A nurse does rounds to check on coronavirus patients in the intensive care unit at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa on Monday, July 13, 2020. MIKALA COMPTON | Herald-Zeitung

For the second straight week, health officials warned Comal County commissioners that COVID-19 cases are clearly on the rise again.

Public Health Director Cheryl Fraser said a 90-year-old New Braunfels man died Tuesday in a local hospital, becoming the 125th county resident to succumb to the virus since March.

Fraser reported 45 new cases on Thursday that increased the county’s case total to 4,288 — an increase of 280 in the past week. Twenty-three of the new cases have been confirmed and another 22 are probable.

There have been 33,677 tests that led to 3,079 confirmed, 1,206 probable and three suspect cases, Fraser said, adding the county’s seven-day positivity rate declined to 10.73% from 14.78% reported Wednesday, and still under the state of Texas’ rate of 12.7% .

Twenty-nine of the new cases stem from New Braunfels; others were scattered around the county — including two north of Canyon Lake, five south of Canyon Lake, three in the Garden Ridge area and six in the Bulverde/Spring Branch area.

Most of the new patients are in their 50s and 60s, with 19, 14 are in their 30s and 40s, six are over the age of 70, three are under 20 and three are in their 20s.

Unveiling a series of graphs that illustrated the peak of the last uptick in July, Gentrea Hendrickson, public health department emergency preparedness coordinator, said cases have increased over the past two weeks.

 “Unfortunately we have seen a pretty rapid increase in the number of cases we’ve seen per day,” she said. “We’ve gone from 10 new cases to more than 40 reported each day.”

There are now 372 active COVID-19 cases in Comal County, with 10 of those patients hospitalized. County hospitals are now caring for 18 COVID-19 patients, with 10 of those in intensive care and six on ventilators. 

“In September we began to see cases tail off but now our active case count, people who are those infectious, in isolation or quarantine, has increased each day over the past few weeks.”

Hendrickson said she’s especially concerned about the recent surge among teenage patients.

“What we’re seeing now is that cases are rapidly increasing for those in the under-18 age range, respective to everyone else,” she said. “Essentially, more people in that age group are becoming infected than those in their 20s or nearing middle age. 

“Fortunately, cases among people in their 70s and 80s have slowed a little bit.”

Health officials said local hospitals are caring for a mix of patients residing inside and outside of the county, and reminded county residents can also be hospitalized locally or elsewhere. The county added 18 recoveries Thursday morning that increased that total to 3,791.

Fraser said meetings continue with school district nurses and administrators.

“They are not seeing a lot of cases through their contact tracings, but they are seeing a lot in activities that have seemed to contribute to this (spike) in the age group,” Fraser said. “Now that these kids are back in school and there’s a lot more testing, more are being tested than in the summer, when there was really no reason for them to be tested.”

Fraser said drive-through testing, performed Tuesdays and Fridays by appointment only, sampled 30 residents on Tuesday and 40 last Friday. Those 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 to schedule an appointment. 

She reminded the public health office is open by appointment only, with flu immunizations and other needs available by calling 830-221-1150.

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