One Texas town had so many COVID cases, they had to completely close schools — and then the entire town
Though COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the country, Texas, in particular, remains a COVID hot spot — with things seemingly getting worse by the day. Case levels in one town are so high that the town had to essentially shut down, and so many teachers have tested positive that the district’s schools had to close within a week of the start of the fall semester.
Iraan, a west Texas town with a population of roughly 1,300 people, currently has a 42 percent positivity rate — Iraan General Hospital CEO Jason Rybolt told CNN that during a two-week span this month alone, 50 of the 119 people tested for COVID came back positive, with Rybolt expressing concern that the Iraan community has “the healthcare that they need.” The town’s football season is being postponed, and city council members have closed down the city building to residents. The council also voted to postpone late fees on water and gas utilities and stop utility disconnections for the next month.
The hospital — the only one in the rural oilfield town — only has 14 beds and no critical care unit, as the Texas Tribune reported, so hospital workers can stabilize patients before transferring them to a bigger hospital. But the closest hospitals to support that kind of care are at least 80 miles away, and with ICUs across the state hitting capacity, there’s a genuine fear that if residents need critical care, there will be nowhere for them to go. Rybolt told CNN that at least one Iraan resident has been airlifted to receive out-of-state care due to the lack of available ICU beds in Texas.
This surge comes within days of Iraan students going back to school, which was immediately impacted by COVID outbreaks within the district. Iraan-Sheffield Independent School District Superintendent Tracy Canter told CNN about a quarter of the staff and 16 percent of the students either were infected or were exposed to COVID-19. With so many teachers in isolation or quarantine, the school district had to completely shut down until at least August 30. “In the last week, we’ve seen more Covid cases for staff and students than we did the entire year, last year, during school,” she told CNN.
In a letter to parents about the school closures, Canter pleaded with members of the community to take quarantine measures seriously — and to do what they can to help slow the spread of the virus. “Please ensure that students are truly taking this opportunity to quarantine. This means that students and staff will quarantine only with immediate family. They should not be out and about in the community or hanging out with friends. The only way that this will work is if everyone does their part.”
This town’s fight against COVID comes amid Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s continued railing against mask-wearing — and his own recent COVID-19 diagnosis. He says he’s now tested negative after a “brief and mild” case, thanks to receiving his vaccine and the Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment that’s in short supply to fellow Americans fighting the virus. But of course.