The rest of the H-GAC region

As long as we’ve been talking about Waller County and Montgomery County, I thought I’d check in on the other members of the Houston-Galveston Area Council region. Harris County and six of its seven neighbors – Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Liberty, and Montgomery, but not Waller – have issued stay-at-home orders. What about the other five counties in the region?

Austin County says the following on its website:

UPDATE 02.24.2020

We have been advised by authorities of one confirmed Covid-19 case in Sealy. The family is self-quarantining and is complying with guidelines. Any potential exposure is being investigated. Our recommendations have not changed. Continue to practice good hygiene and social distancing. Stay home if you are sick. If you have symptoms, even if they are your usual allergies, flu, etc., call your doctor first. Only go to the doctor’s office or hospital if directed by the doctor. We need to isolate the virus. Stay home as much as possible. Limit your exposure. Tell this to your kids if they are running around on their extended spring break. Stay calm and be safe. As the governor says, we can defeat Covid 19 in Texas.

Here’s a news story from Brenham that basically recapitulates this information. One thing you find when you go looking for news about these smaller counties is that there ain’t much out there. For now, this is what we know.

Colorado County has a disaster declaration by its County Judge and the Mayors of three towns (Columbus, Eagle Lake, and Weimar) that “shall be read to comply” with the initial executive order from Greg Abbott, which closed bars and gyms and schools, limited public gatherings to a maximum of ten people, and limited restaurants to take-out only. The Colorado County order says it continues till March 27, but I presume there has been an extension since then; the Abbott order was through April 3, anyway. As of March 25, there were no confirmed cases in Colorado County.

Matagorda County has been under a disaster declaration since March 16, and has closed county parks, community centers, fairgrounds, and county beach access, in addition to restricting access to county government buildings. They reported eleven positive cases as of Saturday morning.

Walker County has a COVID-19 information page, where I learned that they have a midnight to five AM curfew as of March 23, and they report two confirmed cases as of Friday. Walker County is the home of Huntsville, and thus the Huntsville Correctional Unit, and I sure would like to know what their plan is for when the first inmate tests positive.

Finally, there’s Wharton County, which has this press release stating that there have been five positive COVID-19 tests for county residents (out of 50 total, with eight still pending as of Friday), and little else.

Far as I can tell, none of these counties has a stay-at-home order similar to what the big counties have been doing. These five counties combine to have nineteen confirmed positive cases, though given that test results are taking up to ten days to return, who knows what the actual number is. It’s surely higher now than when I drafted this post on Saturday. I have no idea what is informing Greg Abbott’s decision-making process, but at least now you know.

UPDATE: From the Trib, a note on the larger picture: “As of Friday, the Texas Department of State Health Services said 105 of the state’s 254 counties had reported cases. A week earlier, there were only 34.”

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3 Responses to The rest of the H-GAC region

  1. Jen says:

    The media should be more clear, people assume that everyone who shows symptoms is being tested, but that is not true. Due to a shortage of tests, there is a screening process designed to prioritize testing for healthcare workers and first responders, meaning that ordinary folks who are sick are not getting tested. There are a lot more people out there who have the virus than is currently being reported.

  2. Wolfgang Hirczy de Mino says:

    Here is a list (with hyperlinks) of mobility-reduction orders compiled by State Bar of Texas (SBOT), which is probably the most comprehensive one available:



    Also, the number of new reported infections is down precipitously in Italy today (30 March 2020), but it is not clear if this is a fluke (day-to-day fluctuations may be sensitive to currency of reporting from numerous locations and nationwide aggregation)
    The total number of infections (cases) is still going up. The number of deaths per day is also still very high, and the cumulative number of corona deaths obviously surging.

    See the timeline graphs here:

    LEGEND: The “Deceduti” figure is the number of deaths: 11,591. Cumulative number of infected (“Totale positivi”) stands at 101.739. This includes those that survived/resolved, as opposed to “attuali” and “dimissi” (discharged/resolved).

  3. Wolfgang says:

    @ Jen

    SYMPTOMATIC SPREAD SURVEILLANCE & MAPPING [a type of syndromic surveillance]

    The Plan B approach (in the absence of sufficient testing capacity) is to track people based on the information on symptoms they provide. I hope they are doing this through the new Harris County intake website (the one that screens folks to determine whether they qualify to be tested), but I don’t know for sure.

    In a big-data approach to epidemiological surveillance, the additional information on symptoms (in the absence of confirmation of positive cases via test results) would also allow for creation of risk maps (based on address information, assuming it is collected in the intake process), and for voluntary contract tracing and contact warning by the affected individual, so that the close contacts can self-isolate.


    Geo-risk-maps based on demographic data already exists, but the ones I have seen are based on the incidence/prevalence of vulnerability factors in the populations of different census units within Houston. The maps that show only confirmed cases don’t capture the cases in incubation, and are therefore always behind the reality on the ground.


    Testing of a random sample of people from the relevant community (or all members, if small) would be best to gauge the degree and pattern of spread, but that’s not yet feasible, given the scarcity of testing capability.

    That said, there are pilot studies of this nature. Bill Gates is associated with at least one I heard of, and Iceland (a country much smaller in population than Houston, ca 330K) has undertaken widespread testing that includes people without symptoms.
    Key word: Thorolfur Gudnason, chief epidemiologist of Iceland

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