PERMIAN BASIN (Big 2/Fox 24) – April has come and gone here in the Basin but has left a tremendous impact due to COVID-19.
Midland County received its first COVID-19 case on March 19 when an inpatient at Midland Memorial Hospital tested positive. From then to the end of March Midland was heading into April with 16 confirmed cases and one death.
When March ended, there were 16 confirmed cases and one death. In April, numbers began to rise, starting on the second. Three cases were confirmed by Midland Health and the source of exposure was unknown for all three cases.
“Really where we are as a city is continuing to support what we have to support for our health and well being. We’re kind of turning a page here with the city and getting ready to help our citizens who are going through such a difficult time,” says Mayor Patrick Payton.
For a week of April the county would see 15 more confirmed cases in the Tall City.
On April 9 during the Unified Command Team conference, County Judge Terry Johnson introduced CHAT (County Health Assessment Tool). This service was developed by the county in order to gauge changes in the general health of the public during the pandemic.
“We’re getting a lot of information. The hospital has given unbelievable amounts of information. The state has given us a lot of information. But, I kind of wanted to see what can we do to gauge the health of our community in a good way,” states Judge Terry Johnson.
On April 12, the second COVID related death, and the first COVID related death of April, was confirmed. A woman in her 70s died Easter Sunday.
On April 14, per a release, 3 new cases of COVID-19 were reported from residents at Midland Medical Lodge. Also in the release, officials state 4 administrative members of Midland Medical Lodge tested positive earlier in the month.
At this time there are 35 confirmed cases overall cases in the county.
The third COVID related death was confirmed on April 17. The patient was a woman in her 90s and a resident of Midland Medical Lodge. This is also the first COVID related death from Midland Medical Lodge.
Meanwhile, as cases continued to trickle in, local leaders were fighting for the economy, which was experiencing historically low oil prices and the virus at the same time. Mayor Patrick Payton and Judge Johnson calling it a “double whammy.”
“We got a double whammy. We got coronavirus that’s kicking us in the backside. We got low oil prices,” says Johnson
April 24 during the Unified Command Team conference, County Judge Terry Johnson announced he will bring ‘Buying the Basin’ to county commissioners. ‘Buying the Basin’ is a resolution from the judge on buying and building locally to recharge the Midland economy.
Meanwhile, Mayor Payton worked with the city council and other Mayors across West Texas to develop a plan that was unique to the Permian Basin.
“Getting our economy back on its feet. Getting our economy moving again here in Midland and in the Permian Basin. It’s going to be a gradual slow process. There is really no way we are going to be able to just open the doors,” says Payton.
Although cases are still rising in Midland, Midland County Emergency Management’s Justin Bunche announced a mobile testing site in Greenwood that would expand access to testing for those in area around Midland.
Midland County would end the month with three new cases and 63 overall cases for April.
In Midland the age group with the most confirmed cases is those 80 years or older. The age group with the least amount is ages 60-69
Midland County divided transmission into four different categories: contact to known case, community acquired, unknown, and travel related. In the month of April the biggest transmission was through contact to know case and the least amount through travel.
More women than men were infected throughout the month of April.
Midland Medical Lodge
According to Midland Health, the first positive case from administrative members of Midland Medical Lodge was confirmed on April 3. The twentieth case for Midland was a woman in her 30s and source of exposure is travel related within the United States.
In a release on April 14, 3 cases were confirmed from residents in the lodge. The total number of cases at this time is 7.
The third overall COVID related death and second in April was the 17th. A woman in her 90s who was a resident from Midland Medical Lodge.
During that week 4 more cases out of Midland Medical Lodge were confirmed. Midland Health began mass testing on April 17th testing all residents and staff members.
After testing results return, 14 cases were confirmed from Midland Medical Lodge on April 20th deeming the lodge as a hot spot.
Of the 5 overall COVID related deaths on April, 4 of them were residents of Midland Medical. In a span of week 3 deaths occurred. April 21st a woman in her 80s, April 23rd a woman in her 70s and April 28th a man in his 80s. All were residents of Midland Medical Lodge.
Currently, state officials are on-site at Midland Medical Lodge monitoring their infection prevention techniques.
“This is necessary because this is a congregate location where there are positive cases,” says Midland Health Department Manger Whitney Craig, “the state being the one that regulates nursing facilities was the one to come in and provide assistance.
2 more cases would be confirmed on April 30 rounding off April at 43 cases confirmed from the lodge.
“I think we’ve done the best we can in a timely fashion with the information we had at the time. In hindsight, sure there are a number of things we could have done better throughout this pandemic,” says CEO/President of Midland Health Russell Meyers.
Staff and resident members were tested by Midland Health. But, a few staff members are not residents of Midland County.
According to Midland County Health Department Manager Whitney Craig, some staff members were from Howard and Dawson County.
But how do this numbers reflect compare to the overall count?
As the lodge ended the month with 43 cases those case numbers reflect almost three-quarters of the cases in Midland County. Even residents and staff members who are residents of Midland County claim more than half the cases.
Ector County received its first positive cases on March 27. In a Facebook Live the next day, Mayor David Turner stated he would be issuing a limited shelter-in-place starting March 30. As the county finished the month of March they had a total of 11 confirmed cases.
“What we want is get everyone to comply for the community,” says Mayor David Turner after signing is order to shelter in place.
On April 2, Ector County would announce 4 new cases being the first cases for the month of April. The source of exposure for the four cases is one of the cases being unknown and three being person to person.
In a weeks time, the county would see 30 cases confirmed.
In this time frame Ector County would see its oldest patient test positive at the age of 79.
The first COVID related death occurred on April 7.
That same day, reports of an employee on the west side HEB tested positive for COVID-19 but on April 21 she was arrested and accused of falsifying the claim.
Another COVID related death occurred on April 9 but Ector County officials say it would not reflect in the county’s data because the patient was not a resident. A woman from out of state was hospitalized at ORMC.
According to Ector County’s numbers, the 2nd overall COVID related death was on April 12th from MCH. The patient was a woman in her 30s.
In less than a week, Ector County would see two more COVID related deaths, which occurred on April 16 and 17. A man in his 60s and a woman in her 50s.
In the following week the county would see 18 new cases and its youngest patient testing positive at the age of 4 months old.
As for Midland County, Ector facing the same struggles with low oil prices and the virus. Mayor David Turner working with local officials and mayors from around the Basin working to reopen the local economy.
In a Facebook Live video on April 17, Mayor Turner showed his audience a trend line of cases that shows slow growth over the next few days and states if businesses want to open up that line has to start trending down.
“That is one of the keys. The people of Ector County are determining when we can open up. If you are not social distancing, if you are not washing your hands, if you are gathering in large groups, if you are going against any of those things we told you, you are going to make the businesses even closed longer,” says Turner.
MCH and ORMC holding daily conference and medical experts give their thoughts on opening back up.
“It is true that we are slowing down on the rise of cases. So perhaps it’s a good idea but it’s the rules we have to follow if we open,” says Doctor Rohith Saravanan, Chief Medical Officer at OMRC.
The county would then announce that the coliseum would be used as a drive-thru testing site. The goal was to test at least 16 people per day.
Ector County would round off the month of April with 67 confirmed cases.
In Ector County, the age group with the most confirmed cases is 30-39 while the lowest group being 70-79.
Ector County used three categories to classify transmission: person to person, unknown and travel. In the month of April the biggest transmission was person to person while travel related transmission was the fewest.
More women than men were infected throughout the month of April.
From a statewide persepctive, cases were being reported weeks before the first cases were confimred in Midland or Odessa.
Gov. Greg Abbott began mobilizing state resources in early March. STAAR requirements were waived for students and schools were closed, testing capabilities were ramped up and various laws and elections were waived in response to the outbreak.
By April 1, Texas had seen just under 4,000 cases in total with the majority being recorded in major metropolitan areas like Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.
On April 2, Gov. Abbott announced a stay at home order for Texas, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In the executive order, the Governor called on non-essential businesses to cease operations temporarily.
In the meantime, state lawmakers began securing protective equipment, expanded telehealth options and waived more regulations to support pharmacy, hospital and first responder workforce capabilities.
“Our EMS providers and first responders play a critical role in the front-line fight against COVID-19, and these waivers remove barriers that could otherwise prevent a much-needed availability of essential EMS workers and first responders in our communities,” said Governor Abbott in a statment April 2. “The State of Texas is committed to supporting the EMS and first responder workforce and maximizing the number of available response services for Texans.”
Additionally, the Texas emergency disaster declaration was extended on April 12 as numbers continued to rise. Texas saw the most COVID-19 related deaths recorded in a day on April 15 with 46.
It would be surpassed on April 30 when 50 COVID-19 related deaths were reported in one day. By April 15, the total case count statewide was at 15,492.
Just a few days later, The Governor would announce he would be creating a “Strike Force” of businessmen and women who would be tasked with creating a safe but productive way to reopen the Texas economy.
The first phase of their plan would be announced on April 27. At that time 25,297 cases had been reported in Texas along with 663 coronavirus related deaths.
“This strategic approach to opening the state of Texas prioritizes the health and safety of our communities and follows the guidelines laid out by our team of medical experts,” said Governor Abbott. “Now more than ever, Texans must remain committed to safe distancing practices that reduce the spread of COVID-19, and we must continue to rely on doctors and data to provide us with the safest strategies to restore Texans’ livelihoods. We must also focus on protecting the most vulnerable Texans from exposure to COVID-19. If we remain focused on protecting the lives of our fellow Texans, we can continue to open the Lone Star State.”
The executive order allowed some businesses, like retail stores, restaurants, and movie theaters, to reopen on May 1, but at just 25 percent capacity. Other businesses like hair salons would have to remain closed.
However, counties that had less than five confirmed cases were able to reopen at 50 percent capacity.
If numbers do not spike, Gov. Abbott said they would initiate phase two of the plan, which would bump capacity up to 50 percent.
In the month of April, Texas saw its largest spike in confirmed cases and fatalities. Cases increased to more than 24,000 as did the virus-related deaths at 724.
As of April 30, 28,087 cases have been confirmed and 782 deaths were recorded, stemming from the outbreak.