Fort Bend County health officials said Wednesday they have confirmed Texas’ first “presumptive case” of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, outside of quarantine.
The county Health & Human Services department said test results on a 70-year-old Fort Bend man who had been traveling abroad, and who was currently hospitalized and in stable condition, were being verified by the CDC.
The patient, who was not being identified, was sent to the ER by his doctor after presenting with COVID-19 symptoms, according to Dr. Jacquelyn Johnson Minter, director of the Fort Bend County Health & Human Services Department.
Because the case was travel-based, there is still no evidence of community spread, she added.
“This presumptive case is actionable and we are treating it as a positive,” read a statement from the county health department. “Fort Bend County Health & Human Services has started an epidemiological investigation and is leading the effort to quickly identify close contacts with the individual. Close contacts may include family members, co-workers, emergency responders, and other contacts.”
In a statement, Gov. Greg Abbott said the state has been planning for lab testing, public health investigation and isolation, and care for people who test positive.
“Over the past month, the state of Texas has been preparing for this moment, and we are confident in the steps we have taken to safeguard our communities against the coronavirus,” Abbott said. “We anticipated this situation, we have protocols in place, and our state agencies and personnel are trained and ready to respond.”
“The state of Texas remains in contact with our federal and local partners, and we will continue to work together to ensure Texas communities have the resources they need to respond to any additional cases of the coronavirus,” he added. “Our top priority is public health and safety, and I urge all Texans to follow the preventative guidelines provided by the Department of State Health Services.”
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner both reiterated that there no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Houston or Harris County.
"While people need to remain vigilant, there is currently no need for average Houstonains to take out-of-the-ordinary protective actions,” Turner said.
At a press conference Wednesday Fort Bend County Judge KP George said the county was coordinating “around the clock” with health agencies throughout the region, including the Houston Health Department and Harris County Public Health.
“I assure all residents in Fort Bend County and in this area, all the top local, regional and statewide entities and experts are on top of the situation,” George said.
Dr. David Persse, Houston’s public health authority, was also coordinating with the agencies, and said Wednesday Houston now has the ability to quickly perform internal testing using real samples of the virus. The test takes about a day, and once a presumed positive is found, it is sent to the CDC for confirmation, as was the case with the Fort Bend sample. CDC has not officially confirmed the sample, but Persse believed it would be found positive for the virus.
DSHS officials said they’re supporting the county in identifying close contacts so they can be isolated, monitored for symptoms and quickly tested.
If confirmed by the CDC, the Fort Bend patient would be the first case of COVID-19 outside of a federal quarantine in San Antonio, where passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship were housed at the Lackland Air Force Base.
Fort Bend County Health & Human Services asked residents not to go to the emergency room unless it is essential, and that for symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, a regular doctor should be contacted first.
The state also recommended washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, the county said.
Other tips from the state include:
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands. Remember to wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.