In a virtual town hall hosted on Tuesday evening, Representative Dustin Burrows announced the state of Texas had administered 42,992 tests for COVID-19 statewide and had confirmed 3,266 positive cases and 41 related deaths.
Along with Burrows, Lubbock County Judge Curtis Parrish and Dr. Ryan Lewis, a physician specializing in Emergency Medicine, spoke and answered questions during the townhall regarding the state and local response to COVID-19.
Currently, 122 of the 254 counties in the state of Texas have at least one person who is confirmed infected with the COVID-19 virus, Burrows said. In response to this crisis, the state government has taken a number of steps.
“The number one goal of the state is to save Texas lives,” Burrows said. “And the way we do that is we don’t overwhelm our hospital system.”
Governor Greg Abbott has put out multiple emergency orders with several goals, Burrows said, the first being to increase the number of doctors and nurses that are available to treat patients not only with COVID-19, but also with other illnesses that will continue to be an issue during the crisis. Due to these efforts, the state has seen the number of hospital beds increase from 8000 to 1600.
Additionally, Abbott has enacted a mandatory quarantine for people coming from hot spots in the country including Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, California, New York, Connecticut and on the eastern border, Louisiana.
“They have (the Department of Public Safety) out on the roads right now monitoring our Eastern border doing temperature checks to see if people actually need to comply with the mandatory 14-day quarantine,” Burrows said.
The state government has also been paying attention to the economic burden due to the crisis, he said. Unemployment benefits have been extended, Small Business Administration loans will become available by the end of the week, the comptroller has created a hotline for those who struggling with sale tax and more.
Abbott has ensured public safety employees who are infected with COVID-19 are not responsible for medical payments, Burrows said, an action Burrows said he is very proud of.
“That’s just the right thing to do,” he said. “They’re on the front lines and we’re very proud to be doing that.”
Abbott has extended his social distancing order until April 30 and closed public schools until May 4, while also ensuring churches remain open, Burrows said.
“That’s really been the state of Texas’s response and we’re seeing some, you know, promise in the numbers, but as testing goes up, we’re going to see more confirmed cases being put in the numbers as well,” he said.
Specifically within Lubbock County, there has been a marked rise in positive cases, Parrish said. According to the City of Lubbock website, the number of cases stands at 100 as of March 31.
“Those increases can be because the virus is actually present and also the fact that we’re testing more," he said. "Our testing criteria and our testing protocols are getting better, they’re being quicker, we’re able to identify those who are sick quicker.”
Initially cases in the city were travel-related, Parrish said, but there is now also community transfer within Lubbock. Decisions are being made locally based on the virus transferring from one neighbor to another.
Despite community transfer, Lubbock residents should still feel comfortable seeking medical care for non-COVID-19 related issues.
There is strict criteria put in place at emergency centers and hospitals to avoid unnecessary transfers of diseases such as COVID-19 or even the common flu, Lewis said. So, if individuals need to visit an Emergency Room for a fall, shortness of breath, chest pain or any other routine emergency, they should do so.
“You should feel very comfortable and should not delay any care that you feel you need to seek emergency care for based out of fear of contracting something while you’re there,” he said.
A particular point of concern for Parrish are asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, he said. Asymptomatic carriers are people who carry and can spread the virus, but show no symptoms themselves. There has been a large increase in asymptomatic carriers testing positive for COVID-19 in Lubbock, he said.
“That tells me here in our community we have many people who are walking among us, who are interacting with us, that are carriers of the virus, that are transferring the virus to those who aren’t sick, and they’re not feeling those symptoms themselves, so they feel like they’re ok,” he said.
Particularly because of these asymptomatic carriers, it is important for everyone to obey the social distancing orders, he said. It is vitally important for people to obey these orders, whether or not compelled to do so by law, and avoid going out unless absolutely necessary.
“You may not feel sick, you may not feel like you have the virus, and yet you might," he said. "And you may be infecting others who are not able to fight off the symptoms the way you are. So please be mindful of our neighbors. Again, you’ve already heard this once and you’re gong to hear it again, only by working together is the only way we’re going to survive this crisis.”