Coryell County coronavirus positive cases increase; first patient has recovered
By LYNETTE SOWELL
With the numbers of positive COVID-19 cases in Coryell County reaching a count of 17 as of press time on Thursday, there is some good news: the first positive case in the county, a Copperas Cove woman in her 50s, has recovered from the virus.
Of the positive cases, at least several pair live in the same households, such as two Copperas Cove couples in their 60s and 70s, and two females, one in her 20s and the other in her 40s, who live north of the Copperas Cove city limits.
County EMC describes virus timeline, contact tracing
With the cases of the virus being deemed community spread and not travel-related in Coryell County, it’s important that health officials track the path of the virus by a method called contact tracing.
Coryell County Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Harrell explained the process by which the Texas Department of State Health Services tracks those who test positive for the virus.
He described the timeline, starting when an individual calls their healthcare provider, then presents for screening at a medical facility such as Coryell Health in Gatesville.
“So you’re feeling bad, you think you may have it, and you call your provider ahead of time and say I’m coming. You’re tested in your vehicle. At Coryell Memorial, they will run a panel to rule out other medical illnesses such as influenza and strep throat. Once those are ruled out, and we still don’t know, will come the swab testing.”
After being tested for COVID-19, patients are told to go home and stay in quarantine and wait for results, which come back in anywhere from 24-72 hours. Harrell said if a test returns positive, that individual is told to self-isolate. In the case of shortness of breath or other serious underlying health conditions, hospitalization may be warranted.
“At the same time, you will get contacted by DSHS (Texas Department of State Health Services) and they will conduct what’s called contact tracing, or contact investigation. So at this time, you’ll let them know where you’re employed, who you work with daily and where you have been.”
Those individuals, once identified as being exposed to patient, will also be notified and be quarantined and tested.
“That’s why contact tracing is so important, to find out where these people have been, where they work at,” Harrell said.
Patients in isolation at home will be treated with anti-fever medication. Patients will continue the medication until fever-free, and then can only come out of isolation until they are off medication and without any fever for three days. Texas DSHS follows up with the patients, conducting questionnaires on their progress, and will clear them to leave isolation when it is appropriate.
Counting COVID-19 in the county
The county of a patient’s residence is the determining factor for how they are counted, as some patients might be hospitalized in one county yet their home of residence is in another county.
Additionally, with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice having several correctional facilities in Gatesville, to include Crain, Murray, Hilltop, and Hughes Units, and the Woodman State Jail, Harrell explained that the TDCJ keeps its own numbers apart from the county. Correctional staff, however, who test positive are counted in their county of residence, as in the case of a Lampasas County resident who works for TDCJ in Gatesville and tested positive for the virus.
The TDCJ releases its own numbers daily. This week, one positive case for Coryell County was removed from the county list and shifted over to the TDCJ for counting, as it was an inmate who was hospitalized in Gatesville at the time of the report.
As of Thursday, the TDCJ reported a total of 47 positive tests statewide, with 102 negative tests, and 85 tests pending. A total of 132 of its inmates are in medical isolation statewide and 12,380 are in medical restriction.
In Gatesville, its TDCJ units with positive cases include the Murray unit with 11 and the Woodman State Jail with two. The Crain, Hilltop, Hughes and Mountain View Units had zero confirmed positive cases as of press time.
“We are maintaining operational awareness, as far as the cases at the prison,” said Harrell. “We are in constant communication with the TDCJ and are making sure we keep abreast of the situation. They are keeping us informed.”
The Texas Department of State Health Services updates its numbers daily at its website by noon, reflecting the number of people tested, positive cases listed by county, as well as fatalities by county.
Essential, largescale employers still open
Some employers in the county with large staff remain open due to the facilities being essential businesses, such as H-E-B Plus!, Walmart, GC Services, as well as staff of the Copperas Cove Independent School District, many of whom are on campus providing meals for student pickup along with preparing instructional materials for students.
At Tuesday night’s Copperas Cove city council meeting, Copperas Cove City Manager Ryan Haverlah addressed the topic of large, essential businesses being inspected.
“We have communicated and worked with H-E-B, Walmart, GC Services, as well as the Copperas Cove Independent School District which are all the larger stores and employers within the city. We have conducted on-site inspections and communicated recommendations to them, and they have communicated to us about the things they are doing, in each of those instances, to ensure customers are complying,” Haverlah said. “However, it is really incumbent on customers to ensure that they comply with social distancing. I strongly encourage everyone to comply with social distancing, leave spaces to other shoppers, and communicate with supervisors and business owners that social distancing should be in place.”
Haverlah also thanked CCISD and GC Services for welcoming the city area health reps to their facilities and letting them know what they are doing in regard to scheduling, so not too many employees are scheduled at one time.
Harrell concurred, stating that the public health nurse has visited GC Services, which has dividers to minimize contact and that they are using social distancing and disinfecting equipment regularly.
Coryell County Judge: Non-resident, don’t come to Coryell County; residents, don't leave until May 4
Coryell County Judge Roger Miller issued an order to Stay At Home, Stop the Spread order that is in effect from April 8, 11:59 p.m. until May 4, 11:59 p.m.
His order prohibits non-residents of Coryell County from coming to the county, unless employed in the county in an essential infrastructure service, and non-residents seeking emergency medical care or attending to the needs of a resident family member.
Every Coryell County resident shall limit travel outside the county except as necessary to conduct essential activities. Religious services are allowed, but encouraged to use other means to connect. Funeral services are limited to no more than 10 people. Activities such as grocery shopping, picking up or delivering meals, are included as essential activities.
City Manager Haverlah also confirmed for Copperas Cove residents what the council’s recent declaration meant and that it mirrored the governor’s executive order, a Stay At Home order.
“There have been conflicting reports that council did not issue this,” Haverlah said. “Essentially, council has issued and approved a Stay at Home order.”
As far as essential or non-essential businesses are concerned, Haverlah said the order addresses specific nonessential businesses be closed, such as gyms, salons, massage therapist, tattoo shops, as well as in-room dining, bars, and clubs, with takeout, pickup and delivery of food encouraged.
Haverlah said that the city is working with businesses to identify those providing essential services, to ensure that they are complying with social distancing.
COVID-19 by the numbers*
As of Thursday 12:15 p.m., 10,230 Texans tested positive for COVID-19, with 199 fatalities. A total of 106,134 tests have been performed. A total of 1,101 patients have recovered.
Haverlah said they have been advised that there are 21,000 hospital beds available with more than 7,000 ventilators available in the state of Texas. More than 5 million N-95 masks have been distributed to health professionals and institutions as well as first responders and they are continuing to request more to distribute.
COVID-19 by county*
Bell County 74 cases 2 fatalities
Burnet County 5 cases
Coryell County 17 cases
Lampasas County 2 cases
McLennan County 62 cases 1 fatality
*as of 12:15 p.m., April 9