Kerr County no longer considers positive coronavirus results reported by Peterson Health as "confirmed active cases" and will only rely on numbers from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
So, how many active COVID-19 cases does Kerr County have? Only three, according to Dub Thomas, the county's emergency management coordinator.
Since Monday, Peterson Health has reported 19 new cases of the virus and more than 20 since last Wednesday, which would likely invalidate the county's mask exemption — except that's not a real number, according to county officials.
"The numbers could get confusing if I start adding up PRMC numbers to DSHS numbers before they are entered into the DSHS system," Thomas said in an email to The Kerrville Daily Times.
At Peterson Regional Medical Center there are four people hospitalized with the virus.
When it comes to what to report, Thomas says that he can only count on the state, and it says three. That's unless you look at the state's public facing website used to track the virus, and it says there are 152 active cases.
Without providing specifics, Thomas said that the state has criteria to determine if a case is active or not.
"DSHS reviews all those cases to make sure they meet certain criteria to be an active case," Thomas said in the email. "Active cases become recovered cases based on a 10-day to 14-day recovery period."
Just how long it takes DSHS to consider a case active remains unclear. Since the start of the pandemic, Texas has struggled to provide accurate numbers via its various platforms run by DSHS.
For instance, today's Texas COVID-19 dashboard says 590 people from Kerr County have tested positive — that number hasn't moved in two days. County officials have previously cautioned against relying on data from the state's public facing COVID-19 data, because it's often delayed. Instead, they've argued — via press releases — that data from Region 8 was more accurate, but it was Region 8 that reported the information incorrectly on this latest change in numbers.
Earlier this week, DSHS admitted it had undercounted more than 3,000 cases, including as many as 144 in Kerr County, among counties in the department's Region 8. The county blamed that backlog on the state not properly counting cases among private physician offices.
So, who to believe?
Peterson Health officials said they're sticking with their numbers for now and not reporting the state's total number of cases until they have a better understanding of the data that the state released on Monday. As of Thursday night, Peterson Health said 490 people have tested positive for the virus in Kerr County since April 1.
Of those 490, 19 have tested positive since Monday.
Last week, Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly, without consulting Peterson Health and other community stakeholders, asked for and got an exemption to the state's mask mandate because the county was under 20 cases. Thomas told Kelly and members of the Kerr County Commissioners Court that the county was under the threshold and could ask for an exemption.
The catch is that once the county goes over the 20 active case threshold the exemption is invalidated. In turn, the county would have to have no positive cases for 30 days before it could apply for an exemption again. The county has had positive cases almost daily since April.