County Judge expresses need for testing

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Mike Eddleman

Managing Editor

While Williamson County is well stocked with people working hard to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus and treat those infected, what it really needs is test kits.

“We believe that our best case scenario is that one out of every 40 people that test positive are going to die,” County Judge Bill Gravell said. “That’s our best case scenario. We believe that we have thousands of tests that need to be performed and we can’t do that. I believe when we do have adequate testing you’re going to see the numbers of cases increase, but percentage-wise it will be proportional to what we’re seeing.”

Monday, Gravell spoke with the media in an afternoon press conference and said his greatest need was test kits, specifically for front-line first responders.

“My biggest issue today is I’m trying to get enough test kits for our emergency first responders,” he said. “We’ve got paramedics, we’ve got firefighters and we’ve got individuals out responding on calls and I’ve got to be able to test our first responders.”

The County’s first death attributed to the virus was announced Saturday, and came with a sobering reminder of how impactful one case can be on the community.

“The gentleman that died was transported to the hospital,” Gravell said. “He died there and was tested. He was not an individual we had tested before, we didn’t know he existed (as a positive case). We didn’t know he had been sick. I can assure you there are more like that.”

That case resulted in a ripple effect that temporarily sidelined a number of first responders.

“We didn’t know he was a positive test until after he had been transported,” Gravell said. “We immediately pulled that EMS crew out of service and pulled that fire crew out of service and the hospital crew was pulled out of service and put into self quarantine.”

Currently three first responders remain in quarantine and Gravell said the others have been cleared.

He would not say if any county employee has been diagnosed with the virus.

County officials have been working to get more test kits but have had little success to date.

“We have limited tests and because we have limited tests there are some protocols that have been put in place,” he said. “We are working feverishly to find the testing. Just like you guys hear on the national level about testing and availability, at the local level it just doesn’t exist. That’s my number one priority.”

The County has 113 tests in its stock, and Gravell couldn’t say how many residents had been tested to date, but that there were 42 positive tests. He cautioned that the seemingly low number of cases is most likely due to a lack of testing ability.

“I know how many folks are sick right now, I know how many folks are in intensive care and I know how many folks are at home sick,” Gravell said. “I know there are some senior adults that are at home, planning on dying at home. Right now the priority is sustaining life and reducing the loss of life.”

Some private testing has been done, but Gravell was also concerned about residents turning to any medical provider for testing answers.

“Some have been done through Seton or Scott & White, and perhaps some have been done through small businesses,” Gravell said. “Candidly, a concern I have is there are some being done through illegitimate providers that are charging exorbitant amounts and they’re not even tests our medical team would allow our own staff to take because they’re not proven tests.”

The number of confirmed cases in Williamson County reached 42 with five additional cases. Of those cases, 24 were female and 18 male. The age breakdown included 12 cases over the age of 70, 12 between 18-40 and 17 between 41-60. There has only been one case to date in anyone under 17.

Round Rock has 12 cases, Georgetown has nine, Cedar Park has seven, Leander has six and Hutto has two. Ten patients have required hospitalization and four were in intensive care.

In Texas Monday the number of cases grew to 2,877 with 38 deaths. Nationally, the case total was 140,904, with the death toll reaching 2,405.

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