What the largest increase in positive COVID-19 numbers over the weekend means remains to be determined, Johnson County Emergency Management Director Jamie Moore said during Tuesday’s meeting of the Johnson County Commissioners Court.
“As of April 13, 1,386 of those tested across the state tested positive for COVID-19,” Commissioner Rick Bailey said. “Here we are a month later with a lot more testing having been done. As of May 16 the percentage was 4.83 percent across the state with all the increased testing that had been done over that month. That’s really good news.”
That said, Johnson County saw the biggest three-day increase of positive cases yet with 16 new cases reported over the weekend and 12 on Monday.
That brings the cumulative total of cases to 161, of which 103 individuals have since been listed as recovered, Moore said.
“The turnaround is really quick on testing,” Moore said. “I’m making some assumptions based on that that the new cases we’re seeing are occurring in the past week. That doesn’t necessarily mean the people got sick last week but that their testing occurred last week. That also doesn’t necessarily coincide with county decisions to open things up. Maybe it does. I don’t know at this point. We’re just going to have to watch the numbers trending wise.”
Commissioner Jerry Stringer said it’s probably no surprise given that experts have long said that as testing increases so too should the number of positive cases.
“I agree that with increased testing we will see increased cases,” Moore said. “The question is within the past week have we done greater testing than we’ve done at any other time? I can’t necessarily pinpoint where that would be. That doesn’t mean more people didn’t get tested. But there hasn’t been more availability of testing in the past week than there has been for three weeks now.
“We’ve had a tremendous amount of testing availability. But I know at least some of our testing site numbers have been down. That was one of the reasons that we chose not to have the state come back and do an additional testing site, because we continuously trended down each time we did it.”
Moore suggested using Gov. Greg Abbott’s approach of favoring seven-day rolling averages over daily numbers.
“Because daily numbers fluctuate,” Moore said. “So I don’t think we can read too much into two or three days of increased because those cases could just be outliers. We really have to look at it over the longer term.”
Bailey asked Moore to elaborate on the term released.
“Is that just after home quarantining?” Bailey said. “Do we know if some of these people are hospitalized or just testing positive but with no symptoms?”
Unfortunately, the county is not party to such information, Moore said.
“We don’t get that kind of data about an individual or their case,” Moore said. “We don’t know if they’re not sick at all and just happened to test positive, which happens quite often, or if they’re really sick.”
Data the county receives recently added the category last day of home isolation, Moore added.
“Which means the last day that individual was required to be quarantined at home,” Moore said. “So, after that last date of home quarantine, we consider that individual released because they’re not quarantined anymore and can go do whatever they need to do.
“We don’t call it recovered because that’s more a physician’s determine. They may not be recovered. They may just not be isolated anyone but still have symptoms. Some people have long-term effects related to breathing and gastric issues.”
State officials for the first time have requested numbers on negative as well as positive cases, Moore said.
Moore said the Cleburne and Burleson fire departments have agreed to conduct testing at nursing homes in their respective cities. Abbott last week ordered the testing of all nursing home residents and staff. The state will conduct testing at nursing homes in Johnson County’s smaller cities, he said.
Cleburne Fire Chief Scott Lail said that while that was the original plan, for Cleburne at least, testing in Cleburne will now be carried out by the state with the Cleburne Fire Department assisting.
Commissioner Kenny Howell asked if there’s truth to reports that anyone who received a flu shot in the past 10 years will test positive for COVID-19.
“I get the impression that some of that is not quite right,” Moore said.
Moore said his understanding is that the COVID-19 test tests for different factors than would tests for influenza A or B and/or other flu or virus ailments.
“But I don’t think I’m the right person to fully respond because I think some of that is still being determined,” Moore said. “Often times this stuff does end up getting refuted with scientific data. It just take a while for that to come out. For the purposes of what we’re doing we just need to move forward with the testing as it is. If it comes out at some time in the future that the testing was not as accurate as it should’ve been then I think that’s what it is.”
Commissioner Larry Woolley expressed doubts as well.
“I’ve heard from two people who had flu shots but they tested negative [for COVID-19],” Woolley said.
Relief is available as per the demand for masks, Moore said, adding that he plans to present a proposed agreement between Johnson County and Fort Worth at the next commissioners court meeting.
Provided commissioners approve the agreement the county will gain access to the N-95 mask decontamination system FEMA installed in Fort Worth.
“So we can take the used, and possibly contaminated, masks, get them sanitized and decontaminated and returned back into use,” Moore said. “They can be cleaned up to 20 times and returned to use as long as they’re in good shape.
“This should help lower demand for the masks across the state and help us be more efficient in our responses.”
The service would be available for public safety officials, hospital systems and retirement and nursing home personnel.