Towns in Rural North Texas Battle Coronavirus Like Big Cities

Palo Pinto County has seen seven positive cases of COVID-19

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With a population of 15,000, Mineral Wells is home to about half the people in all of Palo Pinto County, and like all of America, it’s dealing with the coronavirus.

Seven people in the county have tested positive for the virus.

At Palo Pinto General, the county's only hospital, the virus has changed everything.

"I would say, how it's changed my life, has been all-consuming,” chief executive Ros Korkmas said. “It's been something we deal with every day from the time we wake up until the time we go to bed."

Every employee gets screened as they show up to work.

Part of the hospital is sealed off to isolate COVID-19 patients.

Doctors and nurses wear full protective gear – even with possible cases.

"They come in showing signs and symptoms, we have to get them tested,” Korkmas said. “And while they're being tested, we treat them as if they have the COVID-19 virus."

Doctors at Palo Pinto General have transferred the two most critical patients to a Fort Worth hospital.

"Even as a physician I can tell you it's frightening to see how patients can go from something relatively mild -- they're mildly sick -- to developing to full respiratory failure within hours,” said Dr. George Thomas.

He said he has faith in the hospital’s new safeguards.

"In the face of adversity, it's really brought out the best in us," Thomas said.

It's been nearly a week since Palo Pinto County saw its last positive test which raises obvious questions.

Has the peak hit yet?

"I think it's too early to know right now,” Kormas said.

And when is it safe to reopen?

"Every community is different. It's not a fix-all plan,” the mayor said. “So we're going to be very careful. We do not want to keep things closed down longer than necessary, but we certainly do not want to open this community back up and then have another influx of positives."

Underwood said local and county officials are working well together and will likely follow the lead of Gov. Greg Abbott.

“We believe we'll bounce back,” the mayor said. “My belief is we'll be a little different community when we get on the other side of this.”

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