A New Braunfels man in his 70s with underlying medical conditions became Comal County’s eighth COVID-19 death over the weekend, health officials said Wednesday.
The county’s office of public health confirmed his death late Tuesday.
Officials also reported 124 new confirmed and probable cases of the disease in the county. Fifty of the cases are probable, while 74 are confirmed. Officials said 86 are New Braunfels-area residents, 23 are from the Bulverde/Spring Branch area, 10 live south of Canyon Lake, three live north of Canyon Lake, and two are from the Garden Ridge area.
Ages on cases range from under 18 to older than 80, with a plurality of cases in their 20s and other significant increases among residents in their 40s, 60s and 70s.
Comal County’s positivity rate — the percentage of tests with a positive result — is now 12.17%, up from 10.28% on Tuesday and 8.65% one week ago. It’s the highest rate the county has recorded since the pandemic began.
Public health experts say the goal is to hold the positivity rate below 6%.
“Some of the spike we’re reporting today comes from our office catching up from a large influx of reports over the weekend,” said Cheryl Fraser, director of public health, “But as the positivity rate shows, we are seeing significant spread throughout the community, especially in New Braunfels and Bulverde.”
Comal County confirmed 13 more recoveries from COVID-19, for a total of 275. With eight deaths, the county now has 495 active confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases. An additional 11 hospitalizations were confirmed, bringing that total to 36.
The office also reported on outbreaks at nursing homes and other long-care facilities in the county, with 27 residents and 14 staff at the Heights of Bulverde, eight residents and five staff at Kirkwood Manor in New Braunfels and 32 residents and 10 staff at River Gardens in New Braunfels.
Kirkwood Manor did not immediately return a call requesting comment on Wednesday.
“Not all of the cases in long-term care facilities that have been reported to us are reflected in the official case counts yet, and the rise in cases across the county cannot be explained simply by looking at the cases being reported in those facilities,” said Paul Anthony, Comal County’s public information officer.
According to the Texas Department of Health State Services, 275 assisted living facilities in the state have reported at least one confirmed resident or staff case of COVID-19. The data also shows that there have been 770 cases among residents and 145 fatalities. The agency also reports 309 recoveries among assisted living facility residents.
DSHS data also shows that 693 nursing homes in the state have at least one confirmed resident or staff case of COVID-19, with 6,194 cases among residents and 949 deaths. The agency reports 2,824 recoveries among nursing home residents.
Fraser urged residents to do their part to slow the spread of the disease as it starts to weigh on the county’s health system.
“COVID-19 is putting incredible pressure on our local health care system, and we are seeing increased stress in staffing capabilities across the board,” Fraser said. “Face coverings, social distancing and hand washing are the best tools we have to fight the spread of the coronavirus, and we need to use them.”
Statistics released by Comal County also show a significant shift in the distribution of cases by age in New Braunfels during June.
On June 2, the data indicated that 5% of COVID-19 cases in New Braunfels were people ages 19 to 29 with the plurality of cases among those ages 40 to 49. By June 23, however, the percentage of the city’s cases among 19 to 29-year-olds had increased to 41%.
The percentage of cases in New Braunfels by age on June 2 was: age 19-29, 5%; age 30-39, 19%; age 40-49, 27%; age 50-59, 24%; age 60-69, 8%; and age 70 and above, 17%.
The percentage of cases in New Braunfels by age on June 23 was: age 19-29, 41%; age 30-39, 14%; age 40-49, 16%; age 50-59, 11%; age 60-69, 13%; and age 70 and above, 8%.
As of Wednesday morning, Public Health has received reports of 6,393 tests conducted with 599 confirmed cases and 179 probable cases.
Residents wishing to be tested for COVID-19 can call the county’s dedicated hotline, 830-221-1120, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The hotline will be closed Friday for the Independence Day holiday.
Probable case definition
“Probable cases” is a category established by the Texas Department of State Health Services to describe those who do not have a positive PCR test for COVID-19, but meet two of the following three criteria:
• A positive quick-result antigen test
•Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
• Close contact with a confirmed positive COVID-19 case
A probable case is treated identically to a confirmed case and counts toward the county’s positivity rate and total case tally.