‘Peculiar critter’

Staff Writer
Stephenville Empire-Tribune
Dr. Kelly Doggett

The latest trend seen in local COVID-19 test results for Stephenville and Erath County is that there has been an increase in the number of positive tests among a younger group of people — ages 20-29.

“Over the last 10 days, it sure is,” said Kelly Doggett, who is the designated local public health official for the city of Stephenville. “It’s a peculiar little critter.”

In addition to Doggett, the designated local public health official for Erath County is Dr. Jeffery Moore.

The current number of positive tests for COVID-19 — within the city and Erath County combined — reached 55 as of late Thursday afternoon, County Judge Alfoso Campos said Friday morning.

The latest numbers posted by press time Friday on the Erath County website showed 55 total positive cases for the county. The overall breakdown by gender is 29 males and 26 females. There are 35 active cases, and 19 people who have been categorized as recovered. Erath County has had one death, who was someone in his 80s.

Those statistics also showed that the 20-29-year-old age group has had the largest number of positive cases in Erath County overall, with 24. Ranking second is the 40-64-year-old age group, with 17. The group ages 30-39 has had six cases, while 65 and up has four cases, followed by 12-and-under with three, and one among ages 13-19.

Also, the county website shows that there have been three hospitalizations.

Doggett told the Empire-Tribune on Thursday that he had received a message from the Texas State Department of Health Services asking if he might have any ideas about why there has been a recent spike in the local numbers, particularly among 20-29-year-olds.

“People are getting out more, and a lot of people are not wearing masks at all. It’s frustrating,” Doggett said. “Most (recently) are young and most are in their early 20s.

“Part of it is large gatherings. You can see they’re not social distancing. A lot of the vulnerable people we worry about are staying home.”

Doggett added, “A lot of them (the younger ages) are trying to resume normal life. The bad thing is, a lot of them have no symptoms.”

Doggett noted, “Nine major city mayors have asked for local controls as far as mandating masks. Gov. (Greg) Abbott’s executive order (for Texas’ pandemic guidelines) supersedes anything from the county and local level. It’s really not up to us. The county doesn’t really have the power to do that.”

Doggett also mentioned, “Eighty percent of people that get it will be fine. Twenty percent get sick, and of that a small percentage go to the hospital.”

Doggett pointed out some oddities — that the deaths of some relatively young and healthy adult athletes have been attributed to the virus, while some older people “in their 80s and 90s” have survived it. He noted that there was a story published about a 113-year-old woman in Spain who survived COVID-19, as well as a 102-year-old woman in the Dallas area who survived it.

Below are key excerpts from the Erath County news release emailed Thursday afternoon from Judge Campos, with the latest numbers added:

The (five) cases, along with one un-reported case from yesterday (Wednesday), bring the Erath County total to (55) positive cases. One of today’s patients required hospitalization while the other two are monitoring their symptoms in isolation.

The increase follows a trend in Central Texas and around the state. The latest numbers indicate most of the positive cases have come form the 20-29 age group. Today’s hospitalized patient brings that number to three total hospitalizations.

With more activities being held, please remember to minimize your exposure. This is especially important for people who are 65 years of age or older or who have underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer. People with these conditions are at higher if they do get COVID-19, and the safest thing for them during an outbreak will be to stay home as much as possible and minimize close contact with other people.

City and County Emergency Managers, Local Officials and the Local Health Authorities monitor the infections and overall situation constantly. Our main concern is for the public health and safety of our residents.

Please remember: according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, there are things everyone can do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:

1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

3. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

4. Stay home when you are sick.

5. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then wash your hands.

6. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

For detailed information on the evolving COVID-19 situation please consult the Texas Dept. of State Health Services dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus.