Coronavirus Outbreak

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. (NIAID-RML via AP)

The Texas Department of State Health Services revealed Monday that one of its regional entities undercounted Kerr County’s coronavirus cases by 142 people, driving the county’s actual number of infections to nearly 600. 

On top of that revelation, Peterson Health said that seven people had tested positive for the virus over the weekend — just two weeks after the Labor Day holiday. 

The county said the overcount was from old cases in June due to a backlog created by not counting reports from local doctor’s offices. Peterson Health officials said the new numbers were “news to them” and they weren’t sure which numbers to count officially. 

County officials said there were nine active cases on Monday — a number that doesn’t match up with the number of cases reported by Peterson over the last week. 

Since Sept. 15, there have been 18 new infections reported. It takes 10 days for someone to be cleared of the virus. One person remains hospitalized at Peterson Health. 

To make matters even more confusing, the state said the county had 151 active cases — well outside of where the county should be when it comes to lifting the mask order exemption, which was granted to the county last week. If 20 people are actively positive with the virus, the mask exemption granted to the county would be removed and masks would be required.

The county’s new number —  according to the state, at least — is 586, and that doesn’t include Peterson’s latest numbers. 

The undercount included most of Region 8 of the Texas Department of State Health Services. The numbers for Gillespie, Kendall and Bandera counties also went up. 

In Guadalupe County, which includes the city of Seguin, more than 1,500 people weren’t counted as having tested positive for the virus. 

This latest reporting gaffe by the state continues to highlight the problems in tracking the coronavirus across the state and providing accurate information to local leaders, who are, in turn, faced with making decisions about how to manage COVID-19. 

The exact number of undercounts were more than 3,000 people across Region 8. Based on models from various COVID-19 tracking websites, Kerr County has had about 1% of its adult population test positive for the virus. 

While the county’s death toll remains at 10, none of those deaths have occurred at Peterson Health. It is believed that all of the deaths have happened in San Antonio area hospitals. 

Under the current trends, the county’s mortality rate is estimated at nearly 25% of the most seriously ill people hospitalized, but that remains unclear, because no local agency knows how many people have actually been hospitalized. 

When it comes to reporting problems, the state of Texas isn’t the only one with an issue. 

The top U.S. public health agency stirred confusion by posting — and then taking down — an apparent change in its position on how easily the coronavirus can spread from person to person on small droplets in the air.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that the virus spreads primarily through small airborne droplets, like those that fly through the air when someone coughs or sneezes. Most CDC guidance about social distancing is built around that idea, saying that 6 feet is a safe buffer between people who are not wearing masks.

In interviews, CDC officials have also acknowledged growing evidence that the virus can sometimes spread on even smaller, aerosolized particles or droplets that spread over a wider area. That’s one reason public health experts urge people to wear masks, which can stop or reduce contact with both larger droplets and aerosolized particles.

For months, the agency’s website said little about aerosolized particles. So, when the CDC quietly posted an update Friday that discussed the particles in more detail, the agency’s position appeared to have changed. The post said the virus can remain suspended in the air and drift more than 6 feet, and officials emphasized the importance of indoor ventilation. 

The post also added singing and breathing to the ways the virus can go airborne.

On Monday, federal health officials said the post was a mistake and that it had been released before full editing and clearance was completed. They said the CDC plans to clarify the agency’s thinking, but the agency did not immediately release a statement or revision.

In a statement released Monday, the agency said the revisions to the “How COVID-19 Spreads” page happened “without appropriate in-house technical review.”


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