Starr County reports no active cases of COVID-19

As of Tuesday, Starr County has no active cases of COVID-19 following a more than weeklong streak of the county not reporting any new positive cases.

Dr. Jose Vazquez

“Everybody, out of the seven cases that we have, everybody has recovered,” said Dr. Jose Vazquez, the county’s health authority and board president for Starr County Memorial Hospital, adding that the county has signed off on their release from quarantine.

The county reported their last positive case of the coronavirus on Sunday, April 5.

“So today’s already the ninth day without any positive case in Starr County; I’m very proud to say that,” Vazquez said.

For people who tested positive for the virus and showed symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends discontinuing isolation after:

  • At least 72 hours have passed since recovery which is defined as the resolution of fever without having used fever-reducing medication.
  • Improvement in respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath.
  • At least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

For people who tested positive but did not show symptoms, they can be released from isolation when at least seven days have passed since the date of their test and they haven’t had any subsequent illnesses and as long as they remain asymptomatic.

Removal from isolation can also be determined through follow up tests but Vazquez said that in speaking with Dr. Emilie Prot, the Region 11 medical director for the Texas Department of State Health Services, he was told they are not performing repeat tests because of their limited testing capabilities.

“The only circumstance where they are advising that is just for people who are going to go into a nursing home,” Vazquez said.

Those who have been cleared of the virus and released from quarantine are still advised to stay home.

“Release from quarantine doesn’t mean they can go out and do whatever they want,” he said.

Vazquez added that unless they have been tested for immunity — and confirmed to have the necessary antibodies — they could still get infected without knowing.

While continuing to take necessary precautions, Vazquez said the county was in a good position, given the circumstances.

“The overall feeling in the community, and I have discussions every day with my colleagues and with the hospital, the overall feeling is that we have not seen upper respiratory infections or febrile illnesses in the last two or three weeks,” he said.

The hospital emergency room, he said, has seen about 15 to 16 patients within 24 hours while they typically see a lot more.

In the clinics, volume has decreased by 50% or 60%, he said, and every clinic is employing telemedicine.

“I saw about ten patients this morning, all of them through telemedicine and of those, none of them were upper respiratory infections or febrile illness-related,” he said.

“So I’m happy to see that the testing is going down because basically, we do not have sick people in the county,” Vazquez said. “And it’s not because there has not been access because every clinic is open, everybody has telemedicine.”

The hospital is fully operational, he said, reiterating that only about 15 patients were seen at their ER and added that only one patient was currently admitted there.

“So, it’s an excellent, excellent place to be in our community in the middle of a pandemic, where a lot of people are overworked and their system is really overwhelmed, to see that our system is totally under control and we are fully operational and ready to be taking care of patients,” he said. “This is a really comfortable situation to be at this point.”

The county is also expected to soon start offering quick testing at their drive-thru testing site, though they are still in the process of validating those tests.

Tuesday was the second day of the evaluation period, according to Vazquez, having conducted 11 of the quick tests on Monday.

Of those 11 tests, six were administered on people who previously tested positive and five were administered on people who either were in contact with somebody who had tested positive or who had previously tested negative.

“So far, the results have been promising, have been interesting,” Vazquez said. “It’s not been 100% accurate but I believe that at the end of the day, it will be close enough to the number that the manufacturer was claiming — around the 88%.”

It’s still early in the evaluation process, he said, and expects to test a few more.

“Depending on how those tests come back, I think I would be ready to start doing this publicly, to the citizens here in Starr County,” he said.