During Commissioners Court Monday morning, Atascosa County EMS Director Don Penny provided a COVID-19 update on Atascosa County including statistics on Methodist Hospital South, cases by zip code and the confusion in COVID-19 deaths reported by DSHS.
“I spoke with our liaison at Methodist Hospital South [in Jourdanton] and they reported 12 COVID-19 positive cases in their hospital with three of those on ventilators,” said Penny.
Last Thursday, Penny released a COVID-19 report on ‘Cases by Zip Code’ as many members of the community have been wanting a breakdown.
“We had a great response to that report. People were very grateful and appreciative,” said Penny. “We will be doing this report once a week on Fridays, but it will be based on Thursday’s report.”
The Zip Code report does include cases within the city limits and out-of-city limits. They include all active, recovered, unconfirmed and deaths to date.
Concerning the reporting on COVID-19 deaths in Atascosa County, Penny reported that himself along with Emergency Management Coordinator Roger Garcia, County Judge Bob Hurley, Commissioner Stuart Knowlton, Senator Pete Flores’ office and two representatives from DSHS met last week to straighten out the confusion.
“We discussed the death rate and numbers and how that works,” explained Penny.
Atascosa County receives their COVID-19 daily reports from DSHS Region 8, which is more specific and accurate to our area. According to Penny, the death report is about one and a half weeks behind due to the many state and local agencies the death certificates must go through before reaching DSHS.
“We figured out that the death rate in our county is actually considerably low,” said Commissioner Knowlton. “So many people have been affected [by COVID-19] yet about 98% of our population has not. Our death rate is at .0002% in the county so that leaves about 99% that has not been affected. That has also been received very well by our community.”
Penny also explained how the cause of death may not always be related to COVID-19, which would explain how our death numbers don’t seem to add up.
“Say a person has a heart attack and dies, but they also had COVID. Their cause of death was not primarily COVID, but the heart attack itself, so it wouldn’t be classified as a COVID death,” said Penny. “There are a lot of cases where COVID wasn’t the primary cause of death and that also explains why our death numbers seem off when compared to the DSHS COVID-19 Dashboard. And while we might know a person’s cause of death was COVID, that statistic won’t show up in our daily reports until DSHS Region 8 receives that death certificate stating so, and as I said, that can take a while.”
Commissioner Eliseo Perez, Pct. 3, questioned Penny as to how accurate the DSHS reports were.
“On the third, DSHS showed seven deaths, yet on the fifth, it only showed six. That left a lot of people really confused, so I wonder how accurate our reports really are,” he stated.
Judge Hurley explained that it was a matter of confusion on how the death was reported, but they straightened it all out with DSHS.
“After our meetings with DSHS, we got it all figured out and come to find out it wasn’t a COVID death after all,” said Penny. “Like I said, if COVID isn’t the primary cause of death, it will not be reported in the death count.”
As of Friday, Aug. 7, Atascosa County is reporting a total of 503 cases. Broken down, that is 72 pending investigation, 365 confirmed, 66 probable, 23 active, 472 recovered and eight deaths.