County COVID-19 cases jump

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

After Williamson County announced only 39 new confirmed cases over five days between May 7-11, numbers for the following two days – May 12-13 – were dramatically higher with 44.

The 17 on Tuesday and 27 on Wednesday represent the two highest single day counts aside from the confirmation April 26 of a cluster of 50 cases in a Round Rock nursing home.

The cases announced this week were not linked to a case cluster.

Among the new cases, only one was confirmed in Liberty Hill, bringing the total to seven, with five of those being reported as recovered from the virus.

Williamson County has reported four fatalities in the last week, with two announced Tuesday, a female in her 70s and another in her 80s.

The total case count for the County has reached 424, with 231 reported as recovered. The gap continues to widen, though, between new cases and recoveries, with the increase outpacing the recoveries creating an increase of 47 active cases in the County over the last week.

Texas Department of State Health Services spokesperson Lyndsey Rosales said that widening gap should not raise concerns.

“We estimate that more than 50 percent of confirmed cases have recovered; this is a positive sign,” she said. “As of (Monday), there were 41,048 cases in Texas and 22,674 estimated recovered patients.”

Testing options
Statewide, testing continues to be a priority, with more than 538,000 tested through Tuesday, representing 1.9 percent of the state population.

A majority of testing continues to be reserved for those showing symptoms, but Family Emergency Room, with locations in Round Rock and Cedar Park, announced through Williamson County this week that testing is available for those not showing symptoms.

Family Emergency Room is conducting COVID-19 tests by appointment free of charge at its facilities, but residents must go to www.wilco.org/coronavirus to fill out the form first. Schedulers contact patients Monday through Friday; however, appointments are available seven days a week.

“Having more people tested is an important step to being able to track the spread of COVID-19,” said Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long. “We appreciate that our partners at Family Emergency Room have the capacity to open up testing to more individuals who wish to be tested.”

The Williamson County Commissioners Court agreed to provide COVID-19 tests and personal protection equipment (PPE) to Family Emergency Room, which will be administering the testing services at no cost to the County or the public. Williamson County residents can be tested at either 3620 E. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park; or 1925 A.W. Grimes Blvd., Round Rock.

According to Rosales, from a public health perspective, the State looks for a positivity rate of 10 percent or lower to determine whether enough testing is being conducted. As of Monday the positivity rate for Texas is 6.92 percent.

Testing for COVID-19 is a collective effort by many agencies in the state, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Texas Military Department and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. However, most of the testing conducted in Texas is processed by private labs. Primary care providers order these tests the same way they would for other diagnostic tests.

She also said that in spite of reports to the contrary, there is no shortage of tests available in Texas.

“There are many different types of tests for COVID-19 made available through the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA),” Rosales said. “The only test that can diagnose a current case of COVID-19 is a PCR test processed in a CLIA-certified lab. You may have read in media stories that there was a shortage of “tests” in Texas. However, it’s important to clarify that there was not a shortage of ‘tests,’ but a shortage of specimen collection materials. This issue seems to have been resolved and DSHS continues to receive specimen collection materials regularly from the federal government as well as from private companies.”

Nursing home assistance
Due to the increasing numbers of cases found in nursing homes across the state, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday that the Texas National Guard has activated Facilities Disinfection Teams to support Texans in nursing homes and to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Six Facilities Disinfection Teams, formed in coordination with Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), have already been mobilized to facilities across the state with more coming online.

“The Texas National Guard plays a crucial role in our ongoing response to COVID-19, and I am grateful for their work to address the unique challenges our nursing homes face during this pandemic,” Abbott said. “The training these Guardsmen have received will equip them with the knowledge and tools they need to provide this crucial assistance to these facilities.”

The Facilities Disinfection Teams consist of Guardsmen from Joint Task Force 176, and each team is equipped with unique supplies such as advanced personal protective equipment, ionized sprayers, and vital oxide. The teams received training from the Texas Military Department 6th Civil Support Team, who specialize in man-made and natural disaster assessment and rapid response in hazardous environments.

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