State removes 27 cases from Willacy’s virus count

RAYMONDVILLE — State health officials have scratched 27 cases of the coronavirus from Willacy County’s total case count after finding a glitch in the reporting of COVID-19 test results.

On Thursday, Frank Torres, the county’s emergency management coordinator, said the cases were removed because they had been duplicated or the patients didn’t live in the county.

State officials had originally reported the cases in September.

Now, the county’s total case count stands at 1,172.

“When they did contact tracing, they found out the cases were either duplicates or that the patients were not residents of Willacy County,” Torres said. “So they adjusted the state count for record-keeping purposes. All we’re doing is making sure our record keeping is accurate.”

It’s the second time the state adjusted the county’s total case since the pandemic broke out in March.

Early last month, state officials added 205 cases to the county’s total count after clearing a backlog of cases dating back to about June and July.

At the time, Dr. Emily Prot, Region 11’s medical director, said 43 labs continued bogged down in reporting COVID-19 test results while 330 labs were reporting timely results.

The backlog shows many labs across Texas continue bogged down in processing and reporting test results.

On Thursday, Torres said reporting glitches should be expected as state officials continue to process thousands of test results across Texas.

“It’s the nature of the beast,” he said. “When local health departments are having backlogs, you can image what it’s like for an agency dealing with multiple counties.”

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 Wednesday, Cameron County’s total case count stood at 23,612, according to Treviño’s office.

On Wednesday and Thursday, state health officials found three additional Willacy County residents had tested positive for the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, Torres reported a woman 50 to 59 years old had contracted COVID-19.

Then on Thursday, he reported a boy between 2 and 9 years old had tested positive.

For about a month, the county’s number of new cases has dropped after a dramatic late spring and summer surge swept across much of the country.

“We’re happy to see that our numbers are not coming in volume,” Torres said.

Across much of the country, officials are attributing the drop in new cases to residents’ following federal guidelines aimed at controlling the spread of the virus.

“We need people to keep their guard up so they continue social distancing, wearing masks when necessary and avoiding and not hosting mass gatherings,” he said.