Covid-19 has begun “community transmission” in Lamar County.
The county’s third case, reported just a few hours after officials announced a second case on Friday, is the first known case that is not travel related, according to Paris-Lamar County Health District Director Gina Prestridge.
A patient with Covid-19 was in isolation Friday at Paris Regional Medical Center, said Savannah Abbott, the hospital's communications director. It was not clear which of the three infected patients was being treated there.
Few details have been released about Lamar County’s cases. Prestridge reported the first case March 19, and Lamar County Judge Brandon Bell said it was "travel related." Paris Mayor Steven Clifford later added the person "returned from travel abroad and had immediately been placed in quarantine along with family members." The second case was reported at noon Friday, with no other details than it was travel related.
Clifford said Friday’s test results were "not at all unexpected" given the contagious nature of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Covid-19. He hoped the results would not lead to panic, but rather serve as “a wake-up call” to those who are not following the advice of state and local authorities, such as practicing social distancing and limiting visits to essential public places like grocery stores.
"I stated (Thursday) in the City Council meeting that I was almost certain that there were other people in the community who were infected with the virus. Although I did not know this for sure, it was a logical conclusion considering our knowledge of how the virus spreads," he said.
"I will state again that it is a near certainty that there are many other people in the Paris area who are infected with the coronavirus. The severe limitation on our ability to test people in Lamar County has masked the presence of the virus in our community leading to a false sense of security. The virus is definitely here, and it is almost certainly spreading to more people in our community every day."
Prestridge confirmed the limited availability of testing supplies, attributing that to “other geographical areas experiencing a higher volume of Covid-19 cases. She advised residents who feel sick, who are running a temperature, experiencing a dry cough or respiratory issues to stay home, self-quarantine for 14 days and contact the Paris-Lamar County Health District.
"If your symptoms rapidly progress and you need immediate medical attention, call 911 or the hospital and let them know you have been ill, your symptoms and whether you have been under quarantine," she said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems.
Clifford warned residents to expect more positive test results in the coming weeks. While rural Lamar County is unlikely to experience what’s happening in New York, which has become the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. with more than 40,000 cases, he said the advantage decreases when the public does not follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
"When you hear about these cases, know that the best way that you can protect you and your loved ones is to follow the guidelines established by state and local authorities," he said.
Fannin County reports 2nd case
Fannin County’s health authority Dr. James Froelich also on Friday confirmed a second Covid-19 case.
In a letter to Fannin County residents, Froelich said the case "was contracted out-of-state and was suspected by the patient upon their return home to Fannin County in the 75418 zip code."
"Because of increased vigilance on the part of the infected individual, immediate home quarantine was instituted and they have not left their house since returning to the county," Froelich wrote.
The doctor said the patient is younger than 30 and had "a fairly rough time with flu-like symptoms," including cough and moderate breathing difficulty.
"They have since improved greatly," he said, adding two family members remain symptom free.
Froelich said the family's "unselfish conduct" minimized the exposure in Fannin County, and he thanked the patient and their family members for allowing him to discuss some details of their case.
In a Wednesday letter to Fannin County Judge Randy Moore, Froelich had reported no additional cases, saying he “received final SARS-CoV-2 test results on several county residents" and "all tests have been negative."
"In order to calm some of the fears in the county and correct some misinformation circulating, I would like to announce additionally that one of those negative test results was on a Fannin County employee," Froelich wrote. "That employee was kind enough to give me permission to report their negative test so that we can bring facts to dispel fears."
Fannin County officials on March 18 confirmed a single known case of Covid-19 in the county, saying a 64-year-old man in Bonham had tested positive for the disease. He was quarantined with another family member, Fannin County Clerk Tammy Biggar said. At that time, Froelich reported the man was “doing excellent.”
"The SARS-CoV-2 is a very dangerous virus," Froelich wrote. "Given the opportunity, it will infect an untold number of Texans. Prudent, smart, and simple personal health habits in combination with social distancing will minimize the spread of the virus and stop the death that can accompany it.
"So do your part to help. Don't congregate, don't touch and please protect others from your coughs and sneezes."