DENTON, Texas - Denton County health officials reported their first COVID-19 related death and announced 13 new positive cases of the novel coronavirus.
It increases the countywide total to 83 confirmed cases.
The Denton County Public Health Department announced Thursday the first death was a Lewisville man in his 40s who was hospitalized in Denton County. He was the county’s first case of community transmitted COVID-19.
“Today, as we announce the first death related to COVID-19, we want to offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the individual. Our thoughts and prayers are with you,” said Denton County Judge Andy Eads. “I also want to firmly reiterate the importance of heeding the mandatory stay-at-home order Denton County issued this week. We need everyone to heed these orders and stay home. This virus spreads easily and can lead to severe symptoms and death.”
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Thursday was the first day of Denton County’s stay-at-home order, closing all non-essential businesses and limiting travel.
Judge Eads also revealed there at least eight cases of COVID-19 at the Denton State Supported Living Center.
Denton County Public Health Director Matt Richardson said that he expects that number to increase.
140 residents were tested for COVID-19 on Wednesday.
The facility houses some 400 residents with a variety of special needs. That's in addition to more than 1,400 staff members who provide care. The county judge says the state overnighted them several new test kits.
Because the state supported living center houses so many people in one location and COVID-19 cases continue to rise there, county officials and advocates are asking Gov. Greg Abbot to create a temporary hospital.
All employees and visitors are being screened for fever and respiratory illness before entering the facility.
Temperature checks have been in place since last week for all staff members and residents.
Richardson says one of the biggest challenges right now is keeping the sick isolated.
“I think it’s difficult. I think it’s just the challenges that anyone would imagine exist. I think the state living center is faced with a difficult task. And that is to make sure that they are maintaining that physical and social distancing for those residents. But I think that’s more challenging with that population than others. And I think they’re doing their best,” he said.
FOX 4 received a statement from the state facility Thursday evening, explaining that if a resident is hospitalized, they will only come back to the center when they are well enough to be discharged.
And in order to stop the spread, residents recovering from COVID-19 will be placed in dedicated homes.
“All state supported centers will have a clinic in site due to the size of the resident population, but they are not going to be staffed or able to deal with a highly contagious situation,” said Dennis Borel with the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities. “And what we have to remember it’s a population with people with underlying conditions. So they are the people who have been identified nationwide as having the worst outcomes if they contract the virus.”
The Denton County judge says he in talks with Gov. Abbott about opening up that temporary hospital. He hopes to have a plan finalized Friday.
“Part of the resources that we needed quite frankly was additional tests. And so the state was great a couple days ago to expedite overnight additional tests to Denton County. We got some other kits here in the area. We are continuing to have testing here in the county,” Eads said.
On Thursday, Denton ISD extended its school closures until April 19.
On Friday, the Denton County Commissioner’s Court will consider whether or not they will extend the stay-at-home order beyond its expiration date of March 31.