Health administrator: Brownwood COVID cases double over two weeks

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
covid graphic

Brownwood/Brown County Health Administrator Lisa Dick updated Brownwood City Council members Tuesday on COVID numbers which show active cases have doubled in the past two weeks.

There were 184 active cases as of Tuesday morning and 15 COVID patients were being treated in the Brownwood hospital, Dick told council members. A total of 35 have died from the disease.

Two weeks ago there were 90 active cases and on Oct. 27, there were 78, Dick said.

"That’s pretty concerning," Dick said. "So this is something that is growing."

 Dick added, "one of the other matters we have looked at for our community safety is the bed availability of the hospital. (Tuesday) morning there are 15 positive cases in our hospital. There are no ICU and no medical beds available. Earlier last week we had some discussion with the hospital. They’ve been working really hard at making sure that we increase that capacity.”

The hospital has requested and received nursing assistance from the state, Dick said.

Dick also spoke on the topic of "herd immunity." She said some people may be feeling more "comfortable" believing, as more recover from the disease, immunity is increasing.

But it's not known how long immunity lasts, Dick said. Some studies say immunity lasts a little less than three months and other studies say four to six months, she said.

“We don’t know enough about this disease to know what herd immunity looks like,” Dick said. “But we don’t think it’s a long-term immunity to the disease. We need to be aware of that as we’re looking at how we’re moving forward and how we’re taking care of our community.”

With less than 1/40th of Brown County residents testing positive for COVID, “we’re not approaching anywhere close to herd immunity," Mayor Stephen Haynes said. "I don’t think any of us know what the cause and effect is. We’re certainly seeing spikes.

"The thing that I’m looking at for our community’s sake is the fact that we’re not isolated. It doesn’t appear to be a Brownwood problem. It appears to be a state of Texas problem and maybe even larger than that. I’m not going to sit here and criticize the community and say ‘we need to do a better job with masks. We need to be more cautious.'" 

Haynes said the message is "the risk is higher. There’s a greater risk in our community than there was a month ago. So people need to be aware of that, take the appropriate precautions.”

Councilman Ed McMillian said his wife, Margie, who works in health care, became ill with COVID earlier this year, despite wearing a mask, gloves and using hand sanitizer — and, McMillian said, he also became ill with COVID. He said that happened in August. McMillian said his wife became infected from a patient she was caring for.

“Everybody preaches about the masks," McMillian said. "(Margie) had the mask, the gloves, hand sanitizer. And it didn’t help her. We ended up both getting it. The only way we can absolutely keep ourselves from spreading this is complete body armor.”

Dick responded, “And I know that certain occupations are more likely to receive that disease. Margie is in a higher risk occupation.”

Haynes added, "Obviously everyone needs to take precautions that are appropriate for them. Obviously wearing a face shield, wearing a face mask, may not be 100 percent effective. But for those who feel susceptible is certainly appropriate.”

On Monday morning, Dick spoke to county commissioners about the growing number of COVID cases. 

“I think about community spread, and I think that just doubles the opportunity that you would come in contact with someone that was positive," Dick told commissioners. "So what I’m asking is, that we start encouraging people to wear masks again ... that is one of the things that we know could help prevent the spread.

“We don’t have a vaccine available to us yet. We’ve been having discussions with the state so we’re hopeful that we’ll be getting that soon, but it won’t happen all at one time. So we need to plan for longer time of dealing with COVID. "

Dick also said, “Ultimately it is each individual person’s responsibility to decrease those risks in our community.”

Referring to the 35 deaths that have occurred from COVID in Brown County, Dick said, “I can tell you that there’s never been a flu season in Brown County, at least in the five years that I have been with the health department in this capacity that we’ve had 35 deaths."

Dick urged community members to take precautions including wearing masks, social distancing and limiting the number of trips in public.

“I know those are things that none of us like, but I know that we have seen unnecessary deaths — deaths that could have been avoided," Dick said. "We all know that eventually we’re going to die, but lives have been cut short because of this disease.”