With the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Texas and across the nation, and Thursday’s announcement by Gov. Greg Abbott that additional phases to open up Texas are being put on hold, health officials are warning that precautions remain essential.
That was also reflected in the update given on Wednesday by Dr. Steven Vacek, the designated public health authority for Somervell County and Glen Rose.
Vacek noted during a video posted on the Glen Rose Medical Center’s Facebook page that although the majority of the increasing number of infections have been among people in the 20- to 29-year-old age group, everyone should heed the warnings and take precautions.
"The numbers of sick people has gone up very, very dramatically," Vacek said. "The numbers of hospitalizations has gone up some. The numbers of deaths has not really changed to a significant degree and that is reflected in the fact that the demographic of patients getting this disease at an increased rate right now is our 20- to 29-year-olds."
Even though, statistically, young and healthy people in general are "not expected to die" if they get COVID-19, they should take responsibility to look out for others.
"We still need those people to be aware of their status and try to avoid spreading this to loved ones that may not have good health," Vacek said. "So this comes to personal responsibility. Please look at the bigger picture of our community.
"I think we live in a great community that bands together for a good cause on a regular basis. We’ve seen this multiple times in the last few years when bad things have happened in our community, we come together to help them.
"And I think this is one of those times where we need people to come together to help protect the elderly in our community, and if that means wearing a mask when you are in a large group setting, we really need people to consider doing that. We need people to wash their hands. And if you’re sick, we need you to not go out. Don’t go places. Don’t go to the store. Find somebody to go for you."
Responding to an online question about tracing of virus contacts, Vacek said, "If you are sick, we really need you to step up and give us the information to help locate other infected people so we can try to protect the elderly, the most vulnerable in our society, from this disease."
He said it does appear that people who are carrying the virus and are not having symptoms may be less likely to spread it, but it can still occur.
Vacek noted, "We have evidence of cases in Somervell County being linked to social activities."
The doctor then gave a rundown of the case numbers, as of mid-week, including the fact that Somervell County now has 11 individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, and nine of those are active cases.
"That’s determined by people who are currently positive for the virus and are either symptomatic or within the window for symptoms," Vacek said. "Once patients either are no longer symptomatic or have tested negative, they will be released from the active list for us.
"Here at Glen Rose Medical Center, we have done PCR testing, which is the nasal swabs, on 403 specimens. There are some duplicates in there, so I can’t tell you the exact number of people who have had that test done. We currently have 29 tests pending. We have done antibody tests on 868 specimens, and currently have no tests outstanding for the antibody testing.
"We’ve had 11 test positive here in our lab. Seven of those patients were residents of Somervell County, and four are residents of Hood County. Two of our patients … were actually tested elsewhere and have been assigned to us, per state protocol. All of our tests are reported to the State Health Department, as required."
The latest numbers he had at the time of the video were, "About 1.6 million in Texas have had PCR tests done and another 170,000 have had antibody tests. Cases reported to the state of Texas are now greater than 120,000, and that is yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) numbers. The number has been going up very quickly recently.
"Currently, we have about 2,220 people who have died from this disease in the state of Texas. Current active cases are estimated to be at about 47,000."
Vacek noted that GRMC offers two types of PCR testing, and is "still offering antibody testing if they think they had the disease and have not been checked out for it. We are investigating other options for testing. This is something that is going to change over the next few months and we will continue to try to find the best, most affordable options for the people who need testing here."
Vacek concluded his update by saying, "If there’s a silver lining to our increased cases that are happening at this moment, it’s that that may be improving our herd immunity to help prevent another surge later.
"I think, without a vaccine, we are very likely to see this continue and probably get worse in the winter time. I think the biggest hope to head this off is going to be vaccinating at a high rate."