Breckenridge Texan

Community continues to see new COVID-19 cases each day; officials ask residents to help stop spread of disease

Community continues to see new COVID-19 cases each day; officials ask residents to help stop spread of disease
December 02
17:24 2020

By Tony Pilkington and Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Stephens County continues to see relatively high numbers of active COVID-19 cases, reporting 100 new cases in the past month, not counting the cases at the Walker Sayle prison unit.

According to the numbers posted on the Stephens Memorial Hospital Facebook page, on Oct. 30, there had been a total of 181 positive COVID-19 tests in the county; on Dec. 1, the hospital reported that there were a total of 281 cases.

Also on Monday, Dec. 1, Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, sent Stephens County Judge Michael Roach a letter informing him that the county no longer meets the definition of a county with minimal COVID-19 cases. That designation allows the county to be exempt from stricter state guidelines based on the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations at area hospitals, even if the rest of the area is subject to the stricter guidelines. According to the letter, a county may not reapply for that status until they have had fewer than 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in the last 14 days.

Stephens County has had 41 new cases (not counting new cases at the prison) since Nov. 18, according to the COVID-19 Update posted by Stephens Memorial Hospital on Monday.

However, Roach said, that despite the letter, most of the county’s businesses may still operate at 75 percent capacity; bars are limited to 50 percent capacity. Local businesses may continue to operate at 75 percent capacity (bars at 50 percent) as long as the “trauma service area” that Stephens County is in does not exceed the 15 percent threshold of COVID-19 hospitalizations out of total hospital capacity for seven or more days. In other words, if hospitals that serve a specific area have so many COVID-19 patients that they are more than 15 percent of hospitals’ total capacity for an extended period of time, then all of the communities within that area must enact stricter health guidelines to try and lower the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Stephens County is in trauma service areas that include Abilene, Wichita Falls and Fort Worth, Roach said. Although the current situation does not require the stricter guidelines, continued increases in the number of hospitalized COVID-19 cases in the area could change the situation.

In a COVID-19 Update on Wednesday afternoon, Roach, along with Breckenridge Mayor Bob Sims and Breckenridge Interim City Manager Scott Dixon, encouraged the community’s residents to wear masks and practice other safety standards advised by experts.

If the situation gets worse and more people are hospitalized, hospitals will have to start prioritizing who gets treatment. Additionally, the state or federal governments might have to send in assistance.

“Because if you have five people in need of a vent and you only have three (vents) that you can really use, it’s bad news for a couple folks,” Roach said after the update. “And that’s something we don’t want to get into.”

Dixon agreed, describing a potential scenario. “What do we do (if the local hospital is overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases)? We rely on other hospitals. When they get full, we have federal resources available,” he said. “That takes some time to implement. In the interim, you know, your mother, your father, your grandmother, your grandfather, or what have you, that happens to need a vent … and there’s no one to provide it. They’re suffering and their health is declining, every minute, hour that goes by until that help comes. So that’s why it’s so important. That’s why we’re taking it so seriously. This is something that can really affect the community.”

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to inform the public that they should “wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet apart, avoid crowds, and wash your hands often.”

All of Texas is still under a mask mandate issued by Gov. Greg Abbott. According to the order, which is still in effect, “every person in Texas shall wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household.” There are a few exemptions listed on the order.

According to the latest data from the CDC, in the United States, based on reported cases and reported deaths, COVID-19 has about a 2 percent death rate – about two percent of the people diagnosed with the disease have died. The latest numbers show that there have been 13,626,022 cases of COVID-19 and 269,763 deaths from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

In the 2018-19 flu season, there were more than 35,500,000 cases of flu-related illnesses and 34,200 deaths caused by the disease, the CDC reports. That means that the flu death rate was less than one-tenth of a percent (0.09 percent).

Current Situation

According to the SMH report on Wednesday, Dec. 2, Stephens County has 45 active cases of COVID-19 with four people hospitalized locally. That brings the county up to 283 total positive cases over the course of the pandemic. Additionally, there are 11 pending tests and several cases at the prison.

Getting tested

Anyone who has been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or who has symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested. Stephens Memorial Hospital offers COVID-19 tests. To schedule a test at SMH, call your doctor first.

Additionally, CVS Pharmacy in Breckenridge offers testing. To schedule a COVID-19 test through CVS, visit the CVS website,, and click on the red “Schedule a COVID-19 test” button. You will be asked to answer a few questions, and if there are available appointments, you will be directed to choose a date and time to take the test. CVS offers the test free of charge to people without insurance and who meet financial qualifications. The opportunity to apply for a free test is also on the website.


Cutline, top photo: Breckenridge Interim City Manager Scott Dixon, Stephens County Judge Michael Roach and Breckenridge Mayor Bob Sims held a COVID-19 Update on Wednesday afternoon to inform the community about the current coronavirus situation. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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