COVID-19 case numbers among college students and how to further prevent the spread of the virus were addressed by City of Lubbock officials during a virtual news conference Wednesday.
Katherine Wells, director of the Lubbock Health Department, said there are 9,075 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday evening.
Dr. Ronald Cook, local health authority, said there are 650 active cases on the Texas Tech campus and 2,521 active cases total in Lubbock.
“Most of the new positives are in the age group of 18 to 24,” he said.
New cases are being spread at unofficial gatherings where social distancing and mask protocols are not being followed, such as house parties, Wells said.
“This is a significant jump to where we were two weeks ago, and we continue to see a record number of cases in the community reported each day,” Wells said.
The health department is conducting contact tracing in collaboration with businesses, schools and property owners in order to identify hotspots in the community, Wells said.
When someone is contacted by contact tracers, it is encouraged they be honest and upfront about the information being asked in order to make the tracing is more successful, Cook said.
With Tech’s first home football game being this weekend, the concern for the spread of the virus at tailgates also was addressed.
“I know everyone wants to get together and this can be done, but we can’t do the same things the way we did them last year,” Wells said.
In order to safely participate in game-day gatherings, Wells said it is better to have outdoor gatherings, have people bring their own food and drinks, wear face coverings and keep the gathering size small.
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope said off-campus tailgates are being approved on a game-by-game basis.
When approving tailgates, Pope said the city will be looking at the expected occupancy and whether there is room to properly distance.
With three Big XII football games already postponed or canceled, Pope said he does not want to find Tech in a similar situation and is asking college students to consider the ramifications of their actions.
“Your decisions have implications on your peers,” Pope said. “They have implications on our community, and potentially anyone that you might run into if you are carrying this virus asymptomatically.”
Cook also addressed COVID-19 safety protocols and symptoms for college students during the conference.
“Just because you’re 18 to 25 doesn’t mean that you cannot get sick,” he said. “You never know if you’re going to be the next one that won’t do well with the virus.”
Students are encouraged to avoid close contact with others, wear masks, avoid sharing food, disinfect surfaces and use their own hand towels in bathrooms, Cook said.
“Make sure that you use strong soap to clean your facial coverings. You want to change those facial coverings every day,” Cook said.
Possible symptoms of COVID-19 may include muscle aches, headaches, nausea and vomiting, Cook said.
“Most will have some of those symptoms. Some may get off and not have any symptoms,” he said.
Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have been decreasing but Cook said the numbers could potentially increase over the next few weeks. It is possible for the virus to increase in other age groups in the weeks to come.
“When you’re asked to stay home and self-monitor, that means you stay home and somebody brings you things you need,” Cook said. “That’s how we stop this spread.”
Testing is readily available throughout Lubbock, Pope said. There is free testing at the Rogers Park Gymnasium from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and no appointment is required.
There is also free testing for students and no appointment is needed at the United Supermarkets Arena being operated by the Texas Department of Emergency Management, Pope said.