Denton County Public Health Director Matt Richardson outlined improving COVID-19 numbers at Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting, citing fewer cases, a decreasing positivity rate and accelerating recoveries as reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the spread of the virus.
Two weeks ago, the county reported 1,156 confirmed cases of the virus, the highest weekly total during the pandemic. Last week, however, the weekly total dropped to 851 cases. Additionally, the positivity rate for tests decreased to 12.8%, from a record-high 23.4%. Richardson said the improvement in numbers is good news but reflects only one week’s worth of reporting.
“We want to be careful in calling this a trend,” Richardson said. “We’re hoping that we saw the peak in July and that August is going to bring us continued good news.”
The improvement came as the county performed more tests than it has since the end of May. Richardson stressed the importance of the public not loosening on efforts to contain the virus due to the lower numbers and maintaining mask usage and social distancing.
“I’m imploring the public to continue this behavior,” Richardson said. “Let’s not quit what we’re doing that could have contributed to this silver lining.”
County Commissioner Hugh Coleman asked Richardson if he felt comfortable with the safeguards being taken by school districts. The public health department recommended last week that schools begin face-to-face classes no earlier than Sept. 8.
“We’re hoping that many parents of students take advantage of a virtual learning option to begin the school year,” Richardson said. “That will allow physical distancing in the classrooms. If you have fewer kids, you can space them apart more appropriately.”
Richardson said that given mask usage and distancing, a teacher or student testing positive may not require a quarantine of the entire class.
“We’re going to be learning about how best to do this, and I’m confident there will be some lessons on the horizon,” he said. “As we learn more about this disease, and we learn about children and gatherings, we’re probably going to have to adjust on the fly.”
Commissioners also received a report Tuesday on the certified estimate of the appraisal roll for 2020. County Tax Assessor Michelle French said estimates are being used to calculate the tax rates because a number of property owners are protesting their appraised values, and the Denton Central Appraisal District hasn’t processed all of the protests amid the pandemic.
French reported the properties currently under protest for 2020 are valued at a total of $31.8 billion, up about $30 billion from 2019’s $1.9 billion. She said the fully certified roll, which will be used to create the tax roll, will likely not be available until mid- to late September.