Johnson County Emergency Management Director Jamie Moore called a recent announcement by Gov. Greg Abbott a significant game changer in response to COVID-19.
Moore gave an update on the pandemic during Monday’s called meeting of the Johnson County Commissioners Court.
Abbott, Moore said, recently announced plans to distribute 50 million COVID-19 tests per month beginning in October.
“These are tests providing 15 minute results that will cost $5 per kit,” Moore said. “They are antigen, not antibody tests that have been examined by Baylor’s college of medicine and have been found to have a high degree of sensitivity of detection as opposed to some of the other tests out now that have a lower degree of sensitivity in detecting the right corona viruses. These tests will tell you if you currently have COVID-19. Because of the quick turnaround and low price I could see these being used by businesses, schools or other organizations to test people on a weekly basis and get results back quick.”
In other promising news, instances of new COVID-19 cases in the county continue to remain relatively flat, Moore said.
“As of now we have 2,193 positive cases reported cumulatively,” Moore said. “Of which 2,008 have since been released and 185 remain active. So we continue to see that trend of lowering active cases.
“Also, just a personal observation, I’ve noticed a tremendous increase in the amount of people wearing masks everywhere, which wasn’t always the case early on. Maybe that’s played a role in helping keep our numbers flat.”
Moore noted that Cleburne’s free testing site closed last week but added that numerous testing sites have since come available throughout the county.
“The state reached out to my office recently to see if we wanted to bring back testing,” Moore said. “But for now we’re holding off on that to see how things go as our numbers look like they’re continuing to trend down.”
Recent trends aside, Moore and commissioners urge residents to continue exercising social distancing, frequent hand washing and other safety measures.
“Hopefully we’re on the road to recovery on this virus,” County Judge Roger Harmon said. “They’re also seeing substantially lower numbers in Tarrant, Dallas, Denton and Collin counties though the death rate is still high in Tarrant. But I just pray these numbers will continue to go down and hopefully we’ll get a vaccine to administer soon.”
Commissioners approved hiring Enviro-Master Services for sanitation services including electrostatic spraying at the Guinn Justice Center and the Johnson County Adult Probation building.
Commissioners earlier this year approved the hiring of a cleaning service to clean and sanitize the Guinn Justice Center after hours in effort to mitigate the possibility of COVID-19 spread. That service took place in addition to the regular cleaning practices carried out at the Guinn during business hours.
“413th District Judge Bill Bosworth] found this alternative to the janitor work going on at the Guinn after hours to fight the virus,” Johnson County Purchasing Agent Ralph McBroom said. “In addition to cleaning it involves a spray that creates a positive charge to kill the virus. It can be done in less time and at less expense than the janitorial service and the process, which has been around about 20 years, gets to the fighting of the virus as opposed to just cleaning more.
“We’re fortunate to have found a company who can start now because there’s a lot of demand for this service right now as you can probably imagine. A lot of schools and airlines, American Airlines and others, are using these services.”
The service won’t come cheap. Cleaning Guinn will run about $1,000 per week while adult probation will cost $395 per week.
The good news is that the county can submit for reimbursement of such costs through the CARES Act grant, a federal grant distributed to cities and counties to assist with COVID-19 related costs.
Commissioner Rick Bailey joined the other commissioners in approving the hiring, but also voiced concern.
“The CARES Act will reimburse this through the end of the year,” Bailey said. “But if we’re still in this stuff after the first of the year and beyond those costs fall back on the county. We didn’t really cover that when we were working on our budget coming up but, at $1,000 a week for Guinn and $300, $400 for adult probation, those costs can add up quick.”
On the brighter side and given the increased amount of sanitizing afoot not just in Johnson County but everywhere, Bailey joked that, if nothing else, the world is going to be a cleaner place thanks to COVID-19.
Commissioner Kenny Howell agreed.
“After all this we shouldn’t have anything anymore,” Howell joked. “No colds, no allergies, no nothing.”