First positive COVID-19 case confirmed in Fort Bend County as Texas labs gain ability to test

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a press conference on Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave an update on the state’s abilities to provide quick turnaround for testing on the state’s first confirmed COVID-19 case, which was announced as a “presumptive” case in Fort Bend County on Wednesday.

Abbott also discussed a case of coronavirus in Fort Bend County that has been tested at the Houston Health Department Laboratory.

Abbott was joined by Department of State Health Services commissioner John Hellerstedt, M.D., to give update on the state’s coronavirus testing abilities, which Abbott said contributed to the quick results of the case — testing on samples from the man in his 70s who recently returned from abroad took 24 hours.

Those results are now being tested for further confirmation with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Fort Bend County clarified later Thursday that it was still a “presumptive” case.

Just minutes after the governor concluded, Harris County Public Health announced Texas’ second and third confirmed cases of COVID-19, or the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

“First, good news: Texas now has the ability to test for COVID-19,” Abbott began. He explained that there are 10 public health labs within the group of labs with the ability of state testing for the virus.

Texas cities which have labs making up the Laboratory Response Network. (Photo Illustration: Wes Rapaport)

These labs are in Lubbock, Fort Worth, Dallas, Tyler, El Paso, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Harlingen — they make up the “Laboratory Response Network,” according to Abbott.

Not all of the labs are online just yet, he explained, but the ones in Tyler, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Harlingen will be up and running by the end of March.

The state lab can test about 26 patients a day, while the labs in Houston and El Paso can test for about 15 patients a day. Dallas and Lubbock can test about 10 patients a day.

Once all labs are ready for testing, the Laboratory Response Network will be able to test more than 125 COVID-19 tests per day.

Abbott and Hellerstedt explained that the patient did not contract the virus while in Texas and that an investigation into who he may have come in contact with while in the U.S. is happening.

Results from the CDC are expected shortly, said Hellerstedt.

“New ability in Texas will shorten time to get results and take appropriate steps,” said Abbott.

MORE: Airports prepare for ongoing effects of coronavirus outbreak

“All Texans have the ability to slow the spread of the disease,” said Abbott. He included advice for residents to stay at home if they feel sick and practice regular personal hygiene. Abbott also emphasized community response in making sure public buildings, and places where people gather — like schools and churches — are sanitized.

The governor commended Texans, saying that overall the general public is responding “the way they should” by not panicking. Abbott urged residents to contact their doctor if you have concerns and allow medical professionals to determine diagnoses.

Doctors talk to doctors

The president of the American Medical Association spoke to doctors and nurses at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin on Thursday. In her remarks, she delivered messaging for doctors to give their patients.

“Don’t panic, be prepared, look at the science, and get your Info from reputable source, and we say: that’s your physician,” Dr. Patrice Harris said.

Dr. Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association, speaks to doctors and nurses at the University of Texas Dell Medical School on March 5, 2020. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

Getting tested for COVID-19

If you are nervous you may have contracted the virus, there is a step-by-step process that must be followed.

People like Meghan McCamant, who has been self-quarantined since Tuesday under doctor’s orders, are frustrated at the amount of red-tape that must be navigated. However, it is the standard protocol currently being enforced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Austin Public Health and the Travis County Department of Health and Human Services.

“With my job, I interact with people all over the nation and all over the world, and so I let them know that,” McCamant said.

McCamant woke on Tuesday with flu-like symptoms including fever, aches and a cough. When her flu tests came back negative, her doctor suggested taking the next steps.

If you were to come down with something similar, the process would be the same.

Patients who fear they may have contracted the virus must:

  • Contact their doctor first.
  • If your doctor is concerned, they will alert Austin Public Health
  • APH professionals will screen you and your symptoms
  • APH analysis will go to Texas DSHS and CDC for approval
  • Upon approval, official swabs will be sent to a test center, which may take days to receive results

Austin Public Health has been made aware of McCamant’s case, she said.

On Monday, March 9, McCamant reported that her test came back negative for COVID-19. She reportedly told KXAN’s Erin Cargile, excitedly, “I can leave the house!”

If you feel sick, experts said to take it seriously. But it’s important to know that it will take time and your primary care physician will be the one to treat your symptoms during the process.

Travis County Testing

Austin Public health said Travis County still has at least one case where they’re waiting on results from the CDC.

Those were sent to Atlanta on Monday before the state labs had the official ability to test.

The county has not yet released those results.

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