Testing has come a long way and active cases in Nacogdoches County have fallen from a peak of more than 400 estimated in early August to 83 Friday, but it’s not time to drop one’s guard — or mask — just yet.

“All of us are tired of wearing masks,” said Susan Patterson, nursing education manager at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital. “But our staff here spend 12 hours a day bathing patients, providing resuscitation — all while wearing an N95 mask.”

Patterson, who trains Memorial staff to care for COVID-19 patients, was among hospital employees providing an update on the virus during a video conference hosted by the hospital and the Nacogdoches Economic Development Corp.

Six months into the pandemic, the hospital is continuing to restrict visitors with exceptions in cases such as parents accompanying child patients or partners accompanying moms in labor. Visitors are thoroughly screened, Patterson said, and COVID areas are partitioned by glass with no guests allowed within.

Texas State Health Services on Friday added 27 confirmed cases and two more fatalities to Nacogdoches County’s totals. Five cases were diagnosed Thursday and nine were confirmed on Wednesday.

While many COVID-19 patients being hospitalized at the beginning of the pandemic were elderly, that’s not the case now, she said.

“The admissions now due to COVID really don’t discriminate between age, race or gender, although we haven’t had any pediatric patients,” she said.

There have, she confirmed, been patents transferred in from larger communities running short on space: “We make sure we have the resources to take care of our local people.”

While the state has sent in nurses to help, it is not, Patterson emphasized, due to illness among Memorial staff.

“Since the pandemic started, we have had 60 positive cases (among) employees, and less than half of those are clinical staff,” she said. “When you’re offered a gift you don’t turn it down. (State nurses) allowed us to lighten the load on our own staff.”

According to the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council, 16 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Nacogdoches County as of Friday, with nine of those being treated in intensive care.

“Our health care system in Nacogdoches never got overwhelmed,” said Matthew Malloy, who coordinates operations at Memorial’s outpatient testing center.

It is still important, he said, for those with symptoms to seek treatment when needed.

“There have been reports of people who have passed away at home, and that’s very tragic,” Malloy says. “If you are having trouble breathing, chest pain or confusion, seek help immediately. Don’t let it get to that point.”

Among Nacogdoches County residents, 56 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19.

The local COVID-19 Call Center remains open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at 468-4787.

It’s important to remember, he adds, that patients are contagious beginning one to two days before showing any symptoms.

“We can be walking around feeling great, and 24 hours later we have a fever,” he said. “Then we have to look back to who we were around for the previous two days.”

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