PRESS RELEASE: COVID-19 UPDATE
October 23, 2020
Somervell County, Texas now has a total of 230 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the number of residents currently with active cases is 15. One of the patients is hospitalized at this time, the rest are on home isolation. Using the guidelines from the State of Texas DSHS, we currently have 3 county residents who have died as a result of their COVID-19 infections. You may notice that the “official” state number, and our number differ at this time. I am continuing to work at reconciling those differences, and I will report them when they change. We have had 212 residents recover from this illness.
I wish I did not have to report such a significant increase in our numbers. There is not a specific pattern to this increase. Almost all are related to community or family spread. No institutional spread has been seen in Somervell County recently. I am concerned that “Covid fatigue” is allowing people to become too complacent in what they are doing to try and protect themselves and others. With such positive indicators regarding vaccines in the near future, now is not the time for people to let up.
I continue to be frustrated by our tendency to expect black and white answers to this virus, and how to treat it. Too many people expect perfection, which is unattainable in either the prevention of or treatment of this disease. Masks work. There is no doubt scientifically. Do they work all the time? No, they don’t. Nothing does! The most important function of a mask is to decrease the potential shedding from a presymptomatic or symptomatic patient to those around them. There is evidence that suggests that asymptomatic patients are much less contagious overall. Unfortunately, only hindsight is 20/20, and none of us can go back in time to put our masks on retrospectively. On 10/21/20, the FDA did formally approve remdesivir for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection (COVID-19). Please note, the research does not show that this drug can cure the disease. It helps people who are significantly ill recover faster. Unfortunately, it does not decrease the death rate of the disease in any of the studies currently published.
Social distancing and handwashing remain very important as well. Recent studies have indicated that the virus may remain viable on some surfaces for up to 28 days. However, those experiments were done in total darkness. The reason they were done that way is that UV light (daylight) is known to kill the virus. This created an artificial environment for the purpose of this study, making it not very helpful or relevant for day to day life. Still, washing hands helps to prevent us from acquiring a whole host of viral infections. A recent release from the CDC states that under ideal circumstances, the aerosols (water vapor containing viral particles) can travel further than 6 feet from an UNMASKED person. Singing, laughing, coughing, sneezing and shouting all have been shown to push particles further than the 6 feet previously recommended. The limitation here is that this is noted to occur in “ideal” conditions with favorable humidity, wind etc… Fortunately, that is not the environment that we normally live in. This data is more relevant to academia, than to every day life as well. The CDC did change the definition of a “contact” to include being within 6 feet of a person or persons, with COVID-19, for a cumulative total of 15 minutes during a 24 hour period. What this should tell us, is that some people will get infected by accumulating a large enough viral load over time, not just in a shot exposure.
Our neighboring counties continue to have significantly more cases than we do. I believe that the risk level to all Somervell County residents is Significant. It is very concerning that we may be seeing a statewide increase in cases, and possible a second wave effect at this time. Do not let your guard down yet. Do not let COVID fatigue overwhelm you. Continue to do your best to stay safe, and keep the others around you safe and healthy.
Recently a group of academics published a document calling for elimination of all “lockdowns” and immediate reopening of all businesses, schools, and extracurriculars. Their perspective is that the collateral damage from the “lockdown” is more dangerous than the disease we are trying to control. I find it very hard to argue with their position. However, they do not offer any actual advice on how to protect the vulnerable and elderly in our society. This is a significant weakness in their position. The other side of the argument is that the lockdowns have worked. However, that has been inconsistent at best across our country, and indeed, across the world too. There is no doubt that the lockdowns have caused harm to many people. Which is the lesser of two evils? Only time will tell. I know that answer does not make anyone very happy. My opinion, with the recent increases in our cases, is to stay the course. Do not open any further at this time. Work harder at getting people to wear masks, and vaccinate as soon as is possible. I do not want to see a “lockdown” at this time.
I will continue to support Judge Chambers, and Mr. Rotan as they try to navigate these very challenging times. Locally, we are also still limited by the State and TEA guidelines.
I also believe that the fastest way to pre-2020 normal, is through an extensive vaccination program. The process these vaccines are going through, is the same that other vaccines have gone through, just on a condensed timetable. I personally have a great deal of comfort with the amount of transparency we are getting during this process. It is looking more likely that we will have a vaccine by the end of November.
As always, contact tracer activity is ongoing with all new positive results, and all results are being reported to the State of Texas per DSHS guidelines. Most contact tracing is performed by Texas Health Trace, and can be initiated online if patients wish.
Statewide, numbers have started to increase significantly in the last 2 weeks. It is still uncertain what to attribute this to, at this time. Some of it clearly is related to opening up colleges and other post-secondary schools.
Please be mindful that we are all neighbors, please respect the privacy of others. The hospital, county, city and school districts are all required to follow HIPAA rules. It is Glen Rose Medical Center’s policy not to release any demographic or patient information due to HIPAA laws.
Want to know more?
Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) website and Texas 2-1-1 remain the best sources of information for Somervell residents regarding COVID-19 testing and self-protection measures. DSHS updates their county-by-county tracking map daily at https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/.
I would like to request that if you are ill, and think that illness might be COVID-19 due to your personal exposure history, please get tested. It is far better to test too often, than to not test enough. Increased testing will give us more accurate numbers to help guide decision making in our county and school district. If people are choosing to not be tested, it makes getting accurate numbers all that more difficult. If you have any concerns about your status, please call your primary provider to further discuss testing options.
The number of active cases is up for Somervell County right now. We will continue to monitor and report what we can. I do not think I can caution enough against becoming complacent due to this positive trend though. When in groups larger than 6 persons (outside of your household), wearing masks, and aggressive hand sanitation is still indicated. Social distancing is still important. Please be safe.
Please request testing from your provider if you have concerns about being infected. I will say it again, it is better to test too much, than to not test enough.
I appreciate everyone’s continued time and efforts in fighting this disease, none of us are in this alone. Together we can keep our community strong, safe, and moving forward.
Steven Vacek, M.D.
Glen Rose HealthCare Inc.
Somervell County Local Health Authority