COVID-19 coverage graphic

The Marion County judge announced Thursday that a county employee has tested positive for COVID-19, shutting down an entire department, on a day when the East Texas region saw its cumulative total of coronavirus diagnoses top 4,000. 

Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur late Thursday reported he had been notified earlier that day the employee had had direct contact with another individual who had tested positive for COVID-19.

“The employee has since also tested positive for COVID-19,” he said.

County officials said the employee’s department head took action to protect the public and county employees by immediately closing the office to the public and by notifying the LaFleur’s office and the emergency management coordinator, who also is interim Sheriff David Capps.

LaFleur did not disclose which department the infected employee worked in, but several hours before the announcement was made, the county tax office posted a notice on Facebook that the office would be closed to the public until further notice.

All county employees were tested the same day.

“We didn’t wait for the state to let us know we had a positive test. The employee reported it to their department head today,” he said Thursday.

“We started immediately testing that department, the sheriff’s department, the staff (with whom the employee may have come into contact) at the courthouse. And we’ve gotten 80% of the test results back for the rest of the Marion County employees, and we’re still waiting on a few,” LaFleur said.

LaFleur said all the test results that have been returned so far have been negative.

Across the 25-county East Texas region, at least 4,039 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed by Thursday evening, up from 3,983 the day before. The death toll rose Thursday to 164, an increase of one from Wednesday. 

Two of the new cases were in Gregg County.

County Health Administrator A.J. Harris reported the new positive cases brought the county's cumulative total to 306. 

Harris said 2,748 total tests had been administered in the county as of Thursday, with 2,327 results returning negative and 115 results pending. The county has recorded 126 recoveries, and its death toll from the novel coronavirus stands at 13.

In Smith County, the eight new cases pushed that county's cumulative total to 318, according to the Northeast Texas Public Health District.

The county has marked 196 recoveries and has had four coronavirus deaths. It now has 118 active cases. 

Tyler hospitals on Thursday were treating 39 patients for COVID-19, down two from Wednesday.

In Titus County, County Judge Brian Lee reported the seven new cases there brought his county's total up to 726. 

"Still a single digit day, and a few of these were actually late arrivals from the weekend. Pray for continued single-digit days," Lee wrote on his daily Facebook update. "We have seen a nice flattening of the curve for the last week and a half, which is exactly what we want to see."

In Harrison County, County Judge Chad Sims reported no new cases and seven new recoveries on Thursday.

That county's cumulative total stands at 270, while recoveries now have risen to 178.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has reported 29 deaths for Harrison County. 

In Panola County, County Judge LeeAnn Jones on Thursday reported three new cases, bumping her county's cumulative total to 214. 

Panola County has recorded 23 deaths from COVID-19.

Across the state, 99,851 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed as of Thursday, with 63,812 estimated recoveries and 2,105 deaths. 

Since Memorial Day, Texas has set record highs in daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations from the disease caused by the coronavirus. The trend continued Thursday, when it reported a 2,947 hospitalizations — a new high for the 11th time in 12 days — and 3,516 new cases, which was a record for the third straight day.

Thursday's 43 reported fatalities was the second-highest day in a month.

— City Editor Belinda McCoy McLaughlin, Digital Editor Scott Brunner, the Tyler Morning Telegraph and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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