The confirmed number of coronavirus cases in Smith County is at 14, one which led to Trane Technologies temporarily close its Tyler plant which employs about 1,450 people. Those working alongside this person have been under self-quarantine but they have not presented symptoms, according to a statement from the company,
The Northeast Texas Public Health District (NET Health) updated its total of confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Smith County to 14 on Tuesday. NET Health is reporting that none of the cases have resulted in the death of patients, as of noon on Tuesday. In all, local officials are reporting 22 cases in the area, with one confirmed positive each in Gregg, Van Zandt, Bowie, Morris, Cass, and Hopkins Counties. Rusk County has two confirmed positive cases.
The Tyler Paper has reached out to NET Health to determine if the Trane employee was included in the 14 in Smith County or an additional case. NET Health has not answered questions from the Tyler Paper where the patients live in Smith County, their age, where they contracted the virus or their condition status.
Trane officials said they are going to clean and open the plant back up Wednesday. A spokesman said there are about 1,450 employees working at the Tyler plant.
In a statement after an employee at the Tyler plant tested positive for COVID-19, a Trane Technologies spokesperson said the person is receiving medical treatment and is at home in recovery. The plant has been closed for deep cleaning of work stations and common areas and will reopen Wednesday.
“Our No. 1 priority is the health and safety of our people, and we have been following all guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the local health department,” the Trane statement said. “This includes added safety and hygiene protocols, and educational and support resources for our employees.”
The statement said Trane is open and operating, and the business is categorized as critical by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
That number puts Smith County at the highest per capita rate of confirmed cases in mid-to-large sized counties in Texas with 1 confirmed positive per 16,266 people, according to data from the state health department. As of Monday evening the next closest was Galveston County which saw their count increase to 18 cases for 1 in 18,613.
Rusk County Office of Emergency Management reported its second case of the coronavirus late Tuesday.
Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt urged residents to shelter in place voluntarily on Tuesday, citing multiple confirmed cases in surrounding counties and what officials described as “being in the middle of a hot spot.” Gregg County officials also said it is believed numbers of positive COVID-19 cases are artificially low due to under-testing and the delay on returns of tests.
Stoudt said he was shocked that he has seen people not taking the matter seriously.
Prior to the case count being updated Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran declined to issue a similar recommendation on Tuesday morning during the weekly Smith County Commissioners Court meeting.
The Tyler Paper will be live on Facebook from a press conference with the City of Tyler, Smith County and NET Health at noon on Wednesday.