Brewster County gets COVID-19 update during county meeting

BREWSTER COUNTY — Last week, the Brewster County commissioners met for a meeting that would see them cover a packed agenda. Among the items covered were the new tourism budget, a community facilities report and financial reports. Stealing the show, though, was the Brewster County update on COVID-19.

A presentation led by Dr. Ekta Escovar showed a slow decline in COVID-19 cases in Brewster County with an expected drop in death rate to follow. According to the presentation, Brewster County is sitting at about 21 cases per 1000 people, which is above both the state and the national numbers, currently at 17 cases per 1000 and 15 cases per 1000, respectively.

With seven active cases, two deaths and a rate of one positive person for every 50, Escovar expressed worries about schools opening in the fall. Escovar said that it could take a month to realize the ramifications that that decision could have on case numbers.

The presentation also included graphs displaying where most of the cases in Brewster County were happening: 95% of cases were in Alpine, with Marathon (2.5%), Big Bend National Park (1.0%) and Terlingua (1.5%) accounting for the rest.

Another graph showed which ages were contracting COVID-19 at the highest rate – adults in their 30s lead with 38 cases. Other high age ranges were 20s (35 cases), 50s (35 cases) and 40s (27 cases).

Robert Alvarez, the executive director of the tourism council, announced a 45% reduction for the department’s annual budget. This is largely due to the economic effects that COVID-19 has had on tourism for the year. Additionally, he announced that the tourism website for Brewster County has been completed and will go live when circumstances permit.

In regards to the community facilities report, Judge Eleazar Cano commented on how the county is getting various facilities ready for voting in the age of coronavirus. To do this, voting will start earlier to promote social distancing while voting. Also, he explained that many facilities around the county are adapting to how their buildings must look in a COVID-19 world, including sneeze guards, sanitizer dispensers and working from home.

Additionally, he stated that the county has found a contractor to place a new generator into the jail and that they have already discussed and worked on plans for how it will be installed.

Among other things that were talked about was the surplus distribution that Brewster County received for the fiscal year of 2019, which totaled $39,873 – the biggest pool of money that has ever been received through a surplus distribution.

The commissioners talked about using those funds to continue funding the county wellness program, with the idea to have a new gym built at the food bank. This new gym will have a cardio center and a strength center.

There were a couple of commissioners that argued against building a new gym in such a lean year, but because of a lack of information at the time about the specific costs of the gym, there was no official decision made on the matter during the meeting.