Coryell County Hospital official expresses concerns over TDCJ COVID-19 numbers
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The Coryell County commissioners held their first regular meeting for the month of April on Monday, with Dr. Jeffrey Bates, the Chief Medical Officer of Coryell Health expressing his concerns over increasing numbers of COVID-19 at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which has five facilities in Gatesville.
“By my count, there are 54 at the prison in one capacity or another, which makes me a little nervous, and that includes 22 employees. The trick is, all those employees don’t live in Coryell county, so they won’t show up on Coryell county’s report,” Dr. Bates told the commissioners. “If you want to talk about the prison, which is a hotbed, which is my daily concern, my number is 54, which is 22 at Murray, seven at Woodman - there is a rumor of one at Crain but I have not been able to confirm it - and the rest are employees at Murray and Woodman, one at Hilltop and one at Crain. I think they reassigned those people because they needed help at Murray, then got reassigned and got COVID.
“I’m witnessing a doubling every two days of what’s going on at the prison. I know they’ve locked down, I just hope they locked down soon enough. We are still waiting on the numbers to plateau.”
Dr. Bates said that Coryell Health presented TDCJ with an offer to test all the guards and healthcare workers at the Murray Unit and Woodman State Jail, which was initially refused, but then after discussions and bringing state representatives into the discussions, TDCJ agreed. He said he expected to receive results Monday. Coryell Health also identified 13 sick employees, who were sent home. Dr. Bates said he expects the number of 54 positive cases in TDCJ’s units in Gatesville to jump.
Cases in Coryell County
As far as COVID-19 in the local Coryell County community, Dr. Bates said they really are not seeing much in Gatesville and are seeing numbers from Copperas Cove.
One healthcare worker at Coryell Health has tested positive, with concerns of exposure to nursing home and assisted living patients there, but results are “almost zero.”
The lone positive case is a woman in her 90s, whom Dr. Bates has happened to know for years.
“She doesn’t go anywhere or see anyone and she looks the best she’s looked in months.”
So far, he said Coryell Health has tested more than 600, and that the number of positive cases is low.
“When we say our numbers are low, that means something. When Waco says their numbers are low, it’s because they’re not testing. We’ve tested over 600 and we’ve had virtually had no one.
“With the one employee – we stepped forward and said, give us all your sick contacts, anyone who has a cough or cold, no matter how mild, and we started testing those. The ones we have in this community are all directly related to that positive,” said Dr. Bates. “Four more have tested positive, but virtually all are asymptomatic. We’re seeing COVID-19 in this community, but it’s pretty doggone mild.”
Of the gentleman in ICU that Dr. Bates was aware of at AdventHealth, he is elderly with other underlying health issues.
“The Texas strain seems to be mild, at least in our community.”
Dr. Bates addressed the supplies of PPE for the healthcare system as a “moving target,” stating that they have been negotiating with suppliers for weeks, and have been a little disappointed in delayed shipments.
“We are not at peak yet, so we’re not in crisis mode. We have plenty for the next 10 days – as long as shipments keep coming in. If we were in the midst of a huge, New York problem, there is no way we could keep up.
“We have made a huge impact in the disease. I’m never going to be able to prove it to you, but in talking about the number of patients in our community, and we’re 15 days further into this, it’s a huge blessing.”
Number discrepancies discussed
Over the weekend, the Texas Department of State Health Services updated its COVID-19 numbers, which stated Coryell County had a total of 34 – a number which has remained constant since Saturday.
However, in a press release issued on Saturday by Copperas Cove Deputy Fire Chief Gary Young, county judge Roger Miller said there was a discrepancy in the 34 case counts reported from the Texas Department of State Health Services for Coryell County, and he and TDSHS are working together to reconcile the count. Young's report on Saturday only had a count of 20 for Coryell County.
“In that 34, we know that a portion of those are TDCJ inmates, 15, and one case that we have right now has no identifiable information. It has a case number, and that’s all that that really tells us. What I believe to be the most accurate number right now, is 18,” Miller told the commissioners on Monday morning.
“In talking with Mr. Harrell last week, we came to the conclusion it would be most accurate for us to report the county people as total number, and TDCJ is reporting their own. Otherwise, we would duplicate those numbers. Any guard or employee who resides in Coryell county, is and has been, and will continue to be recorded in our numbers.
“There is a good news story – there are two on the recovered list, potentially pending a third, so we will continue to update and track those numbers as well.”
The demographics of those testing positive include individuals as young as in their 20s, all the way to a female in Copperas Cove, in her 90s. Twelve live inside the Copperas Cove city limits, five in the Gatesville city limits, with the remainder living in rural Coryell County.
Statewide as of Monday, there are 13,906 positive confirmed cases, with 1,176 hospitalized, 287 fatalities, and an estimated 2,269 recovered. Nationwide as of Monday, there were 547,627 confirmed positive, with 21,662 fatalities and 32,988 recovered.