San Patricio County tests first resident for COVID-19, Nueces County to begin testing Thursday

SINTON – First off, residents can’t simply be tested just because they think they have the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Nueces County has received test kits and are preparing the drive-thru test sight for the first regional screenings beginning on Thursday. But for those in San Patricio County that fear they might have the virus, they must first go through the SPC Health Department in order to have a test done first.

The process works like this – if a resident feels like they have COVID-19 symptoms which includes fever, cough and shortness of breath, they can call Public Health Preparedness Department at 361-587-3530. There they will answer a series of questions, and if the Public Health Preparedness Department feels the resident has answered the questions in accordance to the guidelines set by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) then a test will be scheduled in Corpus Christi.

“Those requirements are still very strict at this moment,” Public Health Preparedness Manager Clara L. Rieder said on Monday. “You have to have either traveled and have shown signs of symptoms or have been near a positive case of COVID-19. If you haven’t done that, you don’t meet the requirements.”

Rieder said a majority of individuals that have been calling in are having flu-like symptoms or upper respiratory infections (COVID-19 affects lower respiratory) so in most cases it’s simply the flu or some other type of infection, likely due to allergies since it’s also spring cold season on top of flu season.

“You have to be initially screened within our county and by my office and also had the initial flu test and strep test over here before we can set up an appointment for you over there,” Rieder continued.

She also said that if the volumes of calls increase, a coronavirus hotline will be set up in a few days to help get answers to the public and aid in the freeing up of phone lines in the office.

And while there have been two reported cases in the county, there has only been one resident tested so far.

“We’ve actually been able to test one person who had a very extensive travel history,” SPC Department of Public Health (SPCDPH) Medical Director Dr. James Mobley said. “He had been in six states in three days and 12 airports. I mean it was just boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, and he was also running a fever. So we arranged for testing on him and got the results back yesterday which were negative. 

“So our one test from the county was negative.”

While that’s good news so far, Mobley expects an increase in cases in the next two weeks as residents in San Pat County as well as neighboring counties begins.

“When we expand the amount of testing, what we’re going to find is there’s a whole lot of COVID-19 out there. We haven’t been able to so far, so you’ll see the number of cases really spike in the next few days. Not because we’ve got more cases, but because we’re able to do more testing.”

Mobley said that one problem they’ve already come across is places like Bee and Aransas counties don’t have their own health departments. Only about a quarter of counties in Texas have health departments so those that don’t have to go through the state government to get tests done.

“I’ll give you my personal prediction, and this is not speaking for anybody else,” Mobley said. “I think we will see an increase incases through the end of this month. And it will essentially peak or stay level through April then it’ll taper down through May and essentially be gone by June.

“I just based that on epidemiologic curves. It’s like predicting hurricanes and you never want to say it’s going to be a light season because then the big one will hit.

“What I think will happen is we just have to get through the next 60 days, and if we can do that, then we’ll be okay.”