Virus totals in county triple since start of month

Staff Reports
Posted 6/23/20

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Madison County have risen to 24 from eight at the beginning of June, according to county officials.

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Virus totals in county triple since start of month

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The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Madison County have risen to 24 from eight at the beginning of June, according to county officials.

The trend tracks state-wide figures, which according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, have risen at an “unacceptable rate” in recent days and weeks.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which provides a separate report for cases in state prisons, the Ferguson Unit in Madison County remains steady with six confirmed cases, all recovered.

Reports sent to county officials don’t gibe with the Texas Department of Health Services online “dashboard,” which reports 29 confirmed cases in the county, two of which are listed as active.

According to the DSHS, that's because the TDCJ counts cases a little differently.

"There is and will be a fluctuation in the county’s data and ours because of the way TDCJ accounts for their COVID-19 prisoners," said Lyndsey Rosales, a communications specialist for DSHS. "TDCJ’s cases move when a prisoner does, whereas DSHS does not move cases. For example, if an inmate is transferred to another prison in a different county or if that prisoner is released, TDCJ moves that case to the county where the person goes. DSHS keeps the case in the county in which the prisoner was located at the time of diagnosis."

Abbott provided an update on state figures at a news conference Monday, aggressively endorsing the use of face covering or masks in public settings, but saying “closing down Texas again will always be last option.”

Abbott was joined at the conference by Dr. John Hellersted, his medical point person for the pandemic and head of the Texas Department of State Health Services, physician and former state Rep. John Zerwas, who is executive vice chancellor for health affairs of the University of Texas System and an Abbott adviser, and Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

Behind them were large charts showing trend lines for hospitalization, daily new cases and the positivity rate. All showed a flattening until about Memorial Day. Then came spikes on all three charts.

DSHS reports that as of June 21, the positivity rate -- out of all tests conducted, how many came back positive for COVID-19 – rose to 9.51%. On May 12,the World Health Organization advised governments that before reopening, rates of positivity in testing of should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days.

Texas hasn’t had a positivity rate under 5% since May 29.

"To state the obvious, COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas," Abbott said, adding later “If those spikes continue, additional measures are going to be necessary.”

Abbott, meanwhile, alluded to the recent mandates by some local and county officials that businesses require customers to wear mask. But he remained steady in his position that a statewide mask-wearing order is not needed in Texas, where case levels vary from one region to another.

“What may be true in Austin, Texas, is different in Austin County,” he said. “And we need to have latitude for that differentiation.”

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