Guadalupe County officials on Friday confirmed the first report of a positive COVID-19 case in the county.
In response, County Judge Kyle Kutscher declared a state of disaster in the county, following in the footsteps of other Texas governments in recent weeks. The county’s first confirmed case of the virus was a result of travel, not community spread, Kutscher said Friday in a written news statement.
“As other counties have done around us, we have taken many precautions to protect our citizens,” he wrote. “We have been informed of our first case in Guadalupe County by the Texas Department of State Health Services. This case has been determined to be the result of exposure through travel, as opposed to community spread.”
County officials were not given details about the patient, including gender, age, location where they live, where they were tested or how much contact they’ve had, Kutscher said.
“We don’t have a tremendous amount of detail at this point,” he said. “We’re hoping to receive some additional information from the state, but we’re only allowed to make certain things public. I know a lot of individuals hearing this information will want to know all of the details surrounding the positive test in Guadalupe County, and we want to know additional information as well.”
The person who tested positive is not the Texas Lutheran University nursing student, who remains in self quarantine, said TLU’s Vice President Of Admissions And Marketing Sarah Story.
“Our nursing student is checking in with our team each day and she is still doing well — no temperature or symptoms,” Story said.
While there is not much information, Kutscher said it was imperative for the community to know what is happening and take the precautionary measures to stop the spread.
“We want the public to understand that this is a serious situation, but this does not cause us to panic or become so alarmed that people try to run out and do things outside their norm,” he said. “If we do the little things — wash our hands frequently, social distancing — it will make big difference later.”
Kutscher said it was only a matter of time before a case was confirmed in the county, and officials have already begun working to try and mitigate the spread.
“We weren’t so naive to think that we wouldn’t have a case in Guadalupe County,” he said. “We considered what we would need to do to take those steps in preparation for receiving this information and I want to assure you that Guadalupe County is doing everything we possibly can to protect the safety and well being of every county resident.”
That includes the county judge signing off an emergency declaration naming the county as a public health emergency disaster county.
The disaster declaration takes effect immediately and authorizes the county to take “any actions necessary to promote health and suppress disease, including quarantine and regulating hospitals, regulating ingress and egress from the county,” and locating those who do not comply with county rules, read the declaration.
This also allows the county to receive additional funding and resources from the state and federal government, Kutscher said.
Signing the declaration also enacted the county’s emergency management plan, and has the emergency operations center up and running.
“We want people to understand that there are a lot of individuals working on this around the clock,” he said.
Guadalupe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patrick Pinder said the declaration upgrades his office to a level 3 status.
“The means we are constantly monitoring the situation, and will continue to monitor it through the weekend,” he said. “We’ve increased our hours at the emergency management office. The emergency operations center is partially activate.”
The county’s office of emergency management stay in constant contact with the state, and continues to get updates from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’ve got open lines of communication with local jurisdictions with emergency management coordinators, mayors, and state representatives,” he said. “We’re just trying to make sure that all of the information that we are receiving is being transferred and transparent with the judge and the public.”
Additionally, it will begin paving the way for the state to allocate medical supplies to the medical providers in the county, Kutscher said.
“We’ve been asking the state for some additional supplies and requests, but with everybody asking for it at the same time, the state is not handing out that equipment, except for counties who have a tremendous need for it and a higher county on positive cases,” he said.
Healthcare providers seeking medical supplies should reach out to their city emergency management coordinator to submit requests, Pinder said.
Kutscher signed the declaration Friday. It will last up to seven days unless Guadalupe County Commissioners Court holds a public meeting prior and extends the declaration.