LIVE UPDATES: Second case of COVID-19 confirmed in Comal County

(Courtesy Adobe Stock)
(Courtesy Adobe Stock)

(Courtesy Adobe Stock)

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(Ian Pribanic/Community Impact Newspaper)
Comal County's Office of Public Health (OPH) has confirmed a second local case of the coronavirus.

The patient has been under self-quarantine since receiving their positive test result Thursday evening, March 19, according to a press release issued by the county.

In an email, Comal County's Public Information Officer Paul Anthony said the the OPH is still investigating the patients history and cannot confirm if the case is travel-related.

The county does not intend to share where the patient has been due to privacy concerns, Anthony explained in the email.

State and local labs have performed 34 tests on Comal County residents as of 5 p.m., March 19.


Update: 5 p.m., March 19.

The Comal County Office of Public Health (OPH) presented updates on the local coronavirus response at the Commissioners Court on Thursday, March 19.

Director of Public Health Cheryl Fraser said 25 tests have been reported locally from private and state labs to the OPH. The case announced on Wednesday is still Comal County's only positive test.

“Testing is available through the state [Labaratory Response Network] lab and now private labs,” Fraser said. “State testing takes place in coordination with [the OPH] based on criteria from the Texas Department of State Health Services.”

Private testing is becoming more available, at the discretion of physicians, and Fraser expects a dramatic increase in tests performed, although it is only done for informational purposes at this point.

“There is no treatment for COVID-19, so the result of the patient’s test does not change their treatment,” Fraser said. “That might be the biggest misconception out there and that’s why we are advising people—if they are symptomatic—to please stay home and not spread it.”

Residents who test positive for the virus or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive—or if they believe they are infected—should not immediately go to the emergency room, their doctor’s office or any other medical facilities, according to Fraser.

Instead, they are asked to first call ahead to help health care professionals reserve resources for people that require hospitalization.

Fraser went on to recommend that residents and county officials take the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations seriously.

She noted that the hotline set up for coronavirus questions and concerns receives more than 100 calls daily, and received more than 150 on Wednesday, March 18.

The OPH hotline is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at 830-221-1120.

Disaster Declaration

County Judge Sherman Krause said that Wednesday’s disaster declaration allows the county to seek reimbursement of any costs related to efforts that mitigate the coronavirus, should the federal or state government make funds available.

The declaration also activates the county’s emergency operation center and enables better communication between agencies.

An extension of the declaration's seven-day period of effect will be decided at a special meeting on Tuesday, March 24, which will be viewable on the county's website.

“We don't know how big of a problem this will become but we're trying to push out as much information as we can so that people can make informed decisions,” Krause said. “The bottom line is protect yourself, protect your family and make sure that you don’t unreasonably expose yourself to situations that you don't need to be in.”

Government Operations

In addition to the facilities listed in previous updates, Comal County and the city of New Braunfels announced in press releases that the government facilities below have changed their operations.

The main county switchboard at 830-221-1100 remains operational and county information and services are available online.

  • The Historic Courthouse is closed to the public.

  • The Comal County Tax Office is closed to in-person traffic beginning Friday, March 20, at its main location in New Braunfels and branches in Sattler and Bulverde. The office’s can be reached at 830-221-1353 and motor vehicle dealers can call to pick up necessary documents. Other information can be found online.

  • The Comal County Clerk’s Office has closed its offices to public traffic.

  • The Comal County District Clerk’s Office has restricted public access to its office and suspended passport processing. More information and instructions for attorneys needing to file in both county and district courts is available online.

  • New Braunfels City Hall remains open for the time being but Planning and Development services will be conducted through a phone bank in the lobby. Services are also available online. Customer service request can be made through the city secretary’s office window in the main lobby, or by calling 830-221-4000.

  • Window service will remain open to the public at the New Braunfels Municipal Court.

  • City of New Braunfels Park Administration Offices have closed to the public. Employees will still be available to answer questions and process requests over the phone at 830-221-4350.


Update: 7 p.m., March 18.

Comal County joined the city of New Braunfels on Wednesday, March 18, in declaring a state of disaster as the first local case of coronavirus was confirmed.

That case is travel-related and New Braunfels Mayor Barron Casteel said that the resident had been under quarantine since returning home and has not interacted with any local community members.

But Casteel thinks that other cases are likely already here.

“We believe that there are additional cases, statistically, in our community,” Casteel said. “That's why it's important that we follow the guidance from the United States Center for Disease (CDC) control and prevention.”

To avoid spreading the virus, the city and county is recommending that residents do not gather in groups of 10 or more, in accordance with CDC guidelines, but no mandates have been issued locally.

Casteel said that additional measures could be put into effect before the next City Council meeting, scheduled for Monday, March 23, where the disaster declaration and next steps will be discussed.

“We’re going to bring forward that measure of response that we believe necessary,” Casteel said. “It’s far better to overreact than underreact.”

As nonprofits deal with unprecedented demand, Casteel said the city would be working with McKenna Foundation CEO Alice Jewell to coordinate with local organizations to see how government funds and resources could be best applied.

“We know as we progress there’s going to be some serious stress brought to bear on those agencies,” Casteel said. “I feel very confident that you’ll see a great measure of generosity from our service organizations and charitable foundations as we move forward.”

During this time, Comal County Sheriff Mark Reynolds wants residents to know that officers will continue responding to calls, albeit in different ways depending on the severity of the situation.

“We’ll still respond to all emergency or life threatening calls, or in progress calls,” Reynolds said.

Officers will attempt to resolve non-emergency calls by phone or will request that residents step outside of their homes if possible to avoid potential viral transmission.

Measures are being taken at the county jail to prevent the spread of the virus to officers and prisoners. Fingerprinting has been suspended and a screening process has been put in place.

Officers are being provided with protective masks and gloves, and disinfectants for cleaning patrol vehicles.

“We don’t want to wait until [a confirmed case] happens,” Reynolds said. “We’re running all the contingencies now.”


Update: 4:50 p.m., March 18.

District Court cancellations.


Comal County has zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, March 16, according to a press release issued by the county.

Testing for the virus is still limited and members of at-risk groups are receiving priority. The county’s Office of Public Health (OPH) recommends that residents limit close contact with others as a precaution against the spread of the virus.

“Residents experiencing fever, coughing or shortness of breath – especially those with a recent history of travel to places with a COVID-19 outbreak – should stay home and call their primary care provider or local emergency room or urgent care clinic, but should not simply show up without calling ahead first,” said Cheryl Fraser, Comal County’s director of public health, in the press release.

Fraser also emphasized caution over panic.

“The most effective thing anyone can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to take common-sense steps to reduce their exposure,” Fraser said. “Residents should also be aware that even if they are not part of an at-risk group, they can still spread it to those who are unless they take proper precautions.”

The OPH encouraged county residents to take the following actions:

  • Stay home if you are sick. Treat your symptoms and self-quarantine.

  • Do not go to the emergency room unless you are experiencing a medical emergency.

  • If healthy, limit close contact with others: work from home if at all possible, pay bills online or over the phone, use grocery store pickup services if available, and shop online.

  • Do not visit hospitals or nursing facilities.

A hotline has been set up by the OPH to answer coronavirus-related questions. Residents may dial 830-221-1120 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday to reach the hotline.

The OPH has closed its offices to the public but can still be reached at 830-221-1150.

According to the press release, the county offices listed below have made the following changes:

  • As authorized under Governor Greg Abbott’s disaster declaration, the Comal County Jail has suspended public visitations with inmates, although attorney visitations may continue.

  • The Sheriff’s Office has instructed deputies to handle non-emergency calls by telephone whenever possible and to enact social distancing measures. Fingerprint services, civilian ride outs and vehicle inspections have been suspended and the Citizen Sheriff Academy has been postponed.

  • The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has canceled all in-person meetings and events for this week.

  • District courts have canceled all jury trials through May 31, and non-jury dockets through April 12.

  • County Court-at-Law No. 1 has postponed all dockets for March 17 through March 28.

  • County Court-at-Law No. 2 has postponed only criminal dockets through March 28.

    • Probate dockets will not be canceled and paperwork must be e-filed before the hearing date—including documents requiring the witness to be sworn before the clerk, which will be signed at the hearing.

    • Family Law dockets will be limited to essential proceedings, including Child Protective Service removal hearings, temporary orders, juvenile detention hearings, family violence protective orders and mental health proceedings. Uncontested divorces may be conducted via services such as Court Call, Zoom and Facetime.

  • All four Comal County justices of the peace have suspended their court proceedings indefinitely.

  • The county has postponed its University of County Government classes until further notice.

  • The Comal County Tax Office has taken social distancing measures and is encouraging customers to take care of business such as paying property taxes or registering vehicles online. Customers needing to transfer vehicle titles should call 830-221-1353 to make an appointment.

By Warren Brown
Warren joined Community Impact at the beginning of 2020 as the editor of its New Braunfels paper and now reports the news in San Marcos, Buda and Kyle. Warren previously wrote for the Dallas Observer and Fort Worth Weekly and he brings a passion for truth and equality to his reporting.