A transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19 shows spherical viral particles, colorized blue.

Two Victoria events were canceled Monday as concerns grow about the spread of the new coronavirus.

No confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, have been reported in Victoria County.

Victoria’s school district decided that employees who were scheduled to participate in a Tuesday symposium about homelessness should withdraw from the public event out of an abundance of caution, Superintendent Quintin Shepherd said.

“That was a decision that we addressed at cabinet today and we felt like that was one of those convenings where it’s going to be a large group of people, potentially in a very small space, and when we looked at the safety of our employees, we decided not to participate in the symposium,” Shepherd said.

UHV, the host of the symposium, canceled the event Monday because multiple speakers, including the VISD employees, could not participate. It will be rescheduled.

In another event, a poet and essayist scheduled to speak at the University of Houston-Victoria on Thursday morning as part of the American Book Review’s reading series withdrew from the event because of concerns about traveling while the disease spreads, UHV spokeswoman Lauren Emerson said.

As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. continues to rise, cities, schools and other groups throughout the country have begun to cancel large public events where people would be in close contact with each other, particularly in areas where the disease is more widespread. Nationwide, there have been more than 420 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Monday evening, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number is almost certain to increase as more facilities are able to run tests for the disease.

There were 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Texas as of 10 a.m. Monday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. That does not include individuals who were infected while abroad and who are under federal quarantine in San Antonio.

If a case were to be confirmed in Victoria County, the confirmation would trigger an investigation from the Victoria County Public Health Department. Brittany Burgess, epidemiologist for the county, explained the process at a commissioners court meeting Monday to update the public. Any individual with a confirmed case of COVID-19 would likely be treated at a local health care facility and isolated in a room there with airborne isolation, she said. Meanwhile, Burgess would launch two simultaneous investigations to identify anybody the infected person had been in contact with and where that person had traveled and possibly become infected.

If someone with COVID-19 had visited a public space, the county’s health department would advise on how best to clean the area, but Burgess noted that the disease primarily spreads from person-to-person only when individuals are within 6 feet of each other.

“You’re not going to walk into H-E-B at the same time (as an infected) person is and, never have come across them, and get this,” Burgess said. “We have no evidence to suggest that it is that contagious.”

Although scientists are scrambling to answer many questions about the virus, some basics have been determined. The primary method of transmission appears to be via drops of fluid from the mouth or nose of an infected person, according to the World Health Organization. A healthy person could then be infected if they came into contact with these droplets and touched their eyes, nose or mouth. Existing research suggests that the virus is mainly transmitted through contact with droplets, rather than through the air, according to WHO.

The virus is not as contagious as, for example, a disease like measles is, Burgess said. Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 9 out of 10 people around that person will become infected if they are not vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Burgess and David Gonzales, the director of county’s health department, urged residents to continue to follow the basic precautions that health experts have pointed to as the best defenses against spread of the virus, like washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and staying home if you’re sick.

“I think the public needs to understand that they are their own best prevention method,” Burgess said. “It’s actions that we are going to take as a community that are going to help us prevent an all out transmission problem.”

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Ciara McCarthy covers public health for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can reach her at or at 580-6597 or on Twitter at @mccarthy_ciara. To support local journalism at the Advocate through Report for America, go to

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Ciara McCarthy covers public health and health care for the Advocate as a Report for America corps member. Questions, tips, or ideas? Please get in touch: or call 361-580-6597.

(3) comments

Tammy Mozingo

Perhaps these websites will help clarify COVID-19 response: and

William Tally

This article speaks of “confirmed” cases. How are we confirming? Do local physicians or health Dept have rest kits? If you, for instance, were recently in a city that has cases confirmed by testing and you start feeling really bad. Where do you go and what will happen to you? Seems pretty key information

Ciara McCarthy Staff
Ciara McCarthy

Hi Pat — Thanks for the question. That is indeed very important information.

If you feel sick and are worried you might have symptoms of COVID-19, your first step should be to call either your personal physician or the Victoria County Public Health Department (361-578-6281). Your local physician or the public health department are the best sources to walk through your symptoms, travel history, and recommended next steps.

Unless you are having severe respiratory distress, most public health experts do not recommend seeking care in an urgent clinic or in the ER. Instead, call ahead to your doctor or the health department for guidance.

If your physician and/or the health department recommend you be tested for the disease, you will likely be tested at a local hospital. That sample will be sent to either the CDC or one of the public health labs in Texas capable of running the diagnostic tests.

Local physicians and the health department do not have test kits. Instead, specimens from a patient being reviewed for COVID-19 are sent to either the CDC or a local private or public laboratory for testing. Results are typically available within a day, but that depends on the lab and the volume of tests they are processing. I will work on getting some answers as to how long it takes Texas labs to process these test kits. Please comment, email or call with additional questions so we can get you answers as soon as possible. Thanks, Ciara

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