COVID Testing

Members of the Texas Army National Guard help perform free COVID-19 screenings on Wednesday, July 1, 2020, outside the Mickey Melton Center for Performing Arts at Longview High School. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

The first 11 days of July have accounted for more than half of Gregg County’s total COVID-19 cases.

Positive cases skyrocketed 105% during that period — from 397 to 813 — with County Health Authority Dr. Lewis Browne attributing the spike to more community testing and young people not wearing masks.

“It appears it’s much younger people that are getting (COVID-19),” Browne said. “I think it’s just the activity and lack of protection is yielding to all their problems, plus all the activities of summer because people want to be out.”

However, he added that, “We’re certainly going up in hospitalizations, but the severity of the illness is not increasing. We’re having a whole lot of positive tests but not a lot of (hospital) admissions.”

Browne said Friday there are 56 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Longview, and he is not concerned about running out of space soon since there are about 400 beds in the city’s two hospitals.

“Both of them have the ability to expand higher than their normal bed count,” he said. “We’re not anywhere near being at capacity; we still have plenty of ICU beds.”

Browne said there are about 72 ventilators available in Longview, but in an emergency, other machines can be made into ventilators.

The county’s recovery rate increased 27% from July 1 to July 11, from 145 recovered patients to 184. Browne said a person is declared recovered if he or she does not feel sick or have any symptoms 10 to 14 days after a positive test.

Some people choose to get another test to determine if they are recovered, Browne said. And some employers also require a negative test before people can go back to work, but a negative test is not required to be considered recovered.

Browne also addressed other questions related to positive COVID-19 cases:

Reporting the numbers

Gregg County considers many factors when reporting numbers to the public to ensure they are fair and accurate, he said.

Browne said people who retest are not counted again in the positive case count.

“Once you get a positive, we don’t include you again. That would be too confusing and not fair,” he said.

After a first positive result, people are not again included in reported numbers until they are recovered, then they are added to the recovery total, he said.

“Even people who get well, but then within 10 days get sick again, we don’t count them twice,” Browne said.

Anyone who is tested at a hospital before a surgery or birth are only included in Gregg County’s numbers if they live in the county, Browne said. If they live in another county, those results are reported to their county of residence.

Browne also said antibody testing is not included in the COVID-19 numbers reported by the county.

Nursing homes

Rumors that nursing home patients who test positive are taken to a hospital until they are symptom-free for 30 days and test negative twice are not true, Browne said.

COVID-19 patients are only brought to a hospital if they are sick enough to require hospitalization, he added.

He said the entire population of a nursing homes isn’t tested more than once.

Steps after a positive test

Patients are notified of their test results by the facilitator of the test, Browne said. That could include the National Guard for mobile testing or hospitals and clinics.

Browne said the county speaks to patients as part of the contact tracing process to see who they have been exposed to and where they have been since they started showing symptoms.

“If they’re positive, they’re supposed to self-quarantine for 14 days; we reinforce that and reiterate you need to be quarantined for 14 days,” he said.

During that time, patients are told to check for symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath, Browne said.