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Young People Floating The River Is One Reason COVID-19 Cases Are Rising In Hays County

A person tosses a tube onto a pile.
Lorena Peña for KUTX
Tubes are piled up during Float Fest in San Marcos in 2016.

The recent spike in positive coronavirus cases is largely being fueled by 20-somethings in the San Marcos area, Hays County health officials say.

In particular, officials point to the many young people who recently have attended large gatherings, such as the police violence protests, or who have floated in local rivers.

On Tuesday, the county hit a record with 155 positive COVID cases. Eric Schneider, an epidemiologist with the Hays County Health Department, said that since June 10, 58% of new cases in the county are San Marcos residents aged 20 to 29.

“We anticipated an uptick as businesses, bars, restaurants and local hangouts reopened,” he said, “but that number is growing faster than expected.”

Schneider said many of the people who tested positive reported floating on the rivers around New Braunfels and San Marcos since Memorial Day. Schneider said some tube rental companies in the area are taking precautions, but many are not.

“Last weekend, I personally drove over the Guadalupe and Comal rivers and I could have probably walked across the river just stepping on tubes,” he said. "It’s crowded. It’s packed. And if one person has [COVID-19], there’s a good chance that 20 other people are going to get it.”

Schneider said tube rental companies that are taking precautions require appointments, limit how many people float at a time, limit the number of people in one group and stagger when people get in the river.

Hays officials have also been talking to health officials at Texas State University about the spike in cases among young people. Schneider said the county health department has no authority over the school’s decision to reopen for the second summer semester, but he has been advising school officials.

“I have presented them with the facts … the fact that we are seeing a skyrocketing increase in the 20-t0-29-year-olds that live in the San Marcos area,” Schneider said. “They are weighing out their options. So, it is up to them. It is their choice.”

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Ashley Lopez covers politics and health care. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.
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