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Marr wins Victoria County sheriff's office in runoff
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Victoria County voters have chosen Justin Marr to serve as their next sheriff.

Tuesday night, Marr won 5,810 votes or about 66.52% to Fowler's 2,924 votes or about 33.48%.

“I’m on top of the world right now – very humbling with the turnout of votes,” Marr said at his election night party at Club Westerner in Victoria.

Gallery: Primary Runoff Election

Fowler said he was surprised by the margin but added he would accept the results.

“The voters have spoken, and I have to respect the voters,” Fowler said.

Marr will not face a Democratic challenger in the November general election.

In March, voters narrowed the race for the sheriff’s office from four to two candidates, eliminating Melissa Rendon-Wasicek, a Victoria police detective; and Philip Dennis, a Marine Corps veteran and jail administrator.

Gallery: Primary Runoff Election

In that initial primary election, Marr secured about 45% of the votes to Fowler’s 42.1%.

County Judge Ben Zeller said Friday commissioners could appoint the winner of Tuesday’s election to serve for the remainder of the year.

“I plan to ask the winner his preference on when they would like to be appointed,” Zeller said. “Whether that’s the following week or the following month, commissioners court will accommodate their request as the people’s choice for sheriff.”

Tuesday night, Marr said he would accept such an appointment from commissioners.

The sheriff’s office has remained vacant since former Sheriff T. Michael O’Connor was sworn in as U.S. marshal for the Southern District of Texas in early February.

O’Connor also endorsed Fowler.

Since then, Roy Boyd, chief deputy in Victoria County and sole candidate for sheriff in Goliad County, has led the department.

Tuesday’s election comes weeks after a June debate in which Fowler and Marr distinguished their backgrounds and visions.

Marr, a career sheriff’s office employee with two decades of experience there, has said his time in the office positions him better to lead.

“You cannot effectively lead the women and men of the sheriff’s office if you have not walked in their path,” Marr said at the June debate. “You cannot serve the community if you have not shared in their triumphs and in their tragedies.”

Fowler, a local business leader and president of the Victoria Economic Development Corp., has said his experience will allow him to better manage the office.

“The public should weigh my law enforcement and business experience,” Fowler said at the June debate. “The sheriff has to be able to set the vision and the mission of the agency and manage a $16.4 million budget and manage over 200 people.”

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Victoria County passes 2,000 COVID-19 cases
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A 14th county resident with COVID-19 has died and there are now more than 2,000 known cases of the respiratory disease in Victoria County, officials said Tuesday.

The latest victim, a woman in her 50s, died after she was hospitalized in Victoria, according to a news release from the Victoria County Public Health Department. No other details about the woman or her case were released. Yesterday, officials confirmed that a woman in her 60s also died of a coronavirus-related death.

The county also confirmed 140 new cases of the disease Tuesday, bringing the total case count to 2,131 cases.

As the number of infections increased in Victoria, so too did the number of hospitalizations. There are 87 county residents with the disease in local hospitals, local officials said. And throughout the broader region, there are 155 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. These patients are in hospitals across DeWitt, Calhoun, Victoria, Lavaca, and Jackson counties.

Also Tuesday, city officials said 13 city employees have tested positive for the coronavirus since July 2, bringing the total number of the city’s workforce that has contracted the virus to 22.

Nine employees had recovered as of Tuesday and 13 had active COVID-19 cases, according to a news release from city officials.

Of the active cases, four work for the Victoria Police Department, one works for the Victoria Fire Department, one is from the planning department and seven are from the public works department.

All are recovering at home, according to the news release.

The Victoria County Public Health Department is working to identify contacts who may have been exposed to the employees who tested positive, according to the news release. Anyone found to have had a high-risk exposure will be contacted as soon as possible.

Lavaca County

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Lavaca County increased from 344 to 348 Tuesday, local officials said in a news release.

Of Lavaca’s 348 cases, 232 were active as of Tuesday, according to the news release. Those cases include 25 that have been confirmed by state health officials and 207 that are pending investigation.

Also, 116 patients have recovered. One county resident with the disease has died.

Calhoun County

Officials in Calhoun County reported 10 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county Tuesday.

In all, there are 171 cases in the county. Of these, 165 cases have been confirmed by laboratory tests. Six cases are probable, which are not confirmed by a test but meets the criteria for a case of COVID-19 through a combination of symptoms, exposure to the virus, and other lab tests, according to the county.

“The purpose of a probable case definition is to identify cases that may not be able to receive a confirmatory test,” according to a Facebook post from the Calhoun County Office of Emergency Management. “This may be due to their isolation status or because they have mild symptoms that do not require a health care visit.”

Of the 171 cases, 69 patients are recovered. There are 99 active cases in the county. Three people with COVID-19 have died.

Jackson County

One new case of COVID-19 was reported in Jackson County Tuesday, according to the Department of State Health Services.

The county has 92 cases of the respiratory disease.

Of those, 43 patients have recovered. One county resident with COVID-19 has died.

Goliad County

The Texas Department of State Health Services removed two COVID-19 cases from the county’s overall tally, bringing the case count there down to 35.

Case are sometimes removed from a county’s total count after a correct address is verified for the patient.

Of the 35 cases, 18 patients have recovered.

DeWitt and Refugio counties had not confirmed new cases as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Wharton County

Health officials in Wharton County reported seven new cases Tuesday at 2 p.m., bringing the county’s total to 353. No new recoveries or coronavirus-related deaths were reported.

No additional information was released about the seven individuals’ ages, interactions with others or residences.

Matagorda County

Matagorda County officials did not report any new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday as they switched to a new method of confirming and reporting cases of the new coronavirus to the public.

Moving forward, the Texas Department of State Health Services will verify and report all active and recovered COVID-19 cases as well as all coronavirus-related deaths in Matagorda County. The state health department acts as the local health department for all counties in Texas who do not have a dedicated local health department, including Matagorda County. For most counties without their own local health department, the state has been confirming and reporting all COVID-19 case information for those counties since the pandemic began.

Matagorda officials had initially collaborated so the local hospital, clinics and doctors’ offices voluntarily reported all tests to county officials, so that they could provide an up-to-date picture of new cases.

But as cases have skyrocketed in Matagorda and throughout Texas, and in advance of flu season and a return to school, county officials said in a statement Tuesday that the work of confirming and reporting COVID-19 cases would be better handled by the state.

“We can continue reporting as we are now, and risk offering inaccurate but speedy information, or we can begin using official DSHS numbers and provide accurate, though delayed information,” said Aaron Fox, the public information officer for the Matagorda Regional Health Center.

Mitch Thames, the spokesman for the county, said the work of verifying and reporting case information was limiting the time health care workers could spend caring for their patients. The numbers the county shared Tuesday are lower than the previously reported number, but Thames said that is because it will take the state about a week to verify the case information through their protocols. The case information that the county previously reported – 521 cases and 11 deaths – is not incorrect, but won’t be reflected in the state numbers until state employees have finished investigating and confirming that information, he said.

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Cuero hospital to buy ultraviolet disinfection robot to fight COVID-19
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Cuero Regional Hospital will use a $10,000 donation to buy a robot that uses ultraviolet light to disinfect rooms and surfaces.

Ultraviolet light has long been a known tool that can effectively kill viruses and bacteria, but researchers and health care providers are now re-evaluating the powerful rays as a possible way to fight the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.

The DeWitt Medical Foundation, which supports Cuero’s hospital, received a $10,000 donation from ConocoPhillips, which will be used to purchase an ultraviolet-C robot, said Judy Krupala, the hospital’s chief nursing officer. The hospital will purchase the UV-C robot from the company Skytron, and expects to have it at the hospital within about two weeks, Krupala said.

UV-C kills living bacteria and viruses by interacting with the RNA and DNA molecules in a virus or bacterium “to render these microbes non-infectious,” according to the Illuminating Engineering Society. A new report from the society’s photobiology committee said that, at the effective dose level, UV-C can kill the new coronavirus.

At Cuero Regional hospital, the UV-C robot will be used in addition to the facility’s existing disinfection routine.

“Our housekeepers do a phenomenal job but this actually gets in everywhere,” Krupala said. “It deconstructs the DNA of deadly, infectious pathogens.”

In addition to SARS-CoV-2, Krupala said she hopes the robot will be effective against other bacteria or viruses that can infect patients or staff.

Ultraviolet light can only be used in rooms that are not occupied, because prolonged exposure to such light can cause serious damage to humans. The tool is becoming more common in health care settings as researchers continue to study how effectively ultraviolet light can decontaminate buildings, surfaces and other materials. The University of Nebraska Medical Center is even experimenting with a new procedure to use ultraviolet light to disinfect used face masks for health care workers, which typically cannot be reused but have been in short supply throughout the pandemic.

“This is for keeping our staff and community safe,” she said. “It’s to give them the best care that we can possibly give them.”