County officials briefed by Coryell Health on COVID-19 testing capabilities in county
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Dr. Jeff Bates, chief medical officer at Coryell Health, updated the Coryell County commissioners on the COVID-19 testing capabilities during a special meeting of the commissioners court on Monday afternoon.
He along with local businessman Gary Heavin presented what could be a game-changing approach to keeping Coryell County running and also isolating positive cases of COVID-19 and testing on a greater scale.
Heavin said that both he and Dr. Bates came up with some practical ideas to run the courts within the county and keep the county running.
Dr. Bates talked about the types of testing for viral infections, with the PCR test being commonly used to confirm if someone has the COVID-19 virus. The PCR uses RNA to determine if an individual has the virus.
“If we swab you and that PCR is there, it is incredibly difficult to come up with a reason for how your positive test is wrong. That’s almost impossible, although it can happen,” Bates said.
He also announced that Coryell Health is now conducting its own PCR lab testing. He said that CPL, an area lab which had been doing much of the local testing, has scaled back what it’s doing.
“In the last week or so, CPL has said, ‘We don’t want to be in this business anymore.’ They’ve totally just dropped it. ‘We need to slow down. We can’t handle all these tests and we don’t want to do it anymore.’
“So what I think you’re seeing a repercussion from that. Everybody’s worried about the test, and ‘if you can’t get a test anyway, why don’t we just stop testing, we’ll just start calling a probable a positive, and you’ll all go home for 14 days.’ And then another 14 days, and then another. That’s totally impractical,” said Bates. “So what you need is a test. I realized when we started having trouble with the testing companies, is that we should have our own tests. Here we are, in Gatesville, Texas, and we have a PCR lab right up the street, doing this sophisticated test. I figure if Scott & White could do it, we could do it.”
Dr. Bates said that people are driving from Waco and as far away as Houston to Gatesville, to get a PCR test for COVID-19.
“On the best day, I can turn it around in three hours. But we have testing capability here. Last Monday we tested 600 people in Gatesville. We’re testing more in Gatesville than they are in Killeen, looking at the size of the town…PCR is where it’s at. It’s not a perfect test, but it’s the best test.
“What I believe is to keep things running, to use this machine that we already have and the feds are paying for it. They are going to pay us for every sample we run. So why not? Before we had this meeting, we could have all been tested on Friday, and we could all be sitting here much more reassured – it’s not perfect, I mean, we could have done something crazy over the weekend – but we could have mitigated the risk of us all being in this room together.
“If one person gets sick, then we isolate that person and deal with that person. That’s what we do when we get sick. We put them in the hospital, treat them for pneumonia, we don’t shut down the whole country because one person got sick. We have to find a way to work through it.”
Dr. Bates proposed testing potential jurors on a Friday, then when the results are back on Monday, the courts can move forward.
“It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be better. We test one who’s positive, take them out of the mix as we work through, but it’s better than shutting everything down. We’re not out of the money. The feds are paying for it. We’ve figured it out, so let’s use the machine we’ve got and move forward.”
He also discussed the nature of avoiding infections and viruses in general.
“Washing your hands, covering your face, and keeping away from people wherever possible. That will mitigate most of the risk for any infection. That’s very effective, inexpensive way to handle the situation,” Bates said.
So far, a total of 11,097 tests for COVID-19 have been conducted in Coryell County, the lion’s share of them by Coryell Health. Coryell County is #29 out of Texas counties for the number of tests it has conducted.
COVID-19 numbers county inch higher
On Wednesday, Coryell County updated its COVID-19 tracker to show that there are now 143 positive cases in Coryell County, with 63 of those cases being active, 78 recovered, two deceased.
“We have a third deceased case, I know it is a deceased case, but it has not come through the state system yet,” said Coryell County Judge Roger Miller on Monday. “Again, this is a time lag in reporting with the various state agencies that are overwhelmed.”
Since July 1, there have been 19 new cases within Coryell County, with 14 of those cases listed in the Copperas Cove area and five elsewhere in the county. The county’s report does not delineate which Copperas Cove area cases are within the city limits, just that their address is listed as Copperas Cove.
As of Monday morning’s update from the City of Copperas Cove, there were 67 positive cases within the Copperas Cove city limits, with 27 active and 38 considered recovered or no longer active (NLA).
Meanwhile statewide, numbers of positive tests continue to spike, with Texas seeing another all-time increase of daily new cases at 10,028 on July 7, followed by another 9,979 new cases on July 8.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 220,564 cases reported, with an estimated 113,284 of those cases recovered, leaving an estimated 104,467 active cases in the state of Texas. There were 9,610 hospitalized for the virus across the state.
In Trauma Region L, in which Coryell and Bell Counties lie, the number of patients hospitalized for has increased to 75 on Wednesday, up from 61 as of July 5. There are 12 ICU beds available. There are presently 125 available ventilators, as of the same date.
The statewide testing positivity rate is 15.03 percent, the seven-day average of those tested for the virus having a positive test.
Bell County 1,734 (1,144 active)
Burnet County 203 (93 active)
Coryell County **143 (63 active, 78 recovered)
Lampasas County 52 (24 active)
McLennan County 2,044 (1,477 active)
Williamson County 3,151 (2,135 active)
*As of press time Thursday
** Excluding TDCJ