COVID-19

Texas has now hit more than one million COVID-19 cases, with at least one confirmed case in all 254 counties, according to The Texas Tribune. 

As of presstime Friday, Parker County had 314 active COVID-19 cases, 2,974 total recoveries, 61 deaths and 646 pending results.

“We had the highest number this week we’ve ever had and then the next day, 170 recoveries. We’ve gone to two days a week testing and drive-through testing, and will continue to do that, which correspondingly reflects a higher positivity rate,” Parker County Judge Pat Deen said. “We understand that numbers have not gone down, but our hospital bed capacity continues to be acceptable. The goal is to lose no one and we are taking it very, very seriously. It’s not going to just go away and we just need to make sure we’re doing everything possible. The numbers themselves continue to be a challenge to us, but we’re going to do everything we can to protect our citizens.”

Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Texas Health Willow Park Dr. Erik Ledig said while the hospital’s capacity has not been affected, they do not have inpatient beds and transfer out for admission.

“The emergency department at Texas Health Willow Park is a satellite ER of Texas Health Fort Worth. Admissions are requested based on the need of the patient for specialty care, patients’ medical home or facility request,” Ledig said. “We have had an increase in COVID positives, admissions and work-ups this past week following the trend in Tarrant and Parker counties.”

Texas Health Willow Park currently can test symptomatic individuals with either the rapid COVID-19 test or the send-out test, Ledig said. Both are nasal swabs, but both tests can miss early disease.

“Because of this, patients with viral symptoms will need to be quarantined even if the testing is negative,” Ledig said. 

Medical City Weatherford and Fort Worth Director of Community and Public Relations Tommy Dold said they are closely monitoring COVID-19 positive cases and related hospitalizations, both of which are showing steady growth. 

“Medical City Weatherford continuously evaluates resources, including bed capacity, staffing and PPE — all of which remain at strong levels — to support our community’s healthcare needs,” Dold said. “Medical City Weatherford performs COVID-19 testing for patients admitted to the hospital.”

Medical City offers free COVID-19 screening for those not experiencing an emergency at medicalcityvirtualcare.com

During Tuesday’s Mineral Wells city council meeting, interim Mayor Tammy Underwood said some of their fears were beginning to become a reality.

“I’m not saying this to ensue panic, but I think our community needs to know that as of [Tuesday] afternoon, our hospital did not have any further rooms available for COVID patients. That’s not to say the hospital is totally full and heart attack or trauma patients can’t be seen — that’s not the case — it is for the specialized negative-pressure rooms that are required to treat COVID patients,” Underwood said. “Part of the issue is the fact that our surrounding counties and cities are facing the exact same uptick so we don’t have the luxury of being able to transfer our patients outside of Mineral Wells at the moment.”

As of presstime Friday, Palo Pinto County had a total of 989 positive COVID-19 cases, 3,389 negative cases and 90 pending. 

Palo Pinto General Hospital CEO Ross Korkmas said they have seen an increased number of positive patients and an increase in the number of patients needing hospitalization, but that since March the hospital has had a plan in place to ensure there is enough space for COVID-19 patients.

“We have dedicated COVID units, negative pressure rooms, and a highly trained and committed staff that goes above and beyond for our patients every day,” Korkmas said. “We continue to care for COVID patients at PPGH and patients that are here for other health needs.”

Mineral Wells Deputy Fire Chief Ryan Dunn said when Palo Pinto County gets overwhelmed, they transfer patients out; however, in checking with regional partners, there’s a very small number of beds available.

“Our surrounding small hospitals — Graham, Jacksboro — they’re actually trying to send patients into Palo Pinto General Hospital, which now we’re going to have to divert somewhere else,” Dunn said at Tuesday’s Mineral Wells city council meeting. “At the beginning of the pandemic, I think the whole idea was to slow down the hospitalization of people and now we’re starting to see in fact that it’s starting to creep up again and we’re starting to slowly get overwhelmed.

“We’re trying everything we can to get the word out that this is still a pandemic and there’s still people getting sick ... use the proper precautions.”

Nursing home impact

Nursing homes in both counties have been heavily impacted by the virus, with a total of 31 deaths in Parker County nursing homes and a total of 15 deaths in Palo Pinto County nursing facilities as of the state’s last report on Nov. 4.

In Parker County, College Park Rehabilitation and Care Center reported 16 total resident deaths as of Nov. 4 but reported there were zero active resident cases. The facility has had a total of 96 residents cases and 62 employee cases, with four active among its employees. 

Willow Park Rehabilitation and Care Center reported 10 deaths as of Nov. 4, but zero currently active resident cases. The center has a total of 42 resident cases and 21 employee cases.

Hilltop Park Rehabilitation and Care Center has seen four resident deaths as of Nov. 4 with 29 active cases among its residents. The facility has a total of 73 resident cases and 35 total employee cases with 18 employees still active as of the latest report.

Senior Care at Holland Lake had one death as of Nov. 4 with 19 active resident cases and a total of 48. Holland Lake has 30 total employee cases with nine active. 

In Palo Pinto County, Palo Pinto Nursing Center saw eight deaths as of Nov. 4 but zero active cases among its residents. The center has a total of 60 resident cases, 35 employee cases and one still active employee case. 

Mineral Wells Nursing and Rehabilitation had seven deaths reported on Nov. 4 with eight active resident cases. The facility has a total of 35 resident cases, 18 employee cases and one active employee case. 

School district impact

Cases in nearby school districts have also seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases. 

On Nov. 17, Weatherford ISD announced Hall Middle School would temporarily close and return to in-person learning on Nov. 30. However, the middle school’s Kanga Care Clinic will still be available to students and staff during the closure. WISD has a total of 52 confirmed positive cases and 143 who have completed the isolation/quarantine period. 

Because of the large number of teacher absences related to COVID-19, Mineral Wells ISD announced it will switch to remote learning only the week after Thanksgiving, Nov. 30 through Dec. 4. Garner ISD Wednesday upgraded its COVID protocols to red, signaling campus closure on Thursday and Friday, with a decision pending on what kind of instruction would be administered the week 

As of Thursday morning, Aledo ISD had 10 confirmed positive cases at the high school, five at Daniel Ninth Grade Center, five at Aledo Middle School, two at Coder Elementary, one at McAnally Intermediate, one at McCall Elementary and one at Vandagriff Elementary. The district had a total of 422 students in isolation/quarantine and a total of 40 employees in isolation/quarantine as of Thursday. 

“The trend started to move up once we got to October with those spikes and those increases kind of matching what we saw across the state and across the county,” AISD Director of Student Services Scott Kessel said at the Nov. 16 board of trustees meeting. “And then in addition to that, when we got to the point of just a couple of weeks ago, kind of late October, early November, we saw a real jump. In fact, of all the total cases that we’ve seen, I believe it’s 109, the total positive cases that we’ve seen across the district 59% we’ve seen over the last two weeks.”

Kessel added that a question the district has been getting frequently is when they will pull back in some of the health and safety protocols.

“We don’t have a date set on the calendar for when we’re going to stop those,” he said. “I think we’re really going to continue to watch the guidance that’s being provided from the CDC, from the department of state health services, from our local health authority that tells us what the trends are out there, what are the things we need to be aware of, what the health and safety protocols are that we need to continue to follow.”

Taking precautions

Hospital officials are continuing to urge everyone to take safety precautions.

“We urge everyone to stay vigilant in protecting their own health as well as the health of family members, healthcare providers and our community by practicing proven tactics, including wearing a mask, frequent hand washing, maintaining social distancing and staying home when sick,” Dold said. 

Ledig said the majority of those infected with the virus will experience symptoms similar to the flu and will not require any treatment.

“What’s unique to this viral syndrome is the loss of taste and smell. An important thing is to quarantine if any viral symptoms start to show. Isolating yourself helps prevent the spread to others,” Ledig said. “Older individuals with chronic medical conditions are at a higher risk of getting sick or getting more severe symptoms. If you are at higher risk and start to get a fever or other viral symptoms, please call your doctor. Please seek medical help and go to the emergency department if you experience difficulty breathing, severe symptoms or any acute concerns.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued recommendations this week encouraging Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving and not to spend the holiday with people from outside their household.

The CDC’s Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz cited more than 1 million new cases in the U.S. over the past week as the reason for the new guidance.

“The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household,” she said.

If families do decide to include returning college students, military members or others for turkey and stuffing, the CDC is recommending that the hosts take added precautions: Gatherings should be outdoors if possible, with people keeping 6 feet apart and wearing masks and just one person serving the food. 

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