A Mineral Wells man infected with the COVID-19 disease lost his battle Wednesday in a Fort Worth hospital, becoming the first death of a Palo Pinto County resident resulting from coronavirus.
Steve Richards was the first county resident reported as having COVID-19. His positive test confirmation came from Tarrant County. Richards, who was in his early 60s, was a member of First Baptist Church of Mineral Wells for nearly 29 years, serving on staff the entire time. He was the church's building maintenance supervisor.
The church on April 2 reported the confirmed case online.
First Baptist Church pastor Rev. Nathan Buchanan knew Richards the last 15 years.
"He is my friend, he is my staff member," Buchanan said. "He was well-loved by the community and our church."
Buchanan and other members of the church staff were tested for the disease and were quarantined along with family members. Buchanan said their test results came back Monday as negative for COVID-19.
He said it was difficult as pastor and friend of Richards and the family to not visit him in the hospital. Buchanan said family members also were not allowed under visitor restrictions in place.
Richards initially felt ill several days and was not improving, which led him to go the local emergency room. He was then sent to Fort Worth. Initial reports were that Richards was responding well to hospital treatments and improving. Buchanan said over the course of the last few days, his condition worsened as fluid filled his lungs and doctors could not stop it.
Buchanan asked the community for prayers for Richards and the family.
"The whole family is just lost," he said. "Still our hope is in the Lord. We can celebrate because we know Steve knew the Lord. He loved God and loved others. He was very kind and compassionate and was willing to do anything for others."
Baum-Carlock-Bumgardner Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Buchanan said because of restrictions on public gatherings, a memorial service will take place at a later date.
The church has online giving for the Richards family at https://www.fbcmwtx.org/give. Use the "Fund" dropdown box to select "Memorial Fund for Steve Richards Family." Donations can also be mailed to the church designated for the Richards family to 100 S.W. 4th Avenue, Mineral Wells, TX 76067.
The Index has reached out to local health officials with questions about this case. It is believed another family member was infected, who works at a local bank and where other potential exposures occurred. Employees at the bank and their families were contacted about possible exposure and were either tested or asked to self-quarantine and monitor for signs of symptoms.
The Index is not aware of additional positive cases arising from those two circles of potential exposure in this case. Some of the employees are reportedly winding down their 14-day quarantine period. Some who had possible second- and third-hand exposure have reportedly not shown symptoms and are no longer self-quarantining.
On Thursday, Palo Pinto General Hospital reported for a second day five confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county. Of 172 tests for the disease performed to date at PPGH, 117 have returned negative, with 50 test results pending.
The Texas Department of Health and Human Services as of midday Thursday reported 10,230 COVID-19 cases statewide, with 1,439 hospitalizations, 1,101 patients recovered and 199 deaths. Parker County reported nine cases, Hood with 11 and Erath county with 10 cases.