With coronavirus cases on the rise and a glitch in state reporting, Parker County officials said they are working with the state to get back to updating case numbers daily.
Parker County Judge Pat Deen said a conference call was held with the senior management team of the Texas Department of State Health Services following a disruption in reporting COVID-19 numbers.
“Basically what they did was remove the household identifiers that gives specific data on locations and so it created a situation for us where we were not able to track it by city,” Deen said. “When we got the report it had us clumped in with other cities and counties and that data was a bit challenging to say the least. There is a spike in the numbers in the state, but how that affects Parker County — we’ll know when this is all resolved and get back to the reporting that we were accustomed to. They assured us that the programming would be reverted back. We’re just as frustrated as anybody.”
The last detailed update that was released by Parker County was on June 18 where there were 29 active COVID-19 cases, 90 recovered cases and one death, for a total of 120 cases. According to the Texas Department of State Health services COVID-19 tracker, as of Friday morning Parker County was listed as having 177 total coronavirus cases.
Deen said the county received numbers on Thursday, but because of inaccuracies, did not report the information.
“We received numbers [Thursday], which included trying to break out what’s in other counties and cities and for us, we didn’t have data to update the chart with. We’re not going to report numbers that we know are inaccurate,” Deen said. “We know for a fact that some of those numbers are in other counties and cities and are not reflective of the actual number in Parker County, so I chose not to report that until this is resolved and corrected.”
Following a surge of COVID-19 cases in the state, Gov. Greg Abbott took executive action Friday morning ordering bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcohol to close at noon Friday, as well as reducing dine-in occupancy for restaurants back down to 50% beginning on Monday, according to Abbott’s website. The order also requires outdoor gathering of 100 or more people be approved by local governments, with certain exceptions, and closes rafting and tubing businesses. Waterparks and amusement parks are not affected.
Because of Parker County’s attestation granted on June 12, restaurants can remain at 75% capacity. Counties without attestation must roll back to 50%, Deen said.
“As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10%, the state of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said in a press release. “At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars. The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and enhance public health. We want this to be as limited in duration as possible. However, we can only slow the spread if everyone in Texas does their part. Every Texans has a responsibility to themselves and their loved ones to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay six feet apart from others in public, and stay home if they can. I know that our collective action can lead to a reduction in the spread of COVID-19 because we have done it before, and we will do it again.”
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley issued an order Thursday requiring face coverings when entering and remaining on a premise, which go into effect at 6 p.m. Friday.
“The Health and Safety Policy must require, at minimum, that all employees and visitors to [an] entity’s business premises wear face coverings when in an area or performing an activity which will necessarily involve close contact or proximity to co-workers or the public. All people 10 years or older are strongly urged to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when in an area open to the public where it is difficult to keep six feet away from other people or working in areas that involve proximity with co-workers,” according to the order. “The requirement of face covering does not apply is covering the nose and mouth poses a significant mental or physical health risk to the individual. The requirement of a face covering also does not apply when an individual is consuming a food or beverage or receiving a service where the wearing of a face covering would impair the performance of the service.”
According to the order, acceptable face coverings may include homemade masks, scarfs, bandanas or handkerchiefs.
Deen said until accurate numbers are produced for Parker County by the Texas Department of State Health Services, requiring masks is premature.
“Until we understand the accuracy of what the real numbers are in Parker County, we’re not going to take any action. I think going to mandatory masks at this point would be premature. As we opened up the numbers went up slightly, but it was moderate in its rise and so I think what we need right now is patience to get back the actual data of what the situation is in Parker County before we consider anything,” Deen said. “With that said, the most important thing here is the health and safety of the people of Parker County — everything else is a distant second to that — but it’s hard to make decisions when you don’t have the data specific to your county.”
As for continued COVID-19 testing in Parker County, Dr. Steven Welch, the local health authority for the county, said drive-thru testing at Heritage Park in Weatherford is being scheduled as often as possible.
“There are numerous private clinics, urgent care clinics and emergency rooms throughout Parker County that test patients for COVID-19. Drive through testing at Heritage Park is being scheduled as often as possible. We have had several weeks where it has been offered on more than one day,” Welch said. “We have not received confirmation back on a specific date the mobile testing unit will return to Heritage Park in Parker County; however, we have requested that they be here as soon as possible and expect them to return soon after the July 4 holiday.”
Welch said since April 10, there have been 3,005 COVID-19 tests performed in Parker County.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services website, a new online system has been implemented called Texas Health Trace, which is being used to help slow and contain the spread of the virus.
“Contact tracing is a method used to find and follow up with people who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 (called a case),” according to DSHS. “People who were around the case, potentially exposed to COVID-19, are called contacts. By tracing the contacts of COVID-19 cases, getting them into quarantine, and when necessary, testing them for infection, we can slow the spread of coronavirus.”
The Texas Health Trace webpage provides a self-checker and allows Texans to report exposure. It also provides a list of test collection sites based on a resident’s address.