Officials confirm county’s first COVID-19-related death

Mark Wilson
Dr. Steven Vacek

Local officials have confirmed that Somervell County had its first death attributed to COVID-19 this week — a 95-year-old man who was a patient at Glen Rose Medical Center.

Dr. Steven Vacek spoke to the Glen Rose Reporter Wednesday night about the case, and Somervell County Judge Danny Chambers confirmed the information Thursday morning. Dr. Vacek, Somervell County’s designated public health authority during the COVID-19 pandemic, said that the man “was a very sick person” who died on Tuesday.

A news release received Friday morning from Dr. Vacek states that the patient “died from COVID-19 related complications while hospitalized at Glen Rose Medical Center. We would like to express our condolences to their family.”

Vacek also stated that another Somervell County resident who had tested positive for COVID-19 had died during the first week of July, but “the cause of death was determined to be other chronic medical problems, and not directly related to their infection.” Vacek said that the doctor of that patient “did not believe it was caused by COVID-19.”

Vacek noted that Somervell County has had a recent increase in the overall number of positive COVID-19 cases, and a large percentage of those are categorized as “institutional” because they were at a local nursing home.

As of press time Thursday, Somervell County had a total of 90 confirmed COVID-19 cases in all since the pandemic began.

“More than half of our local cases are related to our institutional outbreak,” Vaeck said Wednesday night by phone, adding that some of the cases are employees at the nursing home. “I know they’ve worked really hard to control it.”

The news release states that 25 local residents are currently infected, with one patient in the hospital.

Vacek noted that the active cases in the community “are currently under home isolation and care,” and added, “We have had 64 residents recover from this illness.”

While Vacek emphasized how dangerous the virus can be, he also noted that there have been two elderly local patients who were COVID-19 positive but recovered.

“We have two above (age) 90 who have survived,” Vacek said.

Four of the 254 counties in Texas still have had no cases of COVID-19 reported.

“We’ve actually fared fairly well,” Vacek said of the local community, noting that most people here seem to be taking the recommended precautions seriously.

“People do care. They get it,” Vacek said. “We’re still on an island and there’s still a lot more (virus) cases spread in counties around us.”

SURROUNDED

Nearby Johnson County and several other area counties with much larger populations have reported much higher numbers of positive virus cases, along multiple deaths, so the increase in Somervell County cases could not be considered unexpected.

“We currently have significant evidence of community and institutional spread in Somervell County, as well as in our neighboring counties,” Vacek said. “This does continue to increase the risk level to all Somervell County residents. Contact tracer activity is ongoing with all new positive results.

“COVID-19 will continue to impact our community. We need to continue to do our best to take care of each other, wash/sanitize our hands, wear masks, practice respectful social distancing and look out for the vulnerable amongst us.”

Vacek said, “I anticipate that once we weather the storm in the nursing home, things are going to get better quickly.

Vacek also stated, “Please be mindful that we are all neighbors.”

He advised the Texas Department of State Health Services website and Texas 2-1-1 “remain the best sources of information for Somervell residents regarding COVID-19 testing and self-protection measures,” and noted that DSHS updates its county-by-county tracking map daily (https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/).

However, he said, the overall count listed for the state of Texas is “thousands of cases behind” because of the the massive numbers involved.

As of mid-morning Thursday, the DSHS website showed that Texas has had 6,190 deaths attributed to COVID-19, among 403,307 cases reported overall since the pandemic began. It estimates there have been 251,346 recoveries in Texas, and 145,771 active cases. DSHS is reporting that a total of 3,539,368 COVID-19 tests had been done in Texas, as of July 28.