BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) – The Brazos County Health District says 2,029 positive COVID-19 cases have gone unreported this year due to a testing location in Bryan that was not reporting its numbers to the health department.
Brazos County Health Authority Dr. Seth Sullivan says the Santa Teresa Catholic Church testing site was reporting its numbers to an insurance company that got involved in the testing process around the same time the numbers stopped coming in to the department. The additional positives will be added to Thursday’s report.
The gap in reporting occurred from January 12 to March 12. Sullivan says it’s unclear if more spread occurred because the district was unaware of the additional positive cases.
“Is there a chance there was more spread because of this? I think there definitely is, and we have to acknowledge that,” Sullivan said. “I think moving forward, we’ve talked a lot about lessons learned on this, and over and over again, it comes up to data, and that’s been a challenge.”
Sullivan says those who were tested at Santa Teresa still received their test results. He hopes those who tested positive were responsible in quarantining and reaching out to their close contacts at the time of their infection.
“I think the concepts have remained the same through this and the action of what to do when we’re positive have remained the same,” Sullivan said. “If anything, over this time frame, those have liberalized as we’ve been able to vaccinate more.”
Sullivan says he isn’t sure if health officials would have changed their strategy in the way they tackled the pandemic had they known about this extra batch of cases.
“The vast majority of these folks were asymptomatic and didn’t require issues, and those who did obviously ended up in a hospital or a setting where they were being evaluated for that,” Sullivan said. “At the end of the day, they’re important numbers. Each one of these represents an individual with COVID-19 who we want to check on.”
Sullivan says a new process has already been put in place to ensure cases are reported directly to the health district. He estimates about 60 of the 2,029 additional positive cases are still active since most of them occurred in January and February.
The reporting spike comes as Texas A&M begins a mandatory testing program for over 30,000 students who are returning from spring break this week. The program officially began on Tuesday.
“We’ve already tested about 4,000 students, and of those 4,000 students, we’re running about a 2.8% positivity rate,” Dean of the Texas A&M School of Public Health Shwan Gibbs said. “Overall, our percent positives are trending in the right direction.”
Over the past two semesters, Gibbs says spread throughout the campus community has followed two primary trends. Transmission for the most part remains separated among faculty and staff who live in the Bryan-College Station community, while another transmission pattern occurs among the student population within their social circles, not in the classroom.
“We weren’t seeing a whole lot of overlap between those two populations,” Gibbs said. “We would get some of what we refer to as leakage, but that would be associated with someone who is both a student and a Brazos County resident for a number of years, or faculty or staff members whose children are also students.”
Gibbs says the relaxing of restrictions before the break could present an opportunity for spread beyond campus. It’s one reason why the school decided to undertake such a large-scale testing program.
“Greater infections picked up by A&M students while traveling in the new dynamic has the potential to move into the community more so than it had previously,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs says he’s pleased with the university’s current positivity rate. He says campus health officials were expecting something between 2% and 4%.
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