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Hard to say if PA, Mid-County has overcome coronavirus curve, PAHD director says

After three straight days of no confirmed coronavirus cases to report, the city of Port Arthur saw an upward swing late last week, including the death of an African American woman between 55 – 60 years old.

The city is up to 33 positive cases as of Monday morning, four of which were announced Friday. The woman’s death, the second due to coronavirus in Port Arthur, was confirmed Saturday and two more cases were announced Sunday.

Port Arthur Health Department Director Judith Smith, however, said Monday she is unsure whether Port Arthur, Port Neches, Nederland and Groves has flattened a curve of COVID-19 cases or is at the top of it.

“I really don’t know,” she said. “It’s hard for me to measure. I don’t think so, to be honest. Many people are still being tested. The more tests we provide, unfortunately the more positive people we have.”

Smith said about 80 to 100 tests are being done daily at the Southeast Texas Regional Emergency Operations Center’s drive-thru clinic at Jack Brooks Regional Airport and adds the PAHD reports results as it receives them from the testing laboratory.

“If we tested on a Thursday, we may get some of those results [Monday]. Then again, we may not,” Smith said. “That’s how some days, you may see no reports because it’s either one or two things: We got all the reports and we saw we had nobody from PA or Mid-County, or all the tests we report on are pending. In some cases, we get them pretty fast.”

Most cases are confirmed within 72 hours of testing, Smith said.

Smith said the deceased woman was hospitalized and had not come through the drive-thru clinic. Smith was unsure how long the woman was hospitalized.

A white male between 45 and 50 who died of coronavirus earlier this month was not tested at the clinic either, Smith added. Both deceased persons had underlying health conditions.

Sunday’s confirmed cases included a woman between ages 20 and 25 and another between 50 and 55. The PAHD does not name coronavirus patients, citing confidentiality purposes.

The PAHD is focusing on the prevention of community-spread cases. Smith believes that will determine how quickly and how effective Port Arthur and Mid-County will be in slowing or stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re receiving more negative than positive, so that’s the blessing in all of this,” Smith said. “We do know those who tested positive recently are community-spread [cases]. We are able to trace now how the person was infected. But without any antivirals, the only thing that’s going to be effective is going through social distancing and doing those things that are necessary right now, like wearing facemasks, covering mouths when coughing or sneezing and things like that.”

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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