The Brazos County Health District confirmed five additional positive cases of COVID-19 in Brazos County on Wednesday morning, bringing the total number of county cases to 21. A second individual has been hospitalized, according to the health district.
Brazos County Alternate Health Authority Dr. Seth Sullivan said in a Monday press conference that “there are still very large constraints around testing” and said it is most essential for older and higher health-risk individuals who are exhibiting symptoms to receive testing. He also said that testing for health care providers as needed is vital, and that efforts are ongoing to increase testing availability.
“We are not planning that we will have mass testing available; we are taking action before that becomes an eventuality. Many testing sites have ramped up capacity, and we are hopeful that that becomes available in the coming weeks,” Sullivan said Monday.
Area health care providers have worked in recent days to increase COVID-19 screening and testing capacities, including drive-thru options. Area providers CHI St. Joseph, Baylor Scott & White Health and CapRock Health said Tuesday and Wednesday that such options are only open to those who receive initial screening approval.
Area providers are also expanding telehealth options for numerous kinds of medical care to give patients options outside of in-person visits.
Brazos County is under a shelter-in-place order until April 7 in an effort to limit the community spread of COVID-19. The health district said its next press conference is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
CHI St. Joseph Health announced this week that no visitors will be allowed in the hospital; exceptions will be managed by medical decision makers in the areas of end-of-life, pediatric, NICU, labor and delivery, and patients who need language services. However, under no circumstances are children under the age of 18 allowed in their facilities, according to CHI St. Joseph.
In a Tuesday afternoon phone interview, Dr. Lon Young at CapRock Health said that CapRock has screening set up for those reporting symptoms and a drive-up option for those approved by their health provider.
“We currently do have adequate supply to meet the testing needs of patients who meet current criteria. We don’t currently have supply adequate to test all people who might have symptoms and feel like they need a test,” Young said.
Young said that drive-thru options can help to limit potential exposure.
He added that CapRock is “at about the same capacity” as normal, but that the makeup of patients and cases has shifted in recent days and weeks as the pandemic has continued to unfold.
“It’s important to understand that that’s because we have had a decrease in certain types of visits, and an increase in potential coronavirus patients,” Young said, noting that the absence of a majority of the Texas A&M and Blinn students contributed in part to a decrease in certain health issues even as COVID-19-related concerns rise.
Young said that he has spoken with other area health providers and leaders on a regular basis.
“Currently, we’re fine,” Young said of area capacity. He said because local experts are able to look at other states and countries’ COVID-19 infection and hospitalization patterns, he urges the public to take the situation and the shelter-in-place orders seriously.
“Let’s be proactive and try to shut down local transmission before it gets to that level,” Young said. “I’m very pleased and impressed with the decisions of local leaders, and with their attention to this — and with their willingness to access expertise.”
A Baylor Scott & White Health spokesperson provided The Eagle with information via email about their drive-up screening options.
If a BSW provider advises that a patient should be tested for COVID-19, the email reads, specimen collection can be arranged. They have made drive-thru specimen collection sites available as an option for patients. They might be directed to these sites after completing an online screening questionnaire and subsequent consultation with a BSW medical team.
For those concerned about their risk of infection with COVID-19, a free online screening questionnaire is available on MyBSWHealth, according to the email. If a patient receives notification that they should seek additional evaluation, MyBSWHealth gives options for next steps.
For patients who have needs that can be addressed from home, Baylor Scott & White has virtual care options such as “video visits.”
“We are committed to helping our communities navigate the uncertainty of this virus,” the email states.
In a virtual town hall with the A&M community on Tuesday, Dr. Martha Dannenbaum, director of Student Health Services, said that the SHS continues to operate and see students with modified processes in place, including the establishment of a separate clinic for patients reporting respirator symptoms. Dannenbaum said that in-person care is available following a screening process, and said that telehealth options are available for students to consult with health care providers remotely.
“Just know we’re there for you, and here to help you stay well and do well — even if you’re not physically on our campus,” Dannenbaum said to students on Tuesday.
Resources about COVID-19 are available on BSWHealth.com. To learn more about CapRock Health’s system, visit caprockhealthsystem.com/services/coronavirus-information/.