The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Burnet County has doubled since Memorial Day weekend, according to the Department of State Health Services, now reaching 68 as of Monday, June 15, with seven cases alone reported on Friday.
A majority of the recent cases are the result of three known active “nests” or “hot spots” within the county — one a nursing facility in Bertram and the other two being local residences.
On Memorial Day — Monday, May 25 — Burnet County had reported 29 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no fatalities up to that point.
Since that date, however, the county has seen 39 more confirmed cases and its first confirmed fatality, a 57-year-old resident of the Bertram Nursing Home & Rehabilitation Center, where there have been at least five confirmed cases among residents.
A second Betram nursing home resident who was transferred to a Brown County facility is believed to also have died of COVID-19-related illness, but that death would illness, but that death would be attributed to the county in which it took place. State and local health officials have not yet confirmed the death was indeed COVID-19 related, however.
DSHS personnel have been on site at the Bertram facility to conduct contact tracing and additional testing of patients and staff to determine how many may have contracted the illness, while also trying to determine the origin of the virus at the nursing facility. Contact tracing is part of the process of supporting patients and warning contacts of exposure in order to stop chains of transmission.
A female in her 20s from Bertram who works at the facility, along with three children, in their teens and younger, all have been confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 and more cases are expected to spring up from the Bertram Nursing Home, County Judge James Oakley said.
The other known hot spot is a residence in Marble Falls where at least seven family members have tested positive for COVID-19.
“The reporting system into and from the state remains to not be a perfect system, not being critical, but it’s the first rodeo and there are a few glitches,” Oakley said last week. “Because of that, I can say that in the coming days there will be several additional cases reported in conjunction with the Bertram Nursing Home.
“While we have certainly had an uptick in cases, it’s important to understand that the vast majority are from three known ‘nests’ or ‘hot spots.’ (County Health Authority) Dr. (Juliette) Madrigal has done an amazing job of contact tracing, that is, connecting how individuals came in contact with the virus. That knowledge allows her to communicate to and help manage those nests such to minimize the spread outside of that nest.
“While our numbers continue to increase, remember that our hospitalizations are very low and our ‘recovered’ numbers continue to increase. It remains very important to social distance, sanitize your hands frequently and don’t touch your face,” Oakley added.
There are currently 23 active cases listed in Burnet County, while 44 individuals are listed as having recovered.
A total of 1,485 individuals have been tested for COVID-19 in Burnet County, according to the DSHS.
Statewide, there have been 1,983 COVID-19 fatalities as well as 89,108 positive cases reported as COVID-19 cases are found in 238 of Texas’ 254 counties. There are 59,089 patients are estimated to have recovered from the illness, leaving 28,036 estimated active cases. A total of 1,499,015 people have been tested statewide, including viral and antibody testing.
The Burnet Fire Department is hosting COVID-19 antibody testing, which would allow residents to determine if they have previously been exposed to the novel coronavirus.
Antibody testing at the Burnet Fire Department requires a blood draw and is by appointment only. The cost of the test is $42 and can be billed to insurance. Residents must call 512-756- 2662, ext. 0, between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to schedule a test and must present their driver’s license and medical insurance card. The City of Burnet is not responsible for the cost of testing.
The antibody test checks for immunoglobulin G (IgG) that is the result of past or recent exposure to COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus. However, this is not a test for an active infection.
The human body produces IgG antibodies as part of the immune response to the virus. It usually takes around 10 days to start producing enough antibodies to be detected in the blood. However, in some people it may take several weeks.
Test results may help identify if an individual was previously exposed to the virus and, if exposed, can check whether or not their body has produced antibodies. Currently, the FDA supports antibody testing as having a critical role in the fight against COVID-19 because they may identify who may have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 infection, and potentially developed an immune response.
Personnel from Ascension Seton Highland Lakes, in conjunction with Burnet city and county officials, are continuing to conduct nasalswab COVID-19 testing at the Burnet County Fairgrounds each Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon. However, that testing will not be done without an order from a primary care physician or a virtual appointment through Ascension Seton Highland Lakes.