LUBBOCK, Texas — The City of Lubbock will soon formally announce the closure of large city facilities and city athletic facilities, Mayor Dan Pope said Wednesday.
Pope and others spoke during a press conference. The city’s goal is to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The City of Lubbock Health Department reported 585 new cases on Tuesday evening for Lubbock and Lubbock County. There were 282 deaths and 26,693 total cases since the start of the pandemic.
“We are working on public facilities and large indoor gathering areas,” Pope said. “The city manager will be announcing before the end of the week that we will be closing our large facilities and our athletic facilities through the end of the year.”
Pope said the City Council, along with commissions and boards, will meet virtually and not in-person for the rest of the year.
“We are talking to our schools more about how we can work with them to limit spread in indoor areas where we might gather to watch our kids play sports or hear them sing or play their musical instruments,” Pope said.
The mayor also said the city will soon ask “big box” retailers in Lubbock to voluntarily impose on themselves occupancy limits even more strict than those required by the state. Pope said the city will ask “big box” retailers to also require the use of masks by all employees and customers inside their stores.
Mayor Pope said indoor sports facilities such as Apex and Premier have been good partners. He said they are imposing mask requirements.
Pope praised Texas Tech for a more aggressive approach recently to slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Among other things, Texas Tech said to students on Wednesday, “All events and gatherings of more than ten people scheduled between now and Monday, November 30, 2020, must be moved to an online format or postponed with exceptions.”
Texas Tech also said, “We will be announcing more detail on new policies and enforcement of protocols, including cancellation of tailgating and strict enforcement of mask-wearing and significantly reduced seating capacities.”
Pope was also asked if Lubbock might follow the lead of Amarillo which on Friday will consider a crackdown on businesses that do not enforce certain COVID-related safety protocols.
Amarillo City manager, Jared Miller, stated that proposed Ordinance No. 7893 would declare “a site that fails to meet certain minimum standards designed to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 as a public nuisance.”
There would be penalties for Amarillo businesses that do not meet those minimum standards.
Mayor Pope said he is not fan of forcing businesses to impose standards on customers — essentially using businesses as a point of enforcement for COVID protocols.
Governor Greg Abbott plans a visit to Lubbock on Thursday for a press conference. His focus will be the distribution of monoclonal antibody therapy.
Over the last week Lubbock and Lubbock County averaged 450 new cases of COVID-19 per day according to Lubbock Health Director Katherine Wells.
“This is too much for a community our size,” Wells said. Wells said it has already led to deaths, countless suffering and many long-term side effects.
“Good citizens, we in the City of Lubbock are in trouble,” said Lubbock Health Authority Ron Cook. Dr. Cook said as of Tuesday evening there were 12 patients in Lubbock emergency rooms with no beds available in the hospital.
He also said for every 1,000 people who test positive, on average 11 hospital beds will be needed for them. Cook said Lubbock has 7 times the number of COVID patients hospitalized now as compared with early September.
Even the use of field hospitals and extra medical staff from the state are not enough he said. Local medical professionals had little or no time off recently.
Cook said Lubbock is close to needing refrigerated trucks to act as temporary morgues because the high number of deaths from COVID.
Every person who spoke during the press conference urged the people of Lubbock to wear a mask in public, stay 6 feet apart, wash hands, and avoid large gatherings.