, six months in jail, a combination of both. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges. She is still awaiting trial. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said he intends to prosecute all 725 people indicted in the attack. Williams was identified of being at the Capitol with Bradley Bennett, who is also facing charges.
Of those 725, prison sentences were handed to 75, including a Florida man for five years. Federal prosecutors allege that 140 police officers were injured in the incident, which led to the deaths of five people.
The vitriol of the day still permeates our culture. Former President Trump was expected to hold a press conference but has postponed that until later in the month. The day will be a hot topic on the news channels. Here's a sample from the left.
Here's a sample from the right:
COVID-19 IS ON FIRE IN TEXAS
There's no way to hold back on this, but Texas is facing a major crisis with the raging fire, the omicron variant of COVID-19. Even more alarming is that we do not have a real-time picture of what is happening here in Kerr County and across the state.
On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott spent most of his day tweeting about Texas economic triumphs and said almost nothing about the virus. The Texas Department of State Health Services data shows that the virus exploded last week with more than 400,000 people requesting tests, with more than 100,000 testing positive — in three days. DSHS did not disclose those numbers until Monday.
In Kerr County, Peterson Health said its urgent care center had been swamped by those seeking tests. More than 200 people per day have requested tests from Peterson Health — which means our positivity rate is as high as 25% or higher. The state positivity rate is now at a record pace of 34%.
Peterson's demand was so great it is opening a new testing center today. However, Peterson officials say you must have an appointment before being tested. A doctor's referral is not required, but they ask people to register online at petersonhealth.org. Click on the COVID-19 section, which will guide you to an appointment.
BUT C'MON WE'RE SICK OF COVID
We know. So are we.
As we've said, there is some good news. The hospitalizations continue to be low compared to the sheer volume of cases we see in Kerr County. With 13 people hospitalized, Peterson is in an excellent position to handle the surge, especially if the variant continues to present mild symptoms. Comparatively, when we saw spikes in December 2020 and January 2021 and again in August through September of 2021, we saw double the hospitalizations we're seeing today. That's the good news.
YEAH, BUT WHAT'S THE BAD NEWS
The bad news is this variant doesn't appear to be mild for children, and on Thursday, DSHS said there were 307 children hospitalized across the state — we believe that's a record or a near-record. Here's some expert commentary on the situation from Dr. Paul Checchia, a pediatric cardiac physician at Texas Children's Hospital:
See @ChecchiaPaul's post on Twitter.
A COVID-19 STAT TO PUT IT IN PERSPECTIVE
Between 2014-2019, Texas hospitals and medical offices identified 109,712 seasonal flu cases from five years of state surveillance data. Now, not everyone who had the flu in that period went to get tested — that's granted. However, the COVID-19 numbers from the last week show the scale of omicron's spread across the state and nation.
Since Dec. 13, 1.7 million Texans tested for COVID-19, with 415,000 coming up positive. The demarcation line in the data is Dec. 12, when there were 30,000 tests performed, and then on the next day, that number jumped to more than 80,000.
ONE MORE COVID-19 STAT TO CONSIDER
We have to admit we never noticed this graphic on Peterson Health's website previously, but it shows the number of people hospitalized who were vaccinated and those who weren't. Now, the representation is a tad misleading because mass vaccinations were hard to come by in Kerr County before the end of March. Most people had to go to Fredericksburg or Uvalde to get those shots. However, that began to ease, and vaccination has been very slow in Kerr County.
In the end, we suspect this trend of 97% of hospitalizations being unvaccinated is probably holding up. The actual number of 463 unvaccinated and 18 vaccinated is interesting because it shows the immense pressure the hospital has been under since January of 2021.
A ROUGH DAY FOR LOCAL JOURNALISM
On a day when COVID-19 was running roughshod over Kerr County and Texas, the Kerrville Daily Times didn't mention it on page one of Tuesday's newspaper. (EDITORIAL JUDGMENT: The irresponsibility of that action is difficult to comprehend but not surprising.)
However, the newspaper did have an important story about former Kerrville Firefighter Isaac Barboza wanting evidence thrown out in his trial. He stands accused in the 2020 drunk-driving death of Arianna Khaile Guido-Lopez, an 8-year-old Kerrville girl. Barboza allegedly drunkenly drove his pickup truck into the home where Guido was sleeping, pining the girl under the truck. She later died at a San Antonio hospital.
The story, however, enraged the family because of a paragraph that said Barboza had given money to the girl's family after a Uvalde fundraiser. The family was not quoted in the story, and there are no indications the paper solicited comments.
"If you thought you were doing a good deed to help my family, I greatly appreciate it, but my family does not have that money," the family said in a Facebook post. "I just wanted to make this clear since this keeps being brought up in multiple news sources."
The family said they received a check but never accepted the money. Instead, they returned it to 216th District Attorney Lucy Wilke's office.
In a court filing, Barboza's attorney said his client was improperly denied counsel, interrogated illegally, and illegally searched. In turn, attorney J. Gary Trichter has asked for the evidence to be suppressed.
THE LIVESTOCK SHOW IS UPON US
OK, things are a bit different this year. The old Hill Country District Junior Livestock Show is no longer with us — sort of. After canceling last year due to COVID-19, the livestock show took on a new life as a two-part event. Today is the Kerr County Livestock Show, featuring only local students showing their animals at The Kerr County Youth Event Center. Starting Jan. 16, running through Jan. 21, the Hill District Grandstand Show in Kerrville and Llano, with the big auction held at the Gillespie County Fairgrounds in Fredericksburg. The Livestock Show formally opens today and closes on Saturday with the big auction. Here's a look at today's schedule at the Hill Country Youth Event Center:
- 8 a.m.- Judge Market Lambs
- 10:30 a.m.- Judge Market Meat Goats or following the completion of the lamb show, whichever is later
- 1 p.m.- Judge Breeding Sheep or following the completion of the Meat Goat show, whichever is later
- 2-4 p.m.- Market Barrows, Breeding Gilts, Steers, and Heifers arrive
- 5 p.m.- Market Barrow Classification and Weight Cards Turned in
- 5 p.m.- Cattle Weigh-in and Classification
A JUMPSTART ON THE WEEKEND
Need something to do? Plenty is going on in Kerrville starting Friday.
The Kerr County Livestock Show
Hill Country Youth Event Center, Kerrville
Hill Country Arts Foundation, Ingram
Featuring work by Johnson Creek Printmakers and the Monday Artists
- While both artists have long been associated with HCAF, their art features a wide variety of styles and mediums. This show runs through Feb. 11.
Live music by Ken Raba
Cafe at the Ridge, Kerrville
- He has a smooth classic country voice, with well-woven songs of the people and places he has lived, rivers crossed, horses rode, history recounted, and loves; some won, some lost.
Live music by Dickie Kaiser
Southern Sky Music Cafe, Ingram
Live music by Camerata San Antonio String Quartet
First Presbyterian Church, Kerrville
- Grammy-nominated Camerata San Antonio is a flexible classical chamber music ensemble serving San Antonio and Hill Country. https://www.cameratasa.org
Looking to make sense of COVID-19 and omicron? We've got some experts that we like when it comes to understanding the complexities of the virus.