No one knows, officials say, exactly how many cases of COVID-19 are in Wharton County, the state or the nation.
Infection numbers, just like fatality information, is trickling in to the local emergency management department, but reporting times aren’t consistent, and the big unknown remains the number of people with the pandemic-producing virus who were never diagnosed.
“The state is overwhelmed,” Wharton County Emergency Management Coordinator Andy Kirkland said Thursday as he posted the latest information available. At the time, there were 324 active cases in the county, of which 133 were in El Campo, five in Louise and one in Danevang.
The county reports seven confirmed deaths as a result of the virus while the state lists 17 Wharton County residents dead as a direct result of COVID-19.
“I have no idea where they get their data from,” Kirkland said. “On Monday, when they announced 17, we only had one. They gave six more to me.”
Sometimes demographics are released, Kirkland said, but added that’s no guarantee. Of the seven deceased his office has information on thus far, he knows one died in June and three in July. Three are elderly. Four are from El Campo and three from Wharton, but no additional information has been received.
Wharton County Judge Phillip Spenrath said the discrepancy was “sad” and “shocking,” but added, “It’s not surprising. I would have thought the count was seven or eight. We’ve all heard seven to eight deaths in the county. We’ve all seen it on social media, we know someone who has died of COVID-19 and it was listed as a possible reason for the death. Many of these deaths have been openly shared three to four weeks.”
Spenrath told commissioners court, that once the Texas Department of State Health Services begins to release fatality information, it’s going to be unsettling for many in the county.
The imperfect system is the only one currently available to track thousands of tests and other data each day, he said.
“For example we got 55 (new positives Wednesday), seven aren’t right,” Kirkland said, adding there were issues with whether addresses were in Wharton County that still had to be sorted out.
More than 300 additional Wharton County residents have been tested this week, but the results may not be known for five to 10 days.
With so many unknowns, Kirkland urged the public to continue using safety measures like social distancing and wearing masks.
“Now it’s more important than ever,” he said. “This is when you need to do it, school’s coming up and universities. It has to be a safe environment.”
Free Testing Centers Coming To El Campo
COVID-19 testing is set for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4 and Thursday, Aug. 6 and Tuesday, Aug. 18, at El Campo Civic Center, 2350 N. Mechanic.
Thursday, Aug. 4 and Tuesday, Aug. 18 will be drive-through testing while Thursday, Aug. 6 will be a walk-up test site.
Everyone wanting to be tested should register, but can only do so 24 hours before the testing center opens.
To register, call 844-778-2455 or visit dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus. Registration will be rejected if it takes place before the correct 24-hour interval.