Gregg County officials attribute recent spike in COVID-19 cases to increased testing at jail

WATCH: Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt and Lewis Browne with the health department

GREGG COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - Forty-four new COVID-19 cases were reported in Gregg County Wednesday morning. KLTV spoke with the Gregg County judge and the head of the Gregg County Health Department to get details about COVID-19 in Gregg County.

Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt and Gregg County Health Authority Dr. Lewis Browne say a big part of the recent jump in COVID19 cases came from the Gregg County Jail.

“That was all in the jail with 37 inmates and one jailer. We’ve got them isolated and separated from the general population,” Stoudt said.

Stoudt says there were over 600 tests administered at the jail, and everyone there has been tested. As far as people who were asymptomatic:

“They all were. That’s the scary part about this virus,” Stoudt said.

There were 324 tests at recent drive-thru testing conducted by the state at the Longview Fairgrounds May 12-14.

“We’ve gotten 11 back that were positive. We’ve got a number pending so we don’t know what the final outcome is going to be of that testing,” Stoudt said.

Of course those 11 positives could be residents from other counties. The tests were just performed in Longview. It can be a long wait for results.

“There’s a limited amount of labs that can give you the results. And so the labs have gone from a few thousand tests to deal with to tens of thousands of tests they’re dealing with now,” Stoudt said.

And there was a sixth death recently reported in Gregg County.

“All the deaths in Gregg County have been somehow associated with the nursing home patients,” Browne revealed.

Some nursing homes in Longview have been tested, but others have not since:

“A team has to go in there and help do the testing so you can do it in a very judicious and quick, efficient manner, and also to prevent infection being spread just by testing,” Browne said.

And he says doing them all at once would really jam up the labs. Nearly all remaining nursing homes in Gregg County have dates set up for testing and:

“Probably within the next week they’ll be all finished with that,” Browne said.

Browne says most of the cases come from nursing homes and the jail, but there are a few community cases that pop up nearly every day.

“I was hoping that we would be on the down side of the curve and we’re not,” Browne said.

“It’s not spreading really fast, but it’s not going away,” Browne said.

Browne and Judge Stoudt urge everyone to continue social distancing and wearing masks while around others. One more positive case came in Thursday, bringing the confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 249 in Gregg County.

Judge Stoudt

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