Lubbock officials highlight COVID-19 efforts after spike in cases

Officials with the City of Lubbock discussed the largest daily spike in Lubbock COVID-19 cases, outbreaks at local nursing homes and efforts to help small businesses during a virtual news conference Monday.

Katherine Wells, director of the Lubbock Health Department, said Lubbock County saw the largest spike in positive COVID-19 cases Sunday with 37 cases. This spike reinforces the need to practice proper health procedures.

Updates were also provided regarding outbreaks at local nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

"Through Sunday, the health department is reporting 307 positive COVID-19 residents in Lubbock County," she said.

The health department is screening facilities that saw outbreaks of the virus, Wells said. Also, there is more testing at University Medical Center, Covenant Health, primary care offices, emergency departments and at the public health laboratory.

Regarding those considered recovered from the virus, Wells said the health department must evaluate a recovering individual and make sure their symptoms are clear before releasing them from isolation. In Lubbock County, there are 72 people who recovered.

All people reported positive for COVID-19 in first five days of the outbreak in Lubbock County have recovered, Wells said.

Regarding deaths related to COVID-19 in Lubbock County, Wells said the youngest person to die from the virus was in their 50's. Nine of the confirmed deaths are over 80-years-old.

Another topic discussed during the news conference was the outbreak at local nursing homes.

"As of Sunday, April 12, there were 85 individuals with COVID-19 who are currently residing in a long-term care facility or assisted-living facility," Wells said. "In addition to these 85 individuals, there are another 60 individuals who work in these facilities and were likely exposed to the virus while at work."

Dr. Ronald Cook, local health authority, said the community is doing well facing the pandemic, but there still is room for improvement in regard to social distancing.

To understand how the community is improving, Cook said one must consider the doubling rate.

"The doubling rate is actually the number of days it takes to double the number of positives in any given time period," he said. "We average that over about six days."

Lubbock's doubling rate is about three and a half days, which is not the best rate. In nursing homes, the doubling rate is three days, and in the rest of the community, the rate is about four and a half days, which both result in the aforementioned average of three and a half days.

"So, if we look at the U.S. in total, the average doubling rate is about nine days. So, why aren't we there yet," he said. "Well, part of it is the east coast and the west coast are on the backside of their peaks, at least that's what we hope, and so, their numbers are getting better."

Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope said the city will start identifying those metrics as discussions are being made regarding restarting the city's economy.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott hosted a news conference Monday morning to discuss an initiative that will set aside a fund of $50 million to help small businesses during the pandemic.

For efforts moving forward to potentially reopen businesses in Lubbock, Pope said the city will listen to what Abbott's take on the issue. For any business to be reopened, certain precautions will need to be put into place.

There are multiple factors that go into whether businesses can reopen, Pope said.

"There will be a number of metrics we look at from the health side of things before we get started," he said.

Due to the number of cases being confirmed in Lubbock, Pope said it is not responsible to reopen now. More consideration of this issue will be taken in the coming weeks.