With Hunt County’s confirmed COVID-19 cases continuing to spike, county officials are urging, but not yet requiring, residents to wear protective face masks in public.
A task force is continuing to attempt to keep track of people who have been confirmed to be carrying the virus, with varying degrees of success, while Hunt Regional Healthcare says there is no alarm over the capacity at the local hospital.
There were 22 new positive test results for COVID-19 reported in Hunt County on Thursday, with more than 100 cases of the virus confirmed this week.
The office of Hunt County Judge Bobby Stovall reported the Hunt County Health Department completed an initial investigation and determined the individuals in question included 11 people from Greenville, six from Quinlan, two from Royse City and one from Caddo Mills, Lone Oak and Wolfe City. All of the patients were reported recovering at home.
Stovall’s office reported Friday morning the county had recorded 364 positive COVID-19 cases with 114 recoveries, nine more than Thursday. A total of 244 cases were considered as active, with 228 of the patients reported recovering at home and 16 patients remaining in the hospital, one less than Thursday.
There is no current county-wide requirement for people to wear protective masks while in public, but county officials are urging the public to use them.
“Please, please, please wear a mask,” said Hunt County Homeland Security/Emergency Management Director Richard Hill, who also serves as the director of the Hunt County Health Department.
The continued increase in cases prompted Stovall to instruct that all county employees wear a mask, starting Monday, while in public areas of the Hunt County Courthouse. Each department head was also given the authority to order their employees to wear masks while in their individual offices, but it was not a requirement.
Hill said some offices, including his and the Juvenile Probation Department, have already been mandating the employees to wear masks at all times.
“If you are coming to see us and are not wearing a mask, we’re going to give you one,” Hill said.
The Centers for Disease Control is recommending, in the light of studies which show how a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms and that those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms, wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
In early April, the Hunt County Commissioners Court entered into a staffing agreement contract with STAT Medical Management to provide temporary personnel and support for the Hunt County Health Department for COVID-19 investigations, quarantines and related matters.
“They have quite a bit of staff in our building right now,” Hill said, adding much of the team’s work involves what is referred to as “contact tracing,” activities that involve working with patients diagnosed with an infectious disease to identify and provide support.
“They check on them and ask all of them a series of questions,” Hill said.
Unfortunately, few of the people contacted by the agency by phone pick up. Hill said he’s learned from some of the patients they are not answering because they don’t recognize the number when it shows up on their phone. Hill said it is vital for those confirmed with the virus, or those who may be in close contact with them, to reach out to the agency.
“If a person has been confirmed positive, they should call 903-408-4143 for our task force,” Hill said.
The continued surge in cases has yet to drastically impact the Greenville hospital.
“At this time, our hospital capacity is favorable,” said Rose Hayden, assistant director of communication and development with Hunt Regional Healthcare.
The local facility has 45 isolation areas dedicated to COVID-19 patients. As of press time Friday, the 16 people reported hospitalized with the virus works out to about 35.5 percent of the hospital’s capacity.
The Texas Department of State Health Services was reporting 3,946 people had been tested for COVID-19 in Hunt County as of Friday morning, 10 more than had been reported Thursday and 1,316 more since the most recent surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases was reported to have begun on June 8.