Breckenridge Texan

Stephens County reports first local case of COVID-19

Stephens County reports first local case of COVID-19
April 03
13:53 2020

The first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, has been confirmed in Stephens County.

According to Christy Begeman, the Chief Nursing Officer at Stephens Memorial Hospital, the hospital received the results early this morning, Friday, April 3. Begeman announced the information in a news conference at the hospital and later addressed the Stephens County Commissioner’s Court at the courthouse.

Stephens County and the City of Breckenridge will have a live update at 2 p.m. today, April 3, on the County’s Facebook page. Representatives from the hospital, sheriff’s office and police department will attend. The public may submit questions through the County’s Facebook page.

Christy Begeman, Chief Nursing Officer at Stephens Memorial Hospital, talks to the Commissioners Court on Friday morning, April 3, about the first COVID-19 case in Stephens County. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

The hospital has set up a triage phone line that will be answered 24 hours a day by a registered nurse to answer anyone’s questions about symptoms they may have. The nurses will help callers determine if they need to see a doctor. That phone number is 254-559-2241, extension 1315.

Because of privacy laws, the hospital cannot release very much information about the patient. However, Begeman was allowed to say that the patient is an elderly man who was tested on March 20 after going to the clinic with symptoms including a fever, cough and some gastrointestinal issues, which are now recognized as symptoms of COVID-19. He has been at home since March 20 and has not been outside of his house, except to go to his mailbox and back, Begeman said.

Although he has been isolated at home for the past 14 days, prior to that he was “fairly active in the community,” she said. The patient’s wife also had similar symptoms but has not been tested. Begeman explained that they usually don’t test family members of people who have tested positive because they assume that anyone else in the household has been exposed and treat them accordingly.

Begeman said that the patient was one of the first people tested in the community. Because he did not meet the CDC guidelines to have the test sent to the state testing lab, SMH sent the test to a commercial lab.

“At that time, that lab was only sending them to one place to test, so there’s been some backlog of the first tests that have been done, not just within our county but everywhere using commercial labs,” Begeman said. “That’s why it’s taken so long to get this one back. If they do meet the requirements and we can send them to the state, we get those back within 24 hours. But, we did hear this week that the commercial lab we use is now able to send it to multiple labs and not just that one. So, further testing, hopefully, will not be taking 14 days.”

The patient also was tested for flu, strep and other illnesses, and he was negative for those. He had mild symptoms, and three days after he visited the clinic, the patient’s health practitioner followed up with him and he was feeling much better, Begeman said.

The CDC’s recommendations for coming out of quarantine or self-isolation are that the patient needs to be symptom-free for 72 hours or to have two consecutive negative tests. Since the local patient has been symptom-free for at least 72 hours, there are no plans to re-test him.

At the news conference, Stephens County Judge Michael Roach reconfirmed the need for the community to maintain vigilance in trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I want to say thank you to the hospital. They’ve been amazing through this process,” Roach said. “We planned for this day. This is why we got out in front of this early on, because we knew, in our local community, it was so important to treat this as the real threat that it is.

“We just want you to remain calm,” he continued. “All the things that we are doing are for your protection. So, the rules that we have set into place, the things that the State has done through Gov. Abbott are so important. That you wash your hands, maintain that social distancing, the things that the grocery stores are doing, the things here at the hospital and the other businesses in town that are (being) implemented for your safety are so important. So, we thank you for being vigilant. Let’s stay vigilant.”

Roach also said that the County intends to increase enforcement of the coronavirus-related laws that are in place.

“From a law enforcement/emergency management stand point, we’re going to up our enforcement of the orders that are in place,” he said. “So we want to make sure that there’s no co-mingling of families, that you do shelter-in-place. If you don’t have an essential need to leave your home, please don’t leave your home. You can leave your home for obvious reasons, to go to the grocery store, the doctor, those kinds of things. Outside of that, we ask that you don’t do that, that you stay at home, you stay within your family group, your immediate family.

“Thank you for abiding by those rules. Thank you for being a part of the solution and not being a part of the problem,” Roach continued. “We knew this day would come. We’re ready; let’s move forward with hope. We’ve always said it’s fact over fears. We’re in this together; love Breckenridge. We’re going to make it through this. So, hang tough and do what you know to do, and we’ll be fine.”

A few minutes after the news conference ended at the hospital, Roach returned to the courthouse for the Commissioners Court. After Begeman spoke to the commissioners, they addressed the County’s continued response to the coronavirus threat.

The courthouse will continue to be closed, but anyone who needs to take care of urgent business can make an appointment. The commissioners voted to leave the disaster declaration and shelter-in-place order in place.

The commissioners also voted to purchase a computer for Tim Ford, the attorney that the County has contracted for defense services, so that he can use a videoconferencing app to participate in district court cases.


Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Christy Begeman, the Chief Nursing Officer at Stephens Memorial Hospital, announces the first local case of COVID-19 at a news conference Friday morning, April 3. Other local leaders attended the news conference, including, pictured in the background, Stephens County Judge Michael Roach, Breckenridge City Manager Andy McCuistion and Mayor Bob Sims. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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