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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
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Brazos County confirms first COVID-19 death

Photo by Courtesy of Michael Miller/The Eagle

Brazos County Alternate Health Authority Dr. Seth Sullivan speaks during a press conference at the Brazos County Health Department building in Bryan on Friday, March 20, 2020.

Among new updates regarding COVID-19, the Brazos County Health District confirmed the county’s first coronavirus-related death at a press conference on Saturday, March 28.
At the conference, Brazos County Alternate Health Authority Dr. Seth Sullivan said the resident was a man in his 80s who was under hospice care at the time of his passing. In addition to the county’s first recorded death, Sullivan confirmed community spread of the coronavirus has spiked.
“As of March 28, there have been nine additional positive cases of COVID-19 reported by the BCHD,” Sullivan said. “This brings our total to number 40. The last time we spoke it was 12, that was on Monday [March 23].”
Of the 40 positive cases in Brazos County, Sullivan said 48 percent are believed to be the product of community spread. Of that number, 52 percent of the cases are travel-related.
To accommodate community concern, Sullivan said he has tasked a multidisciplinary team to examine the trend in cases in Brazos County.
“It is clear that Texas is different from New York, it is different from Italy but there are some generalities that remain the same,” Sullivan said. “We are seeing that this virus has [an] attack rate that you have seen widely disseminated in the media … of between two and three, which means that in general circumstances one person who is affected could impact, infect as many as two or three more.”
The verified models and data the team uses to predict outbreak patterns point to a severe spread of the virus if precautions are not maintained, Sullivan said.
“If this data were allowed to just continue, we could be quickly overwhelmed,” Sullivan said. “Our facilities. Our capacity to care for hospitalized patients. Patients requiring intensive care. Patients requiring ventilators. And by quickly, some of these models show [more community spread] within weeks. That is significant.”
Sullivan said residents can protect themselves by following the CDC mandated guidelines of consistent hand hygiene and avoiding nonessential travel from home.
“These are critical. These work. We know these work,” Sullivan said. “There is not any peer reviewed literature out there that suggests that these things don’t work. We know they work, we just have to do them. We know that the social distancing works. We know that if we can keep individuals spaced from one another that there is a decrease.”
Sullivan said it is imperative residents take these precautions seriously to set an example for the rest of the community.
“We know that there are naysayers and to the naysayers I would say look at this data,” Sullivan said. “I would love to say this doesn’t matter. That would be great, [but] that’s wishful thinking. We need to be realistic here. We need to look at the data in front of us. We need to listen to the experts who do this for a living and are crunching these numbers for us on statistically validated numbers.”
In just 11 days, College Station Mayor Karl Mooney said Brazos County has gone from one confirmed case to 40 cases. While appreciative of those taking precautions, Mooney said College Station law enforcement will take a harder stance on those who do not adhere to social distancing.
“You can expect that we are not simply going to come up and say, ‘This is what the law is now in College Station,’” Mooney said. “We will cite you. There will be a fine. We don’t want to do that, but at the same time all it takes is one infected person to breathe on, to sneeze, to shake someone’s hand, to take some action that passes on this virus to another. And as you know now by the numbers that we’re seeing, the cost is serious.”
Bryan Mayor Andrew Nelson reinforced the calls for better safety measures. While the percentage of life-threatening COVID-19 cases are much lower than mild cases, Nelson said Brazos County hospitals would still not be equipped to handle the workload.
“When we’re looking at models, the Brazos Valley has around 350,000,” Nelson said. “There’s a high percentage of those people that will get infected. There’s a large percentage that won’t even know they’re infected. There’s a percentage of them that will get sick. And then there’s a small percentage of them that will get sick, and need hospital care and who will ultimately need life saving intensive care unit ICU beds, respirators [and] access to medical staff. That number, that smallest of all of these numbers, is the number that we’re looking at when we compare the capacity of our hospitals which have dozens, let’s say of ICU units [and] ventilators, compared to potentially thousands who may need them.”
Nelson said the failure to grant immediate medical care to one infected patient will cause trouble for many more.
“As soon as we’re over that capacity and we’ve overrun our health system, then it’s just a matter of how long is it overrun? How many people die? How many people don’t get the care they need?” Nelson said.

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