The state executive order reopening businesses, additional COVID-19 testing and updates on virus spread all were topics discussed during a virtual news conference with city officials Monday.
Katherine Wells, director of the Lubbock Health Department, said Lubbock County is seeing COVID-19 numbers wearing off.
“We are reporting, as of yesterday, 430 reported cases in Lubbock,” she said. “I also regret that, today, we are also reporting 32 deaths. The majority of these deaths are related to our nursing homes.”
As of now, 107 COVID-19 patients are fully recovered, Wells said.
Dr. Ronald Cook, local health authority, said people need to continue taking precautions, such as wearing masks in public, practicing social distancing, covering coughs and washing hands.
COVID-19 testing in Lubbock was another topic discussed during the conference.
There are two types of tests available in Lubbock, Cook said.
“The first test is called a PCR test. PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction,” he said. “This is that test, when you go through the drive-thru or the office, they put the nasal swab in your nose, run it around, make your eyes water a little bit and they take it, and most of our tests here in Lubbock are sent off to the lab in Austin.”
With this type of test, Cook said a PCR is used to create millions of copies of the small amount of virus particles on the swab in order to make it easier for machines to detect a virus.
“Now, the other test that we have here in Lubbock, it’s brand new, it’s called the antibody test,” he said.
One’s immune system creates antibodies to fight off any infections, Cook said. Antibodies are able to detect and fight off previously contracted infections, so one does not get sick again.
“So, we use this test to make sure people are recovered from the virus,” he said. “We don’t have to have this test. But sometimes we need this test to show that you had the virus or that you’ve recovered from the virus.”
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope said medical institutions in Lubbock County are testing at twice the rate of the rest of the state. The positive COVID-19 case rate and hospitalization is a little bit lower than the rest of the state.
“As of yesterday, we had tested 4,727 residents in Lubbock County testing,” he said. “Total test grew 45 percent last week alone.”
As of the time of the news conference, Covenant Health will provide COVID-19 testing at their clinics and regional hospitals, Pope said. On Friday, additional drive-thru testing will be provided at the Walmart located at 114th Street and Quaker Avenue.
This site will focus more on testing first responders and healthcare responders, Pope said. More information regarding sign-up for the drive-thru testing at Walmart and other factors will be released later this week.
“We want you to be tested,” he said. “If you don’t have insurance, call the health department at 775-2933 and let us get you set up to be tested.”
Regarding information on future confirmed COVID-19 cases, Pope said the city will release more demographic data that touches on race of positive cases and zip codes of where confirmed cases live. The city is focusing on data regarding hospitalizations, active COVID-19 cases and new daily cases.
Along with efforts to test for COVID-19, the city also is preparing for the reopening of non-essential businesses after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Friday implementing multiple phases to reopen non-essential businesses. One of the first phases focuses on retail establishments and implementing retail-to-go policies.
Lubbock has been in what's called curb-side retail since day one, Pope said regarding how Lubbock will implement this first phase.
“Our non-essential retail was never closed in that regard,” he said.
Non-essential businesses are encouraged to operate online and provide delivery options, Pope said.
“We would expect our citizens to comply,” he said regarding people being required to practice social distancing and wear face masks under Abbott’s order.
In addition to COVID-19 testing efforts, the precautions local first responders are taking when conducting their jobs also were addressed.
Lubbock Fire Rescue Chief Shaun Fogerson said during emergency calls, emergency units will only expose as many first responders that are necessary to get the job done.
“The response begins with [Emergency Medical Services] dispatch,” he said. “They go down a list of COVID-related questions, so they can pass the information onto first responders on whether someone we’re responding to may have COVID-19.”
During medical and fire calls, first responders use a lot of personal protective equipment, Fogerson said. A self-contained breathing apparatus, which can be disinfected for multiple uses, is what a firefighter will use to provide respiratory protection.
Regardless, Fogerson said first responders practice social distancing and assume everyone they are in contact with has COVID-19.