Texas' 1st Reported Death Due to COVID-19 Confirmed in Matagorda County

The patient was a man in his late 90s, county health officials said

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A man in his late 90s is the first reported death due to the novel coronavirus in the state of Texas, according to officials in Matagorda County.

The Matagorda County Emergency Operation Center said in a news release that a male patient in his late 90s died Sunday evening at Matagorda Regional Medical Center with symptoms consistent with the virus. The patient was a resident of the county.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family,” the statement said.

Matagorda County officials also confirmed a second case in their area.

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Officials said the state has launched an extensive investigation into this second positive case, informing the Matagorda County Hospital District that evidence exists of a possible community link to the earlier positive case in Matagorda County.

These positive cases come as Houston and Dallas closed bars and clubs, standardized tests for more than 3 million public schoolchildren were canceled and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday told the public to brace for a surge in coronavirus cases as the outbreak continued to dramatically reshape life in Texas.

“We are at a pivot point in the trajectory of the virus. History will say that we prioritized human life,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top county official in Houston. “It will say that if we erred, we erred on the side of action.”

The sweeping and sudden moves tracked with other cities and states around America taking similar — if not even more dramatic — steps to curb the spread of the pandemic that has resulted in 3,800 cases around the country alone. Texas has nearly 60 cases and Abbott told reporters that results were still pending on more than 300 tests.

He also warned that the number would skyrocket as Texas races toward a goal of testing 10,000 people by the end of this week. “People just need to prepare, and not be shocked, for the mathematical reality,” Abbott said.

Abbott has left the difficult choices of whether to limit mass gatherings or close restaurants and bars to local officials, saying that each community are best suited to make its own decisions. On Monday, it was Houston and Dallas taking the biggest actions yet, limiting restaurants to take-out or delivery service and putting new restrictions on other parts of daily life. Dallas officials prohibited community gatherings of more than 50 people and ordered gyms and theaters shut for seven days.

In Houston, restaurants will be limited to takeout for 15 days. Officials said the decision was driven, in part, by still seeing large crowds of people this past weekend in the nation’s fourth-largest city.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with preexisting health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild cases recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe ones may take three to six weeks to get well.

More than half of Texas’ 1,200 school districts have already ordered extended closures. The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, also known as STAAR, is the state-mandated test given annually to students from elementary through high school. About 3.5 million students took the tests during the 2018-2019 school year, and state officials expected that it would have been more this time around.

But even after Abbott told schools it did not have to administer the test, it remained unclear how canceling STAAR would affect students who need certain tests to advance to the next grade level or graduate.

How to Avoid COVID-19 Infection:

The best way to prevent infection is to take precautions to avoid exposure to this virus, which are similar to the precautions you take to avoid the flu. CDC always recommends these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

*Information shared from the Office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Copyright NBC 5 and The Associated Press
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