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COVID-19 questions remain. “The collection method is not the best,” official says.

Davilyn Walston, public information officer for the Southeast Texas Regional Emergency Operations Center, said the No. 1 problem local governments face in response to COVID-19 is the collection method.

“We are doing our absolute best to try and give everyone what we have,” she said. “We’ve run into some obstacles, and that is that we can’t give you what we don’t have. The collection method is not the best, but this is a public health event. It’s not a law enforcement event. This is the first time we’ve ever had to run an operation like this and I am amazed at how well it is running.”

Walston addressed questions and concerns Wednesday at a Press Club of Southeast Texas virtual meeting regarding the future of the new novel coronavirus and its effect on the community. Positive and negative tests results come directly from health departments and can take upwards of five days for results.
Walston said the extra time is the difference in life and death.

“When you go to your physician or a test site and they test you for COVID-19, the results don’t come from the hospital or the doctor,” she said. “It goes to the health department, and I don’t understand why it is that way.

“To me it seems to add a whole other couple of days before they get the test results. It’s deadly for those at risk and it’s a problem we know about, but no one has been able to fix. That’s one obstacle that is huge. That is what sticks with me the most as a problem.”

Instant tests rolled out to selected hospitals across the nation last week. CHRISTUS St. Elizabeth in Beaumont received an unknown amount and shared a batch with Baptist Hospital. Instant tests are not for sale.

Walston said gathering information from recovered patients is also a difficult part of the process.

“It’s been a fight,” she said. “It’s not someone trying to keep the information from the public. It’s trying to get the information to the public. If you have tested positive, are at home quarantining and you start to feel better, how do we get that information from you? We can’t check in. It has to be the health department.”

The EOC currently counts 18 individuals quarantined in ICU across the three major hospitals in Beaumont. Nineteen are in hospital beds but not in ICU.

The COVID-19 call center in Jefferson County reached a total of 4,004 calls Wednesday with 121 calls and 1,863 patients tested between the Port Arthur and Silsbee sites. Jefferson County counted 20 recoveries among the 144 positive cases.

From Monday to Wednesday, Port Arthur reported no new cases.

Walston said while numbers are decreasing in sections of the county, she is expecting social distancing guidelines to have a long-term effect on the community.

“There’s going to be a new normal,” she said. “We’ve never had this in our age and lifetime, even in our grandparents’ lifetime. For example, from the very beginning, how do you know you can only catch it once? You can catch the flu every year, why not this? We just don’t know.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions, but we know that things are going to change. We are not going back to the life we had. Homeschooling, meetings on Zoom, these are going to be a lot more accepted and practiced then they were in the past. We are going to rethink the way we do things.”