Panola County recorded five more COVID-19 cases, Judge LeeAnn Jones reported Monday morning, and CVS has begun offering testing at its Carthage pharmacy.

All the new cases Monday were from the public sector:

  • A 32-year-old woman
  • A 35-year-old woman
  • A 63-year-old woman
  • A 63-year-old man
  • A 34-year-old woman

Panola County's new COVID-19 case rate has remained fairly stable, with Jones has only reported a handful of new cases every few days:

  • June 14: 3 new cases
  • June 16: 2 new cases
  • June 17: 2 new cases
  • June 18: 3 new cases
  • June 22: 3 new cases
  • June 25: 4 new cases
  • June 29: 5 new cases

Twenty-five deaths and 185 recoveries have been reported, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Panola County has tested a cumulative 709 people, HHSC said. Jones said the cumulative total for positive cases was 226.

Overall Sunday, the region's hospitals were reporting 90 available ICU beds, 521 available hospital beds, 226 available ventilators and 72 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized.

CVS begins COVID-19 testing

The CVS Pharmacy in Carthage is now offering drive-thru COVID-19 testing.

Patients must register for an appointment in advance at MinuteClinic.com, and CVS is only conducting drive-thru testing at this time. Appointments can be made for the same day and up to two days in advance, depending on availability.

Testing is available to patients who meet CDC and state-specified criteria. A doctor's referral is not required.

CVS is only offering a nasal swab test, which looks for active infections. Patients will be administering their own swabs. Lab samples are typically returned within two to four days, CVS said.

The test should not carry out-of-pocket costs for patients, but CVS says to check with your health plan to confirm before scheduling a test. People with insurance should bring their information with them. Those without insurance will need to bring their Social Security number, driver's license or state ID.

CVS is located at 801 W. Panola St.

Regional East Texas hospitals report no capacity concerns

The local COVID-19 picture is different from the statewide situation that led Gov. Greg Abbott to reinstate some restrictions last week.

This past week saw Texas break records in number of new cases and hospitalizations, and the statewide positivity rate — a measure of the ratio of tests that come back positive based on a seven-day average — reached 11.76 percent on Thursday, according to the Texas Tribune. That's above the 10 percent level Abbott had said would be cause for concern in the state's reopening process. 

But those concerns were mainly situated in metropolitan cities.

East Texas officials have said capacity at hospitals and ICUs has not reached the concerning levels seen in some bigger Texas cities. COVID-19 hospitalizations at Gregg County's two hospitals stood at 35 on Friday, up from 33 the week before, Gregg County Health Authority Dr. Lewis Browne said, and he said most of those patients are not in the ICU. Most are in areas of the hospitals set aside specifically to treat COVID-19 patients, he said. Smith County hospitalizations were at 58 on Friday. 

Libby Bryson, spokeswoman for Longview Regional Medical Center, said while patient numbers fluctuate daily, the hospital has not seen large declines or spikes.

"Our census has remained relatively stable over the past few weeks," she said. "That being said, we are certainly aware of what is going in the densely populated urban areas of Texas.

"Longview Regional Medical Center’s hospitalization trends for COVID-19 patients are no different than what we have seen since the start of the pandemic."

In Tyler, UT Health East Texas Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Cummins said COVID-19 has been one of the most challenging diseases that he’s seen in his 30 years of health care other than HIV/AIDS.

“People need to understand it’s a real disease and it’s fatal,” he said. “We can slow it down and make it less dangerous, but we’ve got to take action.”

UT Health East Texas and Christus Trinity Mother Frances officials said local hospitalizations are remaining fairly steady, but people should exercise preventive measures to reduce further spread.

A month ago, hospitalization numbers at UT Health East Texas were low, but since recent reopenings, hospitalizations have steadily risen, Cummins said.

For the past month, the number of patients has been between 21 to 25 people who have COVID-19 and are receiving treatment at UT Health East Texas.

The ages of patients have ranged from 20s to 80s and many have other health issues and are in close-knit families, Cummins said.

Dr. Mark Anderson, chief medical officer for Christus Health System, said hospitalizations have been fairly steady with a typical range of 12 to 18 patients since the beginning of COVID-19 cases in East Texas.

Some patients at Christus Trinity Mother Frances are in the ICU, while others are housed in intermediate care. Anderson said there have been a couple 18-or 19-year-olds hospitalized, and the oldest has been a 79-year-old patient.

He added that while people with underlying health issues could be affected more by the virus, there have been others hospitalized without preexisting health conditions.

Anderson said many hospital systems were concerned about reaching capacity early on, but there are no problems receiving personal protective equipment and supplies.

Jo Lee Ferguson and Meredith Shamburger contributed reporting to this story.