Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston

Smith County, 45 miles from Palestine, confirmed seven new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, boosting reported cases in the Tyler area to 21.

As more testing uncovers more cases of the novel coronavirus, it's practically inevitable Anderson County will get a case soon. When it does, the county will urge residents to continue practices that protect them, such as rigorous hand washing and social distancing, but it will not impose further restrictions, Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston told the Herald-Press Wednesday.

Johnston issued the initial State of Disaster Declaration on March 19. Among other things, the declaration limits gatherings to 10 people.

Other East Texas Counties with confirmed cases also have not issued restrictions, beyond their emergency declarations.

Van Zandt County had one confirmed case as of Wednesday; Greg County had three. Rusk had its first confirmed COVID-19 patient last week; a second was reported Tuesday. 

Confirmed cases were analyzed by private laboratories and by the Public Health Lab of East Texas.

“Community spread means there is more than one possible source for COVID-19 to become acquired by any individual,” George Roberts, chief executive officer of NET Health, said Thursday.

“The public has the responsibility, more than ever, to follow recommendations from health officials, such as physical distancing yourself from others and limiting all non-essential travel within your communities.”

If you believe you have COVID-19 symptoms, call before going to your doctor or emergency department to prevent spreading the virus.

Smith County's 21 cases include the first COVID-19-related death in East Texas, a 91-year-old Smith County resident.

Smith County issued an emergency declaration March 16.

The Smith County website includes a banner with the latest corona-related updates. The county is also daily updating posting links to the Northeast Texas Public Health District (NET Health).  

Anderson County is included in NET Health coverage area, but technical issues plagued the audio quality of a live press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Rusk County Judge Joel Hale told the Herald-Press Wednesday Rusk County is following recommendations by the governor's office.

“We are practicing social distancing,” he said. “The courthouse is open but offices have limited access.

“As far as telling people to shelter in place, we have not done anything like that and I do not expect to. But if things change drastically, we may have to.”

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