The Record Newspapers - Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

By Dave Rogers
For the Record 

Numbers point to virus letup in OC

 

Last updated 5/14/2020 at 1:46pm

Ding dong, the Covid's dead.

One can hope.

Orange County Judge John Gothia reported some big news Tuesday on the back of a similar announcement by Orange Mayor Larry Spears, Jr.

And Bridge City could, too.

"This is our fifth day of no new cases at all," Gothia told Commissioners' Court in a discussion of the coming shutdown of the six-county Southeast Texas Regional authority formed in mid-March to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

At a city council meeting held earlier Tuesday via the GoToMeeting app, Spears pointed out that the City of Orange had no active cases, according to the numbers posted on the Orange County Emergency Management Facebook page.

Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Bridge City also had no active cases.

Neither Orange -- the city or the county -- is ready to go back to pre-Covid-19 "normal."

Hardly.

"This is a wonderful report we received [Monday] but this is far from over," Spears said.

"We are going to ask you to continue to social distance, to continue to follow the guidelines as these businesses and restaurants reopen.

"This is not something to play with."

To prove it, Gothia announced the county is expecting $2.2 million in just-announced "Federal Covid Response" grants "fairly quickly" and told Kurt Guidry, county maintenance director, to spend it in a hurry to ward off a second wave.

Gothia said $454,000, the first grant, could be in the county's bank account "right now" and it should be spent on all the PPE [personal protective equipment], sanitizer, temperature gauges, and other equipment.

Guidry was giving a report on the progress of temporary sneezeguards being erected in the clerks' and tax offices ready for the county offices to reopen next week.

Gothia said that was fine, but he wanted to seek bids to quickly replace the temporary shields with permanent ones.

"We'll be looking at different things to make sure we have the supplies we need as quickly as we can, and surely in time to be ready for the next flu season."

Gothia said he'd been told Monday that the county wouldn't need to share its $2.2 million with cities in Orange County, because they will be getting their own grants.

And there's no local matching fund payments connected to these federal monies, he said.

Gothia said that while the six-county coalition is set to stand down and close its drive-through testing sites on Friday, May 15, Orange County would continue to monitor local trends and direct its citizens to testing sites.

He said the county was contracting with Triangle Area Network to handle testing for those who have no regular physician.

"We still want them to call the same hotline number, 1-800-550-2536," Gothia said. "The people answering will ask which county they're from and make sure they get connected properly

"We're expecting most people needing tests will go through their local practitioners. Some doctors will only do the testing for their existing patients."

Numbers put out by the SETREO group, which are just collated from reports by one or more clinics, hospitals or health agencies in each county, are confusing.

As of Monday, May 11, releases by the City of Beaumont and Orange County emergency management showed 198 active cases in north Jefferson County (Beaumont, Nome, China, Cheek, Hamshire and Fannett), an area with 123,000 combined population and just 14 in Orange County (population 83,400).

That's about 14 times more active cases in a population group just 1.5 times as big. Overall, north Jefferson County has tested only twice as many (2,135) as Orange County.

"Look at Hardin County [population 57,600]," Gothia said. "They're smaller than us, but their numbers [115 confirmed cases, 4 deaths compared to OC's 84 positives and 2 deaths] are higher. They've had a couple of hot spot areas and we've never had a hot spot area."

As of May 11, Orange County was still waiting on results from 92 of the 1,005 tests its residents had undergone. The northern half of Jefferson County had only 37 of its 2,135 test results pending.

So numbers for Orange, both city and county, could easily go up even if no one else is tested.

"The governor has announced the state will test every nursing home in the state," Gothia said. "There will be some cases come out or that.

"We've been fortunate to not have an outbreak in our area and the numbers are going down because that's what we want to happen."

After Friday, we'll be fortunate to get any accurate accounting.

"I'm not sure who will send out numbers or provide information once shop has closed here," said a person involved with the SETREO health cooperative.

"I've not seen any of our health departments or health care facilities express an interest in working together or even separately to get that accomplished."

 

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