Denton County Public Health Director Matt Richardson outlined improving COVID-19 numbers, including a drop in active cases and the positivity rate for tests, during Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting.
Richardson suggested last week that the county could be cautiously optimistic about the spread of the virus following a week in which numbers improved. That improvement has continued into this week, with the county’s active case load dropping below 3,000 for the first time since July 27.
“Our recoveries in the last few days have outpaced our new cases,” Richardson said. “That is really good news.”
Denton County’s positivity rate — the ratio of positive results vs. all tests given — also decreased dramatically, dropping from 12.8% to 4% over the past week. That figure is the lowest weekly positivity percentage the county has reported since it dropped to 2.1% during May 31-June 6, but Richardson said the past week’s rate is artificially low due to a backlog of tests received from the state.
“What’s happened this week is that they’ve caught up in the numbers of negatives that they reported,” Richardson said. “We got over 17,000 tests reported to us this week, and we do not believe that represents how many tests were performed.”
Richardson said the county believes it performed between 6,000 and 6,500 tests over the week, and it estimates the positivity rate to be around 10%, which would still be a decrease over past weeks.
Richardson also addressed the issue of mask usage by workers at voting locations, which multiple residents and commissioners brought up at Tuesday’s meeting. Currently, under Gov. Greg Abbott’s order, election workers are not required to wear masks, and the county cannot override that.
“We are allowed to make a recommendation, and I would recommend universal mask use, especially if you’re going to come into contact with many individuals,” Richardson said.
Elections Administrator Frank Phillips said the county agrees with the mask recommendation and that it is providing masks to all poll workers but cannot require on-site usage because of the order.
Also on Tuesday, commissioners received the county’s recommended budget for fiscal year 2020-21. The proposed budget totals $319 million, a decrease of $2.7 million (0.83%) over last year’s adopted budget. The recommended property tax rate is $0.224985 per $100 valuation — 0.13% below the current adopted rate. County Budget Officer Jona Macsas said the recommended rate is the lowest since 1986.
Commissioners also approved a new award contract between the county and the Texas Department of State Health Services that will provide $405,644 in COVID-19 grant funding.