Press conference

Denton County Judge Andy Eads, right, speaks to the media during a press conference Friday at the Courthouse on the Square. 

Denton County’s fourth COVID-19-related death is a man in his 60s from The Colony who caught the virus through local transmission, according to county officials.

“Today, we have learned of yet another death due to COVID-19, which has impacted our communities in Denton County,” County Judge Andy Eads said in a news release Tuesday. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to this man’s family as well as the families of those who have also been victims of this terrible pandemic.”

An additional 15 cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed Tuesday afternoon, bringing the countywide total to 206.

At the Denton State Supported Living Center, an increase of one resident and one staff member who tested positive are reflected in Tuesday’s updated case count. The total number of confirmed resident cases is 50, while 23 staff staff members have tested positive for the virus.

Also Tuesday, the first cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed in Sanger and Ponder.

A total of 50 individuals have recovered as of Tuesday, while about 58% of cases are in people age 50 and older.

Denton County’s disaster declaration for public health was amended Tuesday afternoon, extending the county’s stay-at-home mandate through Tuesday, April 7, at 11:59 p.m.

County commissioners voted to extend the declaration in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, which has increased exponentially since the first case in Denton County was confirmed in mid-March.

The mandate extends closure of all nonessential businesses and prohibits nursing home visitation and use of playground equipment. As well, essential retail does not include furniture stores, while curbside services are now allowed for nonprofits and non-secular organizations, according to a news release.

“This is a difficult decision to make, and we know it is causing hardships for our Denton County residents,” Eads said in a news release Tuesday. “However, we must keep your health and safety uppermost in our minds as we continue to deal with COVID-19.”

During Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting, held virtually, Denton County Public Health Director Matt Richardson cautioned against complacency as the outbreak spreads.

“As the pandemic moves through Denton County, I would caution the public to not assess risk based on reported cases in their community,” Richardson said. “I do not want people to have a false sense of security, [because] risk is generalized and we have community spread present.”

He said confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus are underreported and underrepresented in data, because only positive cases are required to be reported by law. Additionally, he says the outbreak is “border to border” inside Denton County.

At the Denton State Supported Living Center, where a growing number of cases has been confirmed, Richardson noted that almost all residents have been tested, while a small portion of staff have been tested on a tier-based approach. He says that the most vulnerable and highest-risk individuals are being tested and that additional resources have been requested.

Meanwhile, coronavirus testing is available inside countywide detention facilities, but there has not yet been a case confirmed, Richardson said. While an undisclosed number have been tested, he said Denton County Public Health is screening individuals on arrival.

“I am aware that a small number of symptomatic patients have been tested, but those tests have been negative,” Richardson said. “I will say, because this is a pandemic and because they are bringing in people from where we know there is community spread that there is no doubt about the risk in our detention facilities, as is around the state and around the nation.”

COVID-19 symptoms include a fever, persistent cough and shortness of breath.

Public health officials are urging individuals to call ahead before arriving at an emergency room or doctor’s office to limit community spread of the virus.

RYAN HIGGS can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @ryanahiggs.

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