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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Community leaders host COVID-19 discussion panel

Nursing+instructor+Joy+Hargraves+LVN+%28right%29+administers+a+COVID-19+vaccine+to+San+Marcos+Academy+Boarding+Director+Stephanie+Ramirez+%28left%29%2C+Friday%2C+March+11%2C+2021%2C+at+San+Marcos+High+School.

Nursing instructor Joy Hargraves LVN (right) administers a COVID-19 vaccine to San Marcos Academy Boarding Director Stephanie Ramirez (left), Friday, March 11, 2021, at San Marcos High School.

In an effort to provide clarity of the community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, San Marcos leaders and residents hosted a Facebook Live Q&A where residents submitted COVID-19 related questions.
The meeting was led by San Marcos resident Bobbie Garza-Hernandez and included insights from community members including the Principal of Miller Middle School Doug Wozniak, local physician Dr. Michael Kerr, San Marcos Fire Department Capt. Frank Arredondo, Secretary of the Indigenous Cultures Institute Maria Rocha and San Marcos native Christina Casas-Moreno. 
One of the primary areas of discussion included measures the San Marcos Consolidated ISD is taking to protect its students this spring semester. Wozniak said the district will continue to enforce its mask mandate after the school district’s decision to defy Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order last August. Nurses and teachers are also monitoring symptoms in students to ensure they do not come to school sick. Additionally, school nurses conduct rapid tests every week.
“It’s been a lot of work for the nurses, but the protocols are more than worth the effort,” Wozniak said. 
Community leaders also addressed how the pandemic has impacted the community’s different demographics. According to Arredondo, in his experience, COVID-19 has been more harmful toward the city’s minority groups. 
“The people of color are the ones that are mostly affected. That’s because a lot of them, they’re in the construction industry, the service industry or they’re recession workers that don’t have the ability to work from home or isolate,” Arredondo said. “They don’t always have health insurance. It’s hard for them, [when they don’t have] transportation to get assistance. So, they’re the ones that are suffering the most.” 
Another point of interest was how families can continue to protect themselves against COVID-19. Casas-Moreno advised individuals to wash their hands for 20 seconds, wear a mask in public settings, stay home when they are not feeling well and practice social distancing. 
“Wearing a mask protects everyone, ourselves and others. And it really goes into play with what Dr. Kerr and Mr. Arredondo were mentioning: just caring for others — not just ourselves — recognizing that we’re in this together.” Casas-Moreno said.
The group also widely addressed the impact the pandemic has had on the mental health and development of students in SMCISD. 
“As far as mental health, I think there’s no doubt that it’s taken its toll on our students. Suicide rates are up. Our counselors have been as busy as they’ve ever been with addressing kids. Anytime you have kids that are isolated for long periods of time, it has a direct result and a negative effect on their socialization,” Wozniak said.
Casas-Moreno mentioned the pandemic has impacted everyone, not just students, and stressed the importance of engaging in healthy mental health practices such as sticking to a schedule, exercising, eating healthy foods and going outside every day. 
As far as vaccinations go, Dr. Kerr explained the effectiveness of the COVID-19 booster shot and how it helps create new antibodies to circulate around the body. 
“Especially in this time [with] the Omicron sweeping the country, now would be a very good time to get that booster,” Dr. Kerr said. “You will be exposed to Omicron almost assuredly, so this is the best way to lessen the severity.” 
Despite a recognition of the difficulties created by the pandemic, the panelists continued to reinforce the importance of community solidarity. They agreed that while COVID-19 has presented a large setback, it is not unconquerable when the community comes together.
“COVID has brought to the forefront the way people are suffering, and [is] making everybody more aware of the empathy that we have to provide,” Arredondo said.
While COVID-19 has been causing difficulties for the San Marcos community and its health care workers, Dr. Kerr has high hopes that the end is in sight.
“Medical staff, I’ll be honest, is tired. They’ve been doing this for almost two years,” Kerr said. “And it gives you that hope that maybe this is the last one. I am actually very hopeful. That this last Omicron variant is going to be the last one and it will then kind of fade into the background.”
To view a recording of the Q&A session, visit the City of San Marcos Facebook page

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