County moving in wrong direction on virus battle

County moving in wrong direction on virus battle

24 new COVID-19 cases

That was the grim news that faced Matagorda County health officials Monday when informed by the state of the 21 cases reported Monday to add to the three cases reported over the weekend.

My thoughts on the 21 new cases (Monday) are that this is too big a number of cases for a county the size of ours,” said Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald.

When the new cases were reported Monday afternoon, McDonald, Bay City Mayor Robert Nelson and Palacios Mayor Glen Smith issued a joint statement concerning this “second wave of COVID-19 in our community.”

The following is the statement:

In recent weeks, Matagorda County has experienced an increase in both positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations complicated by positive COVID-19 status. While testing in itself does not create COVID-19 cases, we believe that more cases have been revealed due to more testing. We also believe that a lack of attention to social distancing and hygiene guidelines have also contributed to new cases now that the stay-at-home-orders have been eased.

Matagorda County elected officials and medical leaders from the Matagorda Regional Medical Center (MRMC), Matagorda Episcopal Health Outreach Program (MEHOP) and the Palacios Community Medical Center (PCMC) agree that what we are seeing indicates a possible second wave of COVID-19 within our community.  

We are aware that a large percentage of the population can be infected with the virus and not even know it (asymptomatic). We also know that positive cases have been reported in all age groups including teenagers and young children. This is why we continue to promote the importance of social distancing, handwashing, avoiding large gatherings, avoiding unnecessary travel to known “hot spots,” and though not mandatory, the highly recommended practice of wearing face masks in public settings. During the first wave, it was most likely these measures that helped mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and prevented hospitalizations. 

At the community level, we are committed to following the guidance provided by Governor Abbott and the Great State of Texas. We are pleased that our businesses, churches, and civic organizations have begun their return to normal operations, and we support the federal and state recommended efforts to return our citizens to work in a safe and responsible manner. But we must remember that a critical component of the plan to reopen our economy safely and responsibly was the rigorous observance of social distancing guidelines, personal hygiene, limiting crowd exposure, avoiding nonessential travel to known “hot spot” areas, and though not mandatory, the highly recommended practice of wearing face masks in public settings. 

Regarding the delivery of health care in our community, all of our largest health organizations continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in our community and work closely with each other and our elected officials to share new and relevant information. We will continue following the most conservative interpretations of the latest patient safety and infection control guidelines from the Texas Medical Board, the CDC, and other authoritative medical associations. Collectively, local health organizations have remained in a state of readiness and have anticipated this possible second wave of COVID-19. Rest assured that we have continued COVID-19 training for medical and administrative staff members, secured sufficient supplies, and are utilizing the latest safety protocols when caring for our patients. We ask that you be patient with us as we continue to limit visitors and increase screening measures according to national, state, and local guidelines.

We encourage everyone who lives, works, and plays in Matagorda County to remain aware of their surroundings and to actively monitor and manage their health status. Please follow the social distancing, hygiene, and travel guidelines that we all know so well, and continue to support and pray for each other as we do our part to stay healthy and safe during this global pandemic.

The Palacios Community Medical Center reports 34 negative and two (2) pending Covid-19 cases.

“The totals are climbing,” said Matagorda County Public Information Officer Mitch Thames. “In March we had 27 reported cases, in April we had 36 cases, in May we only recorded 7 cases, now we are looking at the numbers through the 22nd of June and we have 59 reported cases.”

Matagorda County currently has 129 positive cases, of which 58 are recovered. Matagorda County’s number of active cases is now 66. 

The Matagorda Hospital District reports 18 cases are pending and continues to report zero seeking treatment in the Matagorda Regional Medical Center.

The latest cases include a male between the ages of 30 and 40 years old and is recovering at home, a male between the ages of 20 and 30 years old and is recovering at home and a male between the ages of 60 and 70 years old and is recovering at home. 

“It appears that the community is not taking this serious, nor are they using the established guidelines,” said Thames. “That is a shame, so many people who will suffer with this virus. I am not sure what makes people think that the situation has changed, the virus will be around for a long time.”

The positive cases continue to be located in the communities of Bay City, Palacios, Van Vleck, Sargent, Markham and Matagorda.

The Matagorda County Emergency Operation Center has confirmed that it will have an “open to the public” testing site here on Wednesday and Thursday, June 24, and 25. 

This team is from the state of Texas and will be testing between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. They will be located at the Bay City Civic Center, located at 201 7th Street, across highway 35 from the BC High School.

This is a collaborative initiative between DSHS, TDEM, TMD, the RACs (HPP Providers), and the TX EMTF. There is no cost for the test. All tests will be scheduled in advance and patients will be given appointments for their test. All tests will be scheduled in advance and patients will be given appointments for their test. To be eligible for testing, you must have one or more symptoms of COVID-19.

CALL CENTER NUMBER: 512-883-2400 

The call center will not be able to take reservations more than 48 hours in advance. 

Thames also addressed contract tracing and how it is utilized during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Thames said Contact tracing is a little like detective work: trained staff interview people who have been diagnosed with a contagious disease to figure out who they may have recently been in contact with. 

Then, they go tell those people they may have been exposed, sometimes encouraging them to quarantine themselves to prevent spreading the disease any further. Thames said think of it as part public health work, and part investigation.

“The technique is a “cornerstone” of preventative medicine,” said Dr. Laura Breeher, medical director of occupational health services at the Mayo Clinic. “Contact tracing, it’s having a moment of glory right now with COVID because of the crucial importance of identifying those individuals who have been exposed quickly and isolating or quarantining them.”

Once someone has been confirmed to be infected with a virus, such as through a positive COVID-19 test, contact tracers try to track down others who have had recent prolonged exposure to that person when they may have been infectious. 

Typically, that exposure means being within 6 feet of the person for more than 10 minutes, says Dr. Breeher, though in a health care setting, such as a hospital, the bar is lowered to five minutes. 

Healthcare workers then make an effort to reach out to every one of those contacts, tell them that they may have been exposed, and giving those instructions on what to do next. That may include telling them about possible symptoms or directing them to self-isolate.

For one, contact tracing is a laborious process. Interviewing infectious patients and reaching out to dozens of contacts takes time. 

“For that reason, contact tracing works best when there are low levels of infection in a community,” said Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. “When you get to a point where there is a lot of people who are sickened with a particular disease, it quickly overwhelms the health departments’ response to be able to contact trace all those individuals.”

With a virus like COVID-19, which spreads through the air, things can get complicated quickly. Contact tracers might end up trying to find those who sat near an infected individual on a plane or a bus, for instance, even if the sick person never met them. That’s a radically different task from contact tracing with a sexually transmitted infection like HIV, which tends to involve a much shorter, more well-defined list of contacts for investigators. Health care workers may also have trouble getting in touch with contacts if phone records aren’t up to date, or if an infected patient is already too sick to help identify their recent contacts.

The daily numbers are being posted on the Matagorda Regional Medical Center dashboard. 


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