A Grand Prairie resident is Tarrant County's sixth positive case of the new coronavirus and is the county's first presumed case of coronavirus that was locally transmitted, health officials announced Tuesday.
The person has no known exposure to a confirmed case and has no recent travel history, health officials said in a statement. At a briefing before the Tarrant County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, county public health director Vinny Taneja said the person is a healthcare worker.
"[They] had been tending to sick individuals throughout the week that had respiratory illnesses, so that’s our likely source where this person got it," Taneja told reporters afterwards.
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That person is currently isolated at home after developing symptoms, Taneja confirmed. Due to HIPAA laws regarding the confidentiality of health information, public health officials cannot specify what this person does as a healthcare worker. It is also not immediately clear where they worked or what kind of facility they may have worked in.
However, Taneja added no one at this person's facility is currently under quarantine, because no one else appears to be sick or is showing symptoms at this time.
The latest case further highlighted the need for people to provide information to their provider on their symptoms or if they have had contact with any other cases before arriving, Taneja said.
"Many things happen with that. First of all, they’re not going to make you wait in the waiting room. They’re going to put a mask on yourself if you’re showing symptoms and probably try to prioritize you getting to a room where you’re staying isolated. Then all the people attending to you, nurses and doctors coming in, they’re probably going to wear probably PPE, because they have an indication now that you’re potentially a person who has the disease," he said. "In the regular flu season, almost everybody coming into their office has some kind of respiratory illness, right? There’s a lot of people that are sick with the flu. They don’t always have that concern with the flu, because we’ve taken our immunizations. We have anti-virals available, but with COVID 19 – we don’t that available, so they need to take extra precautions."
The updated information was presented at the emergency meeting Tuesday. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss an extension on a declaration of local emergency regarding the coronavirus pandemic signed by Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley last Friday.
At the time, the declaration was to expire within a week as part of a procedural process. As of Tuesday, it has been extended to 90 days.
"The extension just gives the same authority that I would have had in that seven day period. We talked about purchasing. The purchasing agent and I can make purchases without it being approved ahead of time and there’s no limit on that," Judge Whitley explained.
The county's prior cases have included a person who went on an out-of-state trip, the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, a close contact of an American Airlines pilot who tested positive and a UT Arlington student. The pilot is not counted among the cases, officials said.
There are two cases of the new coronavirus in Southlake, and one each in Arlington, Benbrook and White Settlement.
Tarrant County Public Health does not disclose the gender or approximate age of patients. The county's labs cover a 33-county region for COVID-19 testing, officials said.
At the meeting, Taneja explained the state of limited testing in Tarrant County and the shortage of control samples. The lab can currently perform up to 48 tests a day, he said.
"The big delay has been, we’re still manually extracting so people are taking their time to do that. Automated extractors are available and ready, we just don’t have the reagent ready for them," he explained. "We’re reliant on our federal resources just to give us that material. Our folks are trying to get it in the private sector, but larger labs have already sort of consumed that supply also. So, we’re trying our best to get materials here and get ready and start doing that at a larger scale."
Taneja also stressed the importance of social distancing in an effort to stop or slow the spread of the virus. County officials add, it only works if everyone cooperates.
"We are going to address this by an hour by hour basis. What I’ve said is, I hope you will stay at home. I can’t force people to stay at home. They have to use their own common sense," Whitley said.
The latest numbers Tuesday show there are nearly 6,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. There have been 97 reported deaths and 17 recovered, as of this writing.
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