Cases of the novel coronavirus neared the 1,500 mark in East Texas on Wednesday while “surge response teams” assembled under orders by Gov. Greg Abbott have been busy going in and out of various locations.
Smith County saw an increase of nine cases Wednesday, Harrison County reported seven new cases, and Panola County posted revised numbers that saw a decrease in its case count by 22. And Gregg County’s numbers at the end of the day left some confusion.
Health Authority Dr. Lewis Browne said the county had one new confirmed case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total cases to 115.
However, Longview Mayor Andy Mack said Longview had two new cases reported Wednesday.
Mack said his cutoff time to receive numbers is 5 p.m. daily, while Browne said the county’s is 2 p.m., which explains the discrepancy in numbers.
Browne said the county has to submit numbers by 2 p.m. to be consistent with the state.
Browne reported the county had 1,344 total tests administered as of Wednesday, up from 1,308 the day before. The increase in testing is because nursing homes are having to screen everyone, he said.
“The state requires if you get a case in a nursing home or assisted living, you need total testing on everybody,” he said.
Of the tests administered as of Wednesday, 1,147 have returned negative results and 77 results are pending. The county has had 48 recoveries, with no new ones reported Wednesday. Two patients have died in Gregg County.
”We’re still holding in that pattern of having positive cases every day, which goes with more testing and more people being out and about,” Mack said.
In Harrison County, County Judge Chad Sims on Wednesday announced his county had recorded seven new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the county’s total to 164.
Sims reported three new recoveries for a total of 18 in a county that has had eight deaths.
In an afternoon update, Sims also recommended residents wear masks.
“One of the nicest things you can do for others is to wear your mask,” he said in a statement. “You and I could be asymptomatic carriers and have no idea we are spreading this virus. Wearing your mask protects others. Let’s do our part.”
Smith County on Wednesday reported nine new cases of the COVID-19, bringing its total to 165.
Ninety-five patients of the 165 have recovered from the virus. The county had 66 active cases and has seen four virus-related deaths.
However, Panola County Judge LeeAnn Jones on Wednesday released revised numbers for her county, decreasing its number of cases by 22, and bringing the total to 168.
“Please forgive me for my sporadic postings the last couple of days,” Jones said. “Due to reporting errors and lack of certain details, I have spent my weekend and past couple of days poring over spreadsheets. I now have what I believe to be the correct totals for the COVID-19 virus in Panola County.”
In Titus County, County Judge Brian Lee, reported the three new cases of coronavirus in his county brought the total to 26. He said the new patients are a woman in her 20s, a woman in her 30s and a woman in her 40s.
“I hope everyone will reconsider your opinions on this subject and make a renewed commitment to social distancing, sanitizing and masking,” Lee said.
Rusk County added one new case of COVID-19 and four new recoveries. In all, the county has posted 41 confirmed cases, with 21 recoveries, according to the Rusk County Office of Emergency Management. One person in the county has died from the coronavirus.
Across the 25-county East Texas region, 1,482 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed as of Wednesday, up from 1,451 on Tuesday, with 51 total deaths.
At least four Northeast Texas counties have been visited by surge response teams assembled under orders by the governor.
After Abbott on Tuesday issued an order that allowed more businesses to reopen Friday after being shuttered because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said teams made up of health officials, emergency response workers and the National Guard would deal with “flare-ups,” by helping facilitate testing, ensuring sanitation and assessing situations in places where clusters of coronavirus cases are recorded.
Abbott said the surge response teams would be particularly looking at senior centers, meatpacking plants and jails but that they could respond to any large increase.
Abbott’s data showed that between April 25 and Tuesday, seven of the teams have assisted with assessing case surges in cities in four counties in Northeast Texas.
On April 28, a team responded to Carthage for assessment. Teams landed in Marshall on Thursday, Saturday and Monday for assessments. On April 28, one team was in Paris in Lamar County for testing supplies. Then, two teams were in Paris the following day for testing. A team was in Tyler on Monday for testing.
The data does not show to which specific facilities the teams responded.
However, one surge response now is set up in Marshall next to the Marshall Manor West nursing home facility.
“We are actively investigating at this facility to assess compliance with all relevant health and safety rules. It’s our understanding the tent outside of this facility is there to assist with potential needs of additional resources in the nursing facility,” Assistant Press Officer Danielle Pestrikoff with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission stated.
Numbers of positive COVID-19 cases have not been released by the nursing home to the public and calls to the facility have not been returned.
Sims last Friday said the county had 50 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus at long-term care facilities.
“According to the Governor’s Report to Open Texas, recent reports highlight the rapid increase of confirmed COVID-19 cases in nursing homes and assisted living communities in Texas,” Sims said in a written statement. “Part of the plan includes recommendations to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities.”
As of Wednesday, according to information released by HHS, 260 nursing facilities and 93 assisted-living facilities throughout the state have confirmed at least one positive case of COVID-19 either in a resident or employee. The state has recorded 354 resident deaths in nursing homes and 83 resident deaths in assisted living centers.
Texas has 1,224 licensed nursing facilities and 2,004 licensed assisted-living facilities.
Part of the governor’s plan includes launching 250 Texas National Guard personnel, including disinfection teams. Teams will be serve eight Emergency Medical Task Force regions.
Abbott said the surge teams will ensure all facilities and people inside have the access to the PPE that they need. Total PPE distribution both from the state and from federal resources such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency from March 1 to May 1 include more than 53 million masks, 2.4 million face shields, 777 million gloves and 14.5 million gloves.
Across Texas, 1,053 more cases of the new coronavirus were reported Wednesday, an increase of about 3% over the previous day, bringing the total number of known cases to 34,422. No new counties reported their first cases Wednesday; over 85% of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.
Harris County has reported the most cases, 7,128, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 4,623 cases. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.
The state has reported 42 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 948 — an increase of about 5% from Tuesday. Harris County reported four additional deaths, bringing its total to 144 deaths, more than any other county.
As of Wednesday, 1,812 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s a decrease of 76 patients from Tuesday. At least 438,938 tests have been conducted.