The new statewide mask mandate ordered by Gov. Greg Abbott began Friday but it wasn’t anything new for Mineral Wells city employees, who had already been wearing masks. Early last week, city workers were required to wear masks in all government buildings as well as inside city vehicles when occupied by more than one person.

Mayor Tammy Underwood knows these new parameters can be hard for some but said they are necessary to slow the spread in the community.

 “We need to try get past the resentment and see the bigger picture,” she said. “I will raise my hand and tell you that up until two weeks ago I had not been wearing my mask out in public. Now if I’m out, you are gonna see me in my mask.”

Palo Pinto County continues to experience community spread as indicated by the uptick in positive cases.

Positive case numbers have soared above 50, which is up over 200% in just two weeks. Palo Pinto General Hospital CEO Ross Korkmas said the testing hotline is busier than ever and wait time for test results has increased since the state is experiencing a large influx of needs. 

“As more tests go in, the longer it can take to get results back,” he said.

Korkmas added that he is certain the numbers being reported by the state are accurate, despite some concerns of their validity.

“There is no conspiracy. I assure you of that. It’s simply the massive amount of information that is flowing to the state and the amount of resources that they have available.”

The lag time in testing locally can be anywhere from 48 hours up to 10 days. Tests are sent out to various private labs or to the state and wait times are showing they are inundated with the workload. Korkmas also said the positive case numbers the hospital releases will be higher than the state’s website due to a reporting lag time.

As of Monday afternoon, PPGH reported 65 total positive cases in Palo Pinto County with 186 still pending.

Several times last week, hospital officials took to live streaming on Facebook to educate the community on the local situation. 

“We have positive cases in every area of the county,” Korkmas said during one online chat.

Lindsay Winburn, director of total quality management at PPGH, said the county has doubled its positivity rate in just one week, adding that one in 20 people are asymptotic, but still testing positive. 

“This is why it’s important that we all wear masks and that we take precautions because you can be walking around and be positive and just not know,” Winburn said.

Officials are reminding citizens not to fall into the social media trap of misinformation and encouraging people to follow the medical facts.

Winburn, a nurse herself, said it’s fine to read social media for entertainment purposes but don’t take the rumors as facts. 

“It’s important to remember health care workers have been wearing masks for a very long time, with no issues,” she said.

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