Local health officials continue to not know the extent of coronavirus testing in Bell County.
Dr. Robert Greenberg, Baylor Scott & White-Central Texas Division’s chief medical officer of emergency services, and Amanda Robison-Chadwell, Bell County Public Health District director, provided an update on the local COVID-19 pandemic during an online news conference Friday.
Greenberg did not know the number of coronavirus tests conducted by the medical system in Bell County.
“I don’t know if I have it broken down by county,” the medical doctor said, explaining that Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Temple is receiving coronavirus test kits from around the state. “It is hard because where the patients get tested is not necessarily where they live.”
Baylor Scott & White has repeatedly declined to disclose to FME News Service the number of tests administered and its inventory of COVID-19 tests in Bell County.
When FME questioned Greenberg on the number of local tests, he deferred to Robison-Chadwell.
“This is a question that has come up numerous times and the governor has put out a mandate that public health departments receive that data,” the health district director said. “We have not received a full breakdown of that data at this time — frankly, because they’re trying to figure out how to deliver it.”
Robison-Chadwell said last week local officials expected to start receiving those reports from the governor.
Robison-Chadwell described getting a Bell County-specific number on tests as a complex and bureaucratic process. Private and public labs across the state are running tests on samples from all 254 counties, she said.
Nearly 56,000 tests have been conducted in Texas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“What they have to figure out how to do is break out that data by county and figure where it goes, and they have to do it in their internal system and then figure out who’s going to report that and who’s going to be responsible for delivering that to the health department so we don’t get emails from every single laboratory in the state,” Robison-Chadwell said, noting that some Bell County residents may get tested outside of the area.
“The answer to that is not that anyone is dodging that question, it is a very, very difficult data point to get at,” she explained. “It is not a simple question.”
Other counties, though, have reported the magnitude of their testing.
In Coryell County, Coryell Health in Gatesville had tested more than 150 as of Friday morning, according to the county’s emergency management coordinator Bob Harrell.
Also as of Friday morning, Harrell said the county was waiting for results from around 20 tests.
Friday evening, the county’s number of confirmed cases went up to four, according to Harrell.
Lampasas County’s test numbers were unavailable at press time.
In Brazos County — a county with a 2017 population of 222,830, smaller than Bell County’s population of 347,933 — officials said Thursday that 1,222 tests had been conducted at their hospitals, which include those affiliated with Baylor Scott & White, according to The Eagle.
Some local officials have also required their local hospitals and labs to report the number of tests conducted for COVID-19. That is the case in the city of Dallas, The Dallas Morning News reported. County officials there also dodged the testing question before the city placed the requirement, according to The News.
Greenberg may not have detailed the number of tests conducted at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Temple, but he did explain the hospital’s capacity for COVID-19 patients.
The facility, as of Friday, expects to have 140 intensive care unit beds available
“That is about three times the normal,” he said. “Remember during this time people still get sick with other things, (so) we have 200 beds in the hospital. We have capacity right now that should meet demand unless the demand goes up.”
Greenberg did highlight that more tests are being administered now than in January — which is when the first American tested positive for COVID-19.
“Remember, two months ago there were no tests in the United States for the coronavirus that could not be used,” he said. “We are working on more testing, more availability of testing throughout, but the only thing worse than not having testing is having bad testing because you will act on that test.”
Testing is increasing at the medical center in Temple, Greenberg explained.
By how much? Greenberg did not say.