For now, Anderson County is losing the battle against COVID-19.
On Tuesday, the county reported its first COVID-related death; on Wednesday for the first time it exceeded a total of 200 positive cases and more than 100 active cases.
Positive cases denote the total number of positive tests for COVID-19 since the county reported its first coronavirus case on March 31. Active cases represent the total number of people who carry the coronavirus now and can transmit it to others.
Typically, it takes 14 to 18 days from the time an infection results in a positive test until the virus has runs its course.
On Tuesday, the county confirmed a record 16 new cases. With 13 more new confirmed cases Wednesday, the total number of positive cases rose to 207, including 111 active cases.
The county's one death involved a 76-year-old male.
“We're losing this game right now,” Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston told the Herald-Press. “There are a certain number of people who, for whatever reason, just don't believe this is real.”
Johnston encouraged all Anderson County residents to wear masks in public, in keeping with Gov. Greg Abbott's proclamation last week that made masks mandatory in public for all Texans in counties with 20 or more active cases of COVID-19. Violators face fines of up to $250.
Despite the governor's proclamation, roughly 20 percent of the shoppers in area supermarkets were not wearing masks last weekend.
“If we wear masks and follow the rules, I think we'll see a leveling off in three or four weeks,” Johnston said.
On Wednesday, Anderson County, along with the Texas Department of Emergency Management/Texas Department of State Health Services team, conducted a Walk-Up COVID-19 test site at Palestine Civic Center. The test site was scheduled to run until 5 p.m., but had to close at 1 p.m. because it had reached the allotted maximum of 300 tests.
The state has capped the number of tests at local sites so that state labs don't exceed processing capacity.
Wednesday was by far the biggest response Anderson County has had to any testing site.
Other counties in Texas also have reported sharp increases in new COVID cases, as summer vacations and holidays increase the number of social gatherings.
“The numbers are blowing up all over the state,” Johnston said. “I think it's opened some people's eyes
that this thing is real. I hope it has, because it is real.”
Johnston has arranged another Walk-Up testing site for Saturday, July 18. That site also will be limited to 300 people.
In related news, Johnston said the Texas Department of Criminal Justice reported 366 positive tests – 361 inmates and five employees – at the Coffield Unit, following mass testing last week.
Anderson County's prisons also have reported two deaths.
The state started including prison numbers in county totals on June 15. That pushed Anderson County's official count from 102 confirmed cases on June 15 to 989 on June 16.