The Texas Department of State Health Services office in Tyler is temporarily not accepting Paris-Lamar County Health District specimens for Covid-19 testing because the state office lacks a reagent, local officials said.
Gina Prestridge, director of the local health district office, on Tuesday confirmed a comment by Paris Mayor Steve Clifford that the Tyler lab is rejecting specimens because it has “run out of reagents.”
“This isn’t likely to change in the next 2 weeks or so,” Clifford said. “So even if the virus is spreading rapidly in our community, we cannot possibly have confirmation of this due to the inability to test.”
The health district has tested 20 people, a number that increased by just one since Thursday, according to the latest report from the Lamar County Covid-19 Joint Information Center. Two of three positive tests were done by the Paris-Lamar County Health District. The third was completed by a private physician, Prestridge said.
“(The Tyler office) will let us know when they reopen for testing,” Prestridge said. “We are still assisting private providers and the hospital with Covid screening.”
Specimens are being accepted at private labs, Prestridge said, acknowledging the number of locally available tests remains “minimal.” She previously said the health district is unaware of how many specimens private providers have sent for testing, though they are required to report any confirmed Covid-19 cases to district officials.
State officials have said thousands of tests are on their way to Texas, however, it’s expected that most of those will go to hard-hit areas like Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio before becoming more widely available in rural areas where case counts are low.
“Due to other geographical areas experiencing a higher volume of Covid-19 cases, supplies at this time are extremely limited and the capacity to test is minimal,” Paris Regional Medical Center communications director Savannah Abbott wrote in a Friday news release about the hospital treating a Covid-19 patient in isolation. “If you are sick, running temperature, experiencing a dry cough and/or respiratory issues, it is imperative you stay home and self-quarantine for 14 days and contact the Paris-Lamar County Health District.”
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.
Prestridge urges those with fever, cold or flu symptoms to stay home and call their primary care physician for advice. Those with severe, rapid progression of shortness of breath should alert an emergency room so they can prepare to isolate the patient.
As of 8 p.m. Monday, there have been 42,992 tests completed in Texas, according to the health services department. There have been 3,266 cases reported and 41 fatalities. Harris County with 563 cases has overtaken Dallas County’s 549 cases to lead the state’s 122 counties where the virus has been confirmed.
Staff reporter Mary Madewell contributed to this report.