Gregg County announces death of nursing home resident, county’s 1st COVID-19 fatality

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GREGG COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – Gregg County has announced its first death from COVID-19.

Dr. Lewis Browne, county health authority, said the deceased was a female nursing home resident in the 70-79 years age range.

She died at a local hospital after having been admitted about a week ago with signs of a stroke.

Doctors subsequently diagnosed her with COVID-19.

She died Friday evening.

Browne said county health authorities have seen COVID-19 in two nursing homes and one assisted living facility.

“This is exactly what we didn’t want to happen,” he said.

Nursing home and care facility residents present a population that has proven particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

In New York, Browne said, some 25% of fatalities from the virus were nursing and care facility residents.

Locally, in hard-hit Panola County, all seven of its deaths have been among nursing home populations.

Recognition of this vulnerability is what led Gregg County to adopt what Browne called “very aggressive” measures in trying to prevent the spread of the virus to and in those facilities.

“This virus is spread by person-to-person contact, through droplets,” he said. “So from the beginning we started working with our nursing homes and residential facilities to make sure they were taking the strongest possible precautions.”

Those facilities “shut down immediately,” as soon as the virus was reported in East Texas, Browne said, and “have worked very hard to keep their residents and staffs as safe as possible.”

“I believe that early and strong response is why we haven’t seen the spread here in our facilities that we’ve seen in other places.”

Even so, he said, with all precautions in place, “I suppose this was inevitable. When you’re dealing with a contagion like this, I don’t believe anyone can prevent the spread entirely.”

But that does not mean he and his county are giving up the battle.

“We’re in constant contact with Smith County and NET Health, with all local county health officials and agencies, with our emergency management teams, hospitals, and first responder agencies,” Browne said. “We’re working with our nursing home and residential facilities to make sure they’re doing everything they can.

“This really is something we’ve never seen before,” he said. “And we’re all in this together.”

Local health officials urge people to continue following health and safety guidelines set down by federal, state and local authorities:

  • Wash your hands frequently with warm soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • When soap is not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% isopropyl alcohol
  • Wear face coverings when out in public
  • Stay home unless going out is essential
  • If you are sick, stay home
  • If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 – cough, fever and/or chills, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, nasal congestion, new loss of taste or smell – call your health care provider or local emergency clinic BEFORE going in to prevent community spread
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched devices and surfaces frequently

For more information on COVID-19, please see the following resources:

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