The long-awaited COVID-19 outbreak finally arrived in Schleicher County this week, and it did so with a vengeance. There have been 27 new cases reported in Schleicher County since this newspaper last went to press a week ago.

Some of those cases found their way into the school system as students, teachers and staff all tested positive. Among those were players on the Eldorado Eagles football team who defeated the Iola Bulldogs for the 2A Bi-District title in Llano on Saturday.

Schleicher County ISD Superintendent Robert Gibson announced Monday that the district would begin its Thanksgiving holiday nearly a week early on

Tuesday, November 17th, with students not slated to return to school until Monday, November 30th. To date, four students and seven staff members have tested positive for the virus.

Many students took Chromebook computers home with them for the Thanksgiving break. That will allow them to study from home if school officials decide to implement remote learning after the holiday.

“We were faced with several not so good choices,” Superintendent Gibson said on Monday. “We wanted to do what is best for the students and their families.”

Among those not so good choices was the decision for the Eldorado Eagles football team to forfeit to D’Hanis the Area round playoff game slated for Saturday, November 21st.

An Eagles player was isolated from his teammates when he reported feeling ill before the Bi-District playoff game in Llano on Saturday, November 14th. The player’s parents returned him to Eldorado where he subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. The remainder of the team and coaches were quarantined and school officials began weighing their options.

When more positive cases were reported on Monday, and the school was faced with quarantining nearly a quarter of its students and staff, the decision was made to call extend the Thanksgiving holiday.

Updates on SCISD’s COVID-19 response are available on the school’s website at www.scisd.net.

Hospital Administrator Paul Burke reports that the local clinic has seen a great number of people wanting to be tested for COVID-19.

“Many of them don’t meet the testing criteria,” Burke explained. “We have limited supplies and have to restrict testing to those who meet the conditions that warrant testing.”

As of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, November 18th, there have been 133 total cases of COVID-19 reported in Schleicher County, an increase of 27 from a week earlier. Of that total, 48 are considered active. (SEE LIST OF LOCAL CASES BELOW)

Neighboring counties are already under a state-mandated mask order, and the same could come any moment for Schleicher County. In Sonora, Sutton County’s mask exemption was superseded by the state two weeks ago when the number of active cases exceeded 20. The same is true for Reagan County to the west.

Paul Burke said on Tuesday that the positivity rate in the Concho Valley area is approaching 15% and said he is concerned that Governor Abbott might again shut down nonessential medical services, something he did when the COVID-19 pandemic first reached Texas in the spring of this year.

The latest COVID-19 outbreak isn’t limited to West Texas, as cases are surging across the state. However, in far West Texas, the number of active cases in El Paso County (34,904) is nearly three times higher than in Harris County (13,089), a county whose population is about six times greater than El Paso.

Meanwhile, state resources are being rolled out to hot spots such as El Paso and Lubbock where Governor Greg Abbott last directed additional supplies be sent along with supplemental medical personnel.