An update on local COVID-19 cases and testing efforts both were topics discussed during a virtual City of Lubbock news conference Thursday.
Katherine Wells, director of the Lubbock Health Department, said there are a total of 575 COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday in Lubbock County.
“The department is pleased to see the number of cases remaining steady,” she said. “However, although the number of cases remain steady, it is too early to determine if the opening of businesses and the relaxation of some of the rules has any impact on our local numbers.”
It takes seven days on average for a person who contracted COVID-19 to develop symptoms, Wells said. The city will see the effect of reopening businesses in next week’s numbers.
There has been a total of 283 recovered cases, Wells said. The average recovery time is about 18 days, while it takes about 40 days for some people to recover.
In addition, a total of 47 COVID-19-related deaths have been reported, Wells said. Three of the last four deaths are not residents of nursing homes.
There are two categories the health department uses to group individuals who contracted the virus: exposure to a known case and community-spread.
Exposures to known cases, which typically take place in households or between people that work closely together, occurs when the infected person knows the sick individual they were in contact with, Wells said.
“The community-spread are really the ones where we don’t know where that individual contracted the virus,” she said. “We’ve gone through the investigation, they don’t know anybody that’s positive, we don’t know anybody that’s been around them that’s positive.”
In addition to case numbers, testing was another topic discussed during the news conference.
Regarding the number of COVID-tests administered in Lubbock County versus the number of reported cases, Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope said in the week of April 6, there only were two days the city tested more than 200 people.
“Well, the last week we tested 300 or more I guess four out of the last seven days, so you see the trend on testing growing,” he said.
Even with the increase in testing, Pope said the total number of positive test results are decreasing and staying down. This is a factor that allows city officials to feel better about reopening businesses in Lubbock.
Along with testing numbers, different types of COVID-19 testing were addressed.
Dr. Ronald Cook, local health authority, said there are two different types of antibodies considered for antibody testing: IgG and IgM.
“IgM is the one we make first,” he said. “There’s not enough testing supplies for that one. That one has not been released yet. The next one is the one that we provide that’s called IgG, and IgG antibodies are the ones we think are going to provide you the immunity to the virus.”
Experts do not know if the immunity is guaranteed, Cook said. Some antibodies do not last as long as others.
Currently, Cook said Covenant Health and University Medical Center are doing these tests.
“We’ve tested a number of individuals within the healthcare industry so far that very few have antibodies to it,” he said. “So, that tells me that they didn’t get infected and are doing a pretty good job of protecting ourselves with the personal protective equipment.”
Despite this testing, studies will need to be conducted from months to a year to determine if people can get immunity from COVID-19.
Regarding Americans’ views toward going to public places amid the pandemic, Pope said more than half of the citizens in the country are comfortable going to a grocery store, a third of citizens are comfortable going to a retail store and a little more than 22 percent of citizens feel comfortable going to a restaurant.
“Now, that’s going to improve as people realize that we can safely go back into our real world,” he said, “and we believe that a big part of that is through this effort with Lubbock Safe, which allows our businesses to voluntarily step up and say ‘We will adopt these sanitation and safety standards for our employees and for our customers.”
Pope is pleased the Lubbock Safe program is growing, he said.
With certain cosmetology-type businesses and other establishments working to reopen as soon as Friday, one may wonder about local businesses’ participation in the program.
Members of the cosmetology industry helped put in place safety procedures for cosmetology establishments to reopen, Pope said. These members of the industry worked closely with the Lubbock Economic Recovery Taskforce to develop those procedures.
“Eight personal services businesses have already gone through and certified as Lubbock Safe, and that’s of just this morning at 8:30 when we put that up,” he said. “So, it is getting good traction.”
Shelia Patterson Harris, District 2 representative on the Lubbock City Council, said the COVID-19 testing site open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Patterson Library located at 1836 Parkway Drive is the only city-facilitated testing site. Those wanting to make an appointment for the no-cost testing can call the Lubbock Health Department at 806-775-2933.
“While testing is being administered at Patterson Branch, there’s no curbside service there for the patrons,” she said. “But there is available, for the Patterson patrons, a home delivery service where requested materials, like what you would do at curbside service, will be delivered to your home, and the contact number to make that happen for you is 806-775-2851.”
There has been a total of 69 tests administered at the Patterson testing site since it opened on April 29, Harris said. She wants all citizens to have the opportunity to be tested.
“I want to also point out that this past Sunday, [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] implemented some new guidelines for COVID-19 testing,” she said. “What it does is it establishes some high-priority testing for individuals who make up a specific minority group.”
These may be groups of people that may not have symptoms or racial or ethnic groups that have been disproportionately affected by the adverse COVID-19, Harris said. Those groups currently are African-American, Hispanics and Latinos, some American Indian tribes, specifically the Navajo nation.
“We want to make sure that these citizens are being provided the opportunity to get tested,” she said. “Even if they’re not having any symptoms.”