Will more testing reveal a more accurate local COVID-19 count?

Posted at 4:21 PM, Apr 22, 2020

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — It was good news when the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District announced it was relaxing some of its restrictions on who’s tested for COVID-19.

The health department says it is relaxing testing restrictions based on new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People say while it’s a nice step, it’s also a small one.

Previously, the health department was only testing people who had traveled, or had contact with a known case and showed symptoms of fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. The new guidelines include chills, body aches, headache, sore throat, loss of taste/smell, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

“That’s great news because we need to know how many people are positive,” said Dr. Michael McCutchon.

Through Tuesday, Nueces County had 90 confirmed cases. McCutchon, the chair of the Nueces County Medical Society’s COVID-19 Task Force believes those numbers are low.

“We know from other studies that could be anywhere from 50-85 times greater than what’s reported because people aren’t getting tested,”said McCutchon.

Since testing started last month, the health department has tested 478 people. Another 1,159 have been tested at hospitals for a total 1,637 tests. Most believe that’s not nearly enough.

“I don’t think we have tested enough people, unless you’re already in the hospital or at the doctor’s office,” said Corpus Christi resident Linda Beardsley.

“Everybody should get tested,” said Corpus Christi resident Ken Spencer. “They’ve got rules they have to go by, so I guess we have to follow those guidelines.”

For those who don’t meet the criteria, antibody testing is an option, but McCutchon says results can be misleading.

“It’s in a bit of flux, but we should do as much as we can to learn what works and what doesn’t,” said McCutchon.

McCutchon believes that if people keep taking precautions, it’s ok to start gradually reopening the state. He says we can wait for a vaccine to get people back to work.

Despite the relaxed guidelines, people can’t just go to the testing site at Spohn Memorial Hospital. Anyone with symptoms is asked to call the health department to set up an appointment.