A DeWitt County woman has been confirmed to have COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, local officials said Wednesday.
This is the fifth confirmed case in the region and the first confirmed case of the new disease in the county, although public health experts note that because testing of the coronavirus in the U.S. has been so delayed, there are likely additional cases throughout the country that have not yet been tested and confirmed.
The woman is in her 60s and is experiencing mild symptoms, according to a news release from county officials. She is isolating at home, officials said.
The woman visited a Cuero health facility Tuesday, where she was screened for symptoms and infectious disease protocols were put in place, said Emily Weatherly, the marketing and development director for Cuero Regional Hospital. The patient was not admitted for treatment at the hospital, but returned home and was told to self-isolate per the infectious disease protocols, Weatherly said.
Swabs were taken from the patient on Tuesday and submitted for testing to a private lab the same day. Test results confirming the patient had COVID-19 were received Wednesday morning, Weatherly said.
In all, the confirmation in DeWitt County brings the total number of known cases of COVID-19 in the region to five – the DeWitt County case, a Lavaca County resident who was hospitalized with COVID-19, and three cases in Matagorda County. The most recent case in Matagorda County was a woman between the ages of 50 and 55 who had recently traveled to Washington.
Dr. John McNeill, Victoria’s local health authority, said a case in DeWitt County likely meant that virus would soon spread to Victoria.
“It’s going to continue and it’s probably going to get worse,” he said.
There were no confirmed cases of the virus in Victoria County as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“I want you all to understand that this is getting close to what we term ‘community transmission,’ and that’s the thing we’ve always said would be a trigger to make us more worried about things,” McNeill said at a news conference Wednesday.
Community spread or community transmission is considered to be a case that has occurred without “relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient.” McNeill shared basic details about the DeWitt County case before advising that all restaurants and bars stop in-house dining and switch to delivery and take-out services only.
More than 80 cases have been linked to COVID-19 in Texas, but because of limited testing, experts agree that the real number of cases is far higher. As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, at least three Texans are thought to have died after becoming infected with the new virus, including one of the patients in Matagorda County.
It is not yet known how or where the patient in DeWitt was infected with the virus, but she is not believed to have become infected in the county, Weatherly said.
“In this case the patient had recently traveled out of the county,” Weatherly said.
State health investigators are assisting local officials to identify close contacts of the woman while she was traveling or before symptoms were present, so they can be isolated, monitored for symptoms and tested if needed.
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new coronavirus that was first detected in humans last year. For many who are infected, it can cause no symptoms or only minor symptoms, but some patients can develop complications or die as a result. People over the age of 65 and those with chronic conditions are believed to be at higher risk of getting very sick from the illness. While researchers work to develop a vaccine to prevent infection, experts believe the best course of action is to engage in what’s known as “social distancing.” Steps like social distancing and regular hand washing are considered the best tools to contain the spread of the virus.