Conroe - Montgomery Edition | June 2020

Health Care Edition 2020

SUPPLY VERSUS DEMAND After an initial lag in testing supplies, Montgomery County implemented a voucher program May 13 for residents to be tested in Spring or Conroe. Residents can obtain a voucher from the county for a free test from one of several facilities.

“We’ve been able to open up our economy safely without an increase in positive case percentage.” However, the county also reported its highest number of new cases on June 2 at 44. The second-highest peak was April 14 at 42 newcases. Casesmay continue to increase as testing ramps up, health ocials said. Access to testing Although there have been concerted eorts to increase testing availability in Montgomery County, the resident demand for testing has not kept pace. The county faced an initial testing shortage due to a statewide backlog that had prevented the opening of free testing sites, said Misti Willingham, the public information oce for the MCPHD. In April, the MCPHD reported it had entered a request to order emer- gency supplies from the state for 1,000 COVID-19 test kits—and received six. The Montgomery County Oce of Homeland Security and Management also requested COVID-19 testing kits and was told the state may send some in August, the MCPHD said. Up until early May, the closest free testing option for Montgomery County residents was Butler Stadium in Houston. On May 13 the county implemented a free voucher program for residents to be tested in Spring or Conroe. The voucher program’s launch came two weeks after ocials approved the pur- chase of 12,000 tests, with funding provided through the federal corona- virus relief package. About half the tests will be reserved for symptomatic individuals, while the remaining half can be used for anyone regardless of symptoms, ocials said. Test usage is based on resident demand, and the county may hold back some tests in case of possi- ble future case spikes, MCPHD CEO Randy Johnson said. As of June 3, there were 11,460 unused vouchers countywide, accord- ing to America’s ER, one of the test- ing locations. That means 4.5% of the vouchers have been used. America’s ER announced June 2 it would close its drive-thru COVID-19 testing facility at WoodsEdge Com- munity Church on Gosling Road on June 4. According to the state- ment, the entity has no plans to open another drive-thru site due to decreased public demand for corona- virus testing. Drive-thru testing is still

available at America's ER facilities. “In the event of COVID-19’s resur- gence, America’s ER will re-evaluate the need for large-scale drive-through testing … and will reopen a new drive- through facility to help with testing demand if we are able to do so,” o- cials wrote. Clendenin said the best way to con- tain an infectious disease is to test every individual, and she estimates about 2.8% of the state’s population has been tested as of June 1. Testing those with various symptoms as well as those who are asymptomatic is crit- ical to understanding the scope of the virus, she said. This was a challenge early on, when the state’s testing supplies were low and individuals needed to exhibit cer- tain symptoms such as coughing or a fever to be tested, Clendenin said. This meant people who had been in contact with someone with the coronavirus could not necessarily get tested even if they suspected they had been infected, she said. “In order to make the most ecient use of our testing capacity, we tested the symptomatic people,” she said. “We would advise [these individuals] to go and get a test, and they couldn’t because they had no symptoms or the symptoms didn’t match.” But symptoms associated with COVID-19 keep changing as more cases are reported, and about 50% of peo- ple who have the disease are asymp- tomatic, which is why the criteria for testing has largely dropped, Clendenin said. Still, asymptomatic individuals are not likely to get tested yet and are still spreading the disease, she said. Following Gov. Greg Abbott’s man- dates to test every nursing home and food processing center in the state, Clendenin said she expects this per- centage to increase. Following testing, individuals who have been exposed must be isolated to prevent further Even as testing has increased, there are questions surrounding the reli- ability of the data. When Texas began reporting its coronavirus cases in early March, it combined antibody and viral testing under total tests. Antibody tests indi- cate whether a person was previously infected, while viral tests show if an individual currently is infected. Com- bining the two lowers the reported spread, she said. Inconsistent data

CONROE MEDICAL DR.

WOODLANDS PKWY.

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MCBETHWAY

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LONE STAR FAMILY HEALTH CENTER 605 S. Conroe Medical Drive, Conroe 936-539-4004 www.lonestarfamily.org

WOODLANDS FUNCTIONAL FAMILY MEDICINE 8000 McBeth Way, Ste. 190, Spring 281-298-5476 www.woodlandsfammed.com Hours: Mon.-Thu. 8 a.m.-5 p.m., 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Fri., closed Sat.-Sun.

Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-1 p.m., closed Sun.

America’s ER announced June 2 it would close its drive-thru COVID-19 testing facility at WoodsEdge Community Church on Gosling Road on June 4. According to the statement, the entity has no plans to open another drive-thru site due to decreased public demand for coronavirus testing. Drive-thru testing is still available at America's ER facilities in Magnolia/The Woodlands and Cypress. GOSLING ROAD TESTING SITE CLOSES

positivity rate, which is the ratio of positive tests to total tests. On May 20 the Texas Department of Health and Human Services began reporting its antibody tests separately. Montgomery County tracks anti- body tests but does not include them in case count totals, Willingham said. Data from the MCPHD and the Texas Health and Human Services Commis- sion shows from May 1 to June 1, the county’s positivity rate decreased by more than half, from 12% to 5.4%. The state’s positivity rating has decreased from 8.3% to 5.9%. How the state is reporting its total tests is not readily available. The HHSC did not begin reporting cumulative tests by county until April 21. Willing- ham said because private health care providers are only required to notify the MCPHD of positive results, the countymay not have an accurate num- ber on all tests. Clendenin said reliable data is key to understanding how COVID-19 acts within a population and implement- ing a mitigation strategy. “We’re still learning a lot about this disease, and that makes data clarity and purity really dicult,” she said. Hospital capacity, preparedness From a hospital capacity and emer- gency response preparedness stand- point, Montgomery County ocials said they are equipped to handle a possible second wave of cases.

HCA Conroe said in a statement it has the ability to adjust its beds and units to care for a variety of patients as needed. General hospital bed usage inMont- gomery County increased fromMarch 30 to May 28, from 494 beds in use to 585, the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council reported. The larg- est spike was May 12, at 1,109 beds; still, this did not ll the 1,251 total available beds. Representatives from Kelsey- Seybold Conroe, which opened in March, said they have enough per- sonal protective equipment, and the facility has been screening patients vir- tually rst before letting them on-site to reduce exposure to the coronavirus. The Conroe Fire Department has adjusted its emergency medical oper- ations by screening its medical calls to see whether patients potentially have the coronavirus as well as setting up a centralized decontamination system, Conroe Fire Marshal Steve Cottar said. Clendenin said she believes there will be public health repercussions from opening the state, although she said the state had little choice. “It really was a no-win situation,” she said. “We did what we had to do.”

ANNA LOTZ AND BEN THOMPSON CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT.

For more information, visit communityimpact.com .

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CONROE  MONTGOMERY EDITION • JUNE 2020

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