Old results show some bogged-down reporting systems

RAYMONDVILLE — A two-month backlog of more than 200 Willacy County COVID-19 cases shows many labs across Texas continue to be bogged down in processing and reporting test results, officials said.

On Friday, state health officials sent Willacy County 205 test results dating back to about June and July, said Dr. Emily Prot, Region 11’s medical director for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Across the state, the backlogs are helping skew COVID-19 case counts in some Texas counties.

“This is not only our region — it’s all of Texas,” Prot said.

While 43 labs continue to be bogged down, 330 are reporting timely case results, she said.

“When these labs are testing hundreds of people, they have to send demographics (and other information) to our system and that takes time,” Prot said.

On Friday, the backlogged cases pushed Willacy County’s total case count over 1,000.

“They had a backlog of over 200 cases they’ve sent over to us,” Frank Torres, the county’s emergency management coordinator, said, referring to state health officials. “My understanding is it’s a backlog or delay in the reporting of the cases. It has a lot to do with how labs log into the system and report. I’m assuming it’s not just my county.”

Torres described the cases as inactive.

“None of those cases are considered active anymore,” he said. “They are no longer under quarantine.”

The backlogged cases weighed down the total case count in this rural county of about 22,000 residents.

“It’s a significant amount,” Torres said of the number of backlogged cases.

On Thursday, Torres reported a total case count of 866.

After receiving the backlogged cases, he added the 205 old cases to the list.

Backlogs skew total case counts

Since the coronavirus outbreak, backlogs have skewed state and local case counts in offices lacking staff to process unprecedented COVID-19 test results and conduct investigations.

In July, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. announced county officials were clearing a backlog blamed in part for pushing the county’s total case count from 7,827 to 10,155 new cases while driving its death toll from 177 to 206 between July 27 and 30.

On Friday, Cameron County’s total case count stood at 21,563 while the death toll had climbed to 701, Cameron County Public Health reported.