Schools open in Port Aransas
Foggers are filling Port Aransas classrooms with an aerosol disinfectant. Shoppers have depleted grocery store shelves of surgical masks. And, while some Port Aransas merchants have lost tourist business from customers who are wary of travel, the town also is gaining tourism from families taking quick vacations while their children's schools are shut down due to swine flu concerns.
At press time on Tuesday, May 5, only one confirmed case of swine flu existed in Nueces County, according to the Web site of the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Health District. The Web site also showed four "probable" cases and 574 "suspected" cases in the county.
Health district spokeswoman Noe Rodriguez said the confirmed case was a Corpus Christi resident and that none of the four probable cases were from Port Aransas.
Rodriguez said she didn't know if any of the 574 suspected cases were from Mustang Island.
Port Aransas schools have no plans to close, even though Corpus Christi Independent School District officials announced they would close their schools May 5 and 6 due to a confirmed case of the swine flu at Miller High School.
No students in Port Aransas schools have been absent with flu-like symptoms, said Sharon Doughty, superintendent of the Port Aransas Independent School District.
If even one case of swine flu later is found and confirmed at PAISD, the district would be ordered by health authorities to close for a period, Doughty said. If that happens, the district would immediately inform parents through announcements on PAISD's Web site, www.port-aransas.k12.tx.us; and through the Web site of the South Jetty and news organizations in Corpus Christi, Doughty said.
The University Interscholastic League has reacted to the flu by postponing extra curricular functions around the state, and that has had effects on Port Aransas High School students. PAHS athletes will be taking part in a rescheduled regional track meet. The school's baseball schedule also has been affected. (See related story, this issue.)
PAISD's nurse, Melissa Ramsden, said she has conducted lectures throughout H.G. Olsen Elementary School and Brundrett Middle School on the importance of hand-washing and other measures to prevent the spread of illnesses.
Doughty said she has taken the added precaution of ordering dozens of foggertype containers of disinfectants.
PAISD Maintenance Director Bill
Atkins said 260 canisters of SaniGuard Atkins said 260 canisters of SaniGuard
are being mailed to PAISD at a cost of $1,598, plus shipping. The foggers will be set off overnight sometime in the next few days in every room on all three campuses, Atkins said.
The Family Center IGA has "quite
large quantities" of gauze masks and large quantities" of gauze masks and
hand disinfectant on order because the store's supplies of those items have been wiped out by shoppers taking precautions against the flu, said Mike Hall, co-owner of the business.
Hall said he's hoping the new supplies arrive by Friday, if not sooner.
The IGA also is being "extremely cautious" with its employees, requiring any who have flu symptoms to visit a doctor to confirm it's not swine flu, Hall said.
Deep Sea Headquarters has seen quite a few cancellations due to fears of travel during the flu outbreak, said Beth Owens, co-owner of the business.
Early last week, Deep Sea Headquarters had enough reservations to fill its three party boats - the Pelican, Gulf Eagle and Kingfisher, each of which carries 35 to 40 passengers, Owens said. But, beginning Wednesday, people started calling and canceling. Only two of the boats ended up going out, and they were only half-full, she said.
La Mirage took a hit when a high school band cancelled its reservations at the condominium, said Jim Triplett, managing director of CCMS Inc., which handles rentals of 850 units on Mustang Island. The band, from Jersey Village High School, northwest of Houston, had been scheduled to occupy 70 rooms for three nights.
The Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce Tourist Bureau has heard of cancellations at other Mustang Island condominiums too, according to Ann Bracher Vaughan, executive director of the organization.
The Mission Aransas National Estua- rine Research Reserve anniversary celebration that had been scheduled for Wednesday, May 6, at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, has been cancelled until further notice. (See story, this issue.)
In some cases, the swine flu actually brought business to Port Aransas. Triplett said he met some condominium guests who said they decided to visit Port Aransas because their children's schools in San Antonio had been shut down due to swine flu concerns.
While concerns about the spread of the swine flu has prompted government officials in the U.S. and Mexico to cancel many public gatherings, it hasn't affected attendance at Community Presbyterian Church, according to the pastor, Richard Safford.
At the church's service on Sunday, May 3, Safford told congregation members that they may refrain from making physical contact with each other during the "passing of the peace." That's the part of the service when folks turn and shake hands or hug whoever is next to them in the pews.
"I said, 'If someone is hesitant to shake hands, that's understandable,' " Safford said. "We don't want to push anyone to shake hands who is not comfortable with it."
But most the congregation still shook hands and hugged.
"Mostly, people were kind of chuckling over it, really," Safford said. "They weren't taking it with great seriousness."