Local COVID cases, hospitalizations continue to rise in Brownwood

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Covid update

From Friday, July 30 to Tuesday, Aug. 2, the Brownwood/Brown County Health Department received 91 positive COVID test results, with 18 hospitalized in Hendrick Medical Center in Brownwood.

The health department released those numbers Wednesday. On Friday, Aug. 6, the health department will release a new set of numbers for the week, keeping with its usual practice.

The numbers in Brown County have been increasing since mid-July: from 37 positives and one hospitalization on July 16; 107 positives and four hospitalizations on July 23; and 128 positives and 11 hospitalizations on July 30.

For the past several months, the health department has released weekly numbers each Friday. With the numbers on the increase, the department is releasing a mid-point set of numbers on Tuesdays.

“When we had our regular emergency management team meeting last week, we discussed moving to a twice-a-week reporting schedule just to make sure that we’re providing information timely to the public and to make sure that they have the information that they’re wanting,” said Cliff Karnes, public health preparedness coordinator and lead epidemiologist for the local health department. 

Vaccinations  

As of July 30, there were 11,179 Brown County residents that had been fully vaccinated, which is 33.98% of residents 12 and over, the health department reported.

Karnes said the health department is working to determine the percentage of the cases and hospitalizations in which patients had been vaccinated.  

“When we do a case interview, we ask them about vaccination history,” Karnes said. “Then we will check in the data base to verify immunization. Or if the individual doesn’t answer our phone calls, we try to track that information down. That’s something that we report back to the state.

“So we have that data, but we’re going back through now to quality the data to make sure that we have the accurate number. It’s taking a little bit of time. We want to make sure that the data that we give out is accurate.”

The health department hopes to finish the verification of the data by the end of this week, and to start reporting those numbers the following week, Karnes said.

“We’re going back now and verifying each case to verify the vaccination,” he said. “Up until just a week or so ago, we were just asking during the interview, but we wanted to verify that against the immunization registry to ensure that what we were reporting was indeed verifiable.”

Delta variant

There has been one confirmed case of the delta variant in Brown County, Karnes said, adding that a process known as genotyping is required to determine the variant.

“We deal with the state public health lab,” Karnes said. “There’s a criteria that has to be met for a case to be genotyped. Then we request genotyping with the public health region's lead epidemiologist. They verify and approve the genotyping. Then we collect that specimen, send it to the public health lab in Austin, and they genotype the specimen. It takes usually seven to 10 business days to get the genotyping done and resulted.”

He said the health department received the Delta variant confirmation last week.

“So far we’ve only requested one genotyping of a case that was referred to us from a physician for genotyping,” Karnes said. “The state’s pretty strict on that criteria because it is such a lengthy process for that to occur. Not every case can be genotyped. We prioritize genotyping for the more severe cases.”

Physicians have the option of requesting genotyping through private labs. “That’s between the individual and their physician as to what decision they make, or if that physician submits requests for genotyping to labs that have that capacity," Karnes said.

Brown County COVID deaths

As of July 30, a total of 142 deaths from COVID have occurred in the county, the health department reported.

The department's most recent report of deaths was July 23, when two occurred.