An increase in new coronavirus cases over the weekend could be a result of Halloween gatherings two weeks prior, but is likely at least partially due to more testing, officials at the Nacogdoches County Emergency Management Office say.

“We did see what some would call a spike over the weekend,” said County Emergency Management Office spokeswoman Amy Mehaffey, referring to 26 new cases confirmed between Friday evening and Monday. On one of those days, however, more than 300 tests for the virus were administered, vs. the 100 to 150 tests that are typically given.

“That 26 cases could potentially be from Halloween, but also because we’ve had an increase in testing numbers,” she said. “While it’s an uptick, we wouldn’t call it a spike. Our hospitals and ICU numbers look good, and those are the important measures to look at.”

The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Nacogdoches County remained at 15 on Tuesday, with four of those in intensive care, according to SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council.

“We want to encourage the public to continue to do what we know works,” Mehaffey says. “We know Thanksgiving is coming up, and it’s really important for us to remember to keep gatherings to a minimum.”

Two new cases were confirmed Monday afternoon and nine more were added Tuesday evening. Active cases, those testing positive and still contagious, were estimated at 81.

Since local totals are based on county of residence, they don’t necessarily include the cases at SFA, where three of 200 residential spaces set aside for student isolation were in use this week. According to the university, 24 students or staff who were recently on campus tested positive.

“I would like to commend SFA,” Mehaffey said. “They are doing a great job of keeping their masks on and keeping the numbers low.”

SFA will dismiss in-person classes Friday for Thanksgiving Break, with students and faculty finishing up the fall semester with remote learning. The Spring semester will begin Jan. 8.

Two drugmakers — Pfizer and Moderna — have announced successful trials of vaccines to prevent the virus.

Both are poised to apply for emergency use permits within the next few weeks.

“The aspiration is getting enough people to be vaccinated that we no longer have a threat. As we get into the fall we could be close to a degree of normality, certainly from getting businesses open, getting sports events attended,” White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday in an online forum hosted by the New York Times.

Staff writer Josh Edwards Contributed to this report.

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