On Tuesday, March 17, the Galveston County Health District (GCHD) confirmed a second presumptive positive case of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in a Galveston County resident. The individual is a male ranging in age 45-50. He presented to a UTMB clinic with symptoms including fever, dry cough, sore throat, headache and body ache. Test results from UTMB show he is positive for COVID-19. Results are pending confirmation from the Houston Health Department laboratory.
An initial investigation shows the man has not recently traveled or come into contact with another infected person. This suggests the first signs of community spread in Galveston County. For confidentiality purposes, GCHD is not releasing additional identifying information about the man. GCHD is conducting an epidemiological investigation and is working to quickly identify close contacts of the man.
GCHD is strongly encouraging event organizers to take a moment and consider if their events or conferences may be held virtually or postponed.
“We do know social distancing helps reduce the risk of infection in the community the sooner you do it,” said Galveston County Local Health Authority Dr. Philip Keiser. “We want people to think through the particulars of their event. Do you have participants who are in an extremely high-risk group? Think about what the risk is to you and the elderly and high-risk people you may be around. You may not be at a high risk, but who are you around when you leave? The elderly? Those with compromised immune systems? We really want people to focus on the particular risk. It’s not always tied to a particular number.”
People at higher risk include older adults and people who have chronic medical conditions such as lung and heart disease, as well as diabetes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends canceling all events of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks and in areas where there is even minimal COVID-19, events likely to include 10 or more people at high-risk for serious issues should be cancelled.
This may include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings and more. This recommendation does not apply to day-to-day operation of organizations like schools, institutes of higher learning or businesses.
There are steps you can take to keep you and your loved ones protected:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you’re sick.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash. If tissues are not available, cough and sneeze in your elbow. Do not cough and sneeze in your hands.
- Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Get a flu shot. The flu vaccine does not offer protection against COVID-19, but it is also flu season.
Call your healthcare provider if you are experiencing fever, cough or shortness of breath and are concerned you have come in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient or have a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of symptom onset.
“It is important that you call first so they can evaluate your risk and determine if they need to see you in person so that other patients are not potentially put at risk,” Keiser said.
For more information on COVID-19, visit www.gchd.org/coronavirus. If you have questions about COVID-19, please call the GCHD information call center at 409.938.7221, option 1.