COVID-19 testing in Galveston County has been a point of pride almost from the start because at one point the county had one of the highest rates of testing in the state, if not the country.

For months, Galveston County residents have been able to call a hotline at the University of Texas Medical Branch and schedule a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether they had health insurance to cover the cost.

The model program is considered to be a big part of why Galveston County was able to keep the COVID-19 rate relatively at bay for so long.

That’s why when the Galveston County Health District in May ended a free public testing program it had run during the early months of the pandemic, county officials scrambled for a way to keep the program going and contracted with the University of Texas Medical Branch to do just that.

The program is paid for through the county’s allocation of federal CARES Act money and has helped deliver more than 177,000 tests to county residents. That’s the equivalent of half the county’s population, although some people were tested more than once, according to data.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry asked cities in June to contribute 18 percent of their CARES Act funding to the program, on the assumption the cities would not have enough COVID costs to actually spend all their CARES money — a notion supported by the Texas Department of Emergency Management, which, according to Henry, said that if cities didn’t hit their spending limits, it would be no problem to move city money to the county.

But that changed when the federal government changed the rules, giving cities more options for how they can spend their CARES Act money, therefore leaving less unspent and available money for the county kitty.

“These assurances were made repeatedly,” Henry said. “The decision they made to reverse all that last month was something they told me cannot happen, will not happen, take it to the bank. We did this with a lot of assurances that it wouldn’t turn into vapor when it came time to get down to it.”

Some cities bought in right away — Friendswood, Hitchcock, Kemah, Clear Lake Shores, Tiki Island and Jamaica Beach have put up about $150,000. The county expects to receive another $541,791 from Dickinson, Santa Fe and League City.

Galveston, La Marque, Texas City and Bayou Vista, on the other hand, weren’t quite on board. Galveston and La Marque — probably the most proactive cities in the county in regard to COVID response — have said they’re waiting to cover all of their own COVID-related expenses before pitching in to county efforts. And that makes sense.

But with coronavirus cases on the rise in the county, the program now finds itself more than $1.5 million over budget, leaving the county with an expensive program, ongoing costs, no promise of more money coming in and a rule change that makes it less likely that more money will come in. County officials are unsure whether the programwill continue into the new year.

Ultimately, Henry argues the county testing program is something that should be supported by every local government. We agree — work it out.

• Margaret Battistelli Gardner

Margaret Battistelli Gardner: 409.683.5227; Margaret.Gardner@galvnews.com

Locations

Deputy Managing Editor

Margaret joined The Daily New in December 2019, bringing more than 20 years of editorial experience to the team. A Philadelphia native, she lives in Galveston County with her husband, Steve, and their dog Nanook.

(24) comments

Jack Cross

Testing may be ok for people in certain positions but for the general public I see it as a waste of money. I took the test several months ago and it felt good to know I was clean. But the next day, i got to thinking what good was the test, it did nothing to protect me and I could get infected right after i got tested.

Now tests are showing that the normal masks people use don't work.

In fact, all over the world, nothing really has worked. But what has worked is Covid-19 has been a very effective political tool that is turning this country upside down.

Charles Douglas

"But what has worked is Covid-19 has been a very effective political tool that is turning this country upside down." ..Mr. Jack Cross.

Yes sir, and that is exactly the results China and XI JINPING were expecting when they had no answer for the raging American Economy which under Donald J. TRUMP was leaving them in our rear view mirror, until they released their Lab Created Biological weapon on the world.

A weapon they created in a lab for just the results they got! So, what did half of American Citizens do? They blamed the President of The United States, and absorbed China and Papa XI JINPING of any liability! This to me, was worst than Hanoi Jane putting on a North Vietnamese war helmet, and climbing aboard an enemy anti-aircraft gun used to shoot down American pilots like Senator John McCain, posing for propaganda photos in North Vietnam not very far from where our POWS were imprisoned!

I have nothing but pity for such an ungrateful individual as Hanoi Jane, but I know others military people who served, who hated her guts! Heaven help our soldiers and troops now, because half the people they are serving and dying for seems to root against them. It is why the first raise they got in years were given to them by ahahahaa DJT! It is also why they had no equipment up to specs and appropriate budgets to satisfaction, until Trump provided them.

Bailey Jones

You've got it half right, Jack. Testing, by itself, does nothing. You need testing plus contact tracing and quarantining. That's the one thing that has been shown to work all around the world. If you had tested positive, then you could quarantine yourself for 14 days and guarantee that you didn't spread the virus to anyone else. Contact tracing would have allowed anyone you had been in recent contact with to be informed so they could also be tested and quarantined. Any of them who were positive would have their contacts tested and quarantined. That's how you stop the spread of the virus.

Jack Cross

Bailey, The U.S. is not alone battling COVID-19, it is world wide. There is no evidence that isolation helps. That may be true for nursing homes and people at risk but being isolated weakens your immune system and you can't hide forever. Keeping kids out of school hurts hurd immunity. The common flue kills a lot of children, covid -19 does not. Bottom line, what country has a plan that works ? none.

George Soros

Please share your sources for this information that you are spouting

Bailey Jones

'what country has a plan that works?"

If by "works" you mean "stops the virus" there are none, because this virus has no cure. But, there are 202 countries that have plans that work better than ours.

Jack, I understand that "There is no evidence that isolation helps" is a narrative that is rampant in right-wing media, but it's simply not true. Cases in the US are 3527 per 100K of population. The US is the 15th worst among 217 countries. In Australia, it's 111 cases per 100K. In Canada, it's 848. In South Korea, it's 57. In Germany, it's 1046. These are places where people wear masks, they get tested, and they do contact tracing and quarantine. Actions have consequences - we see it in countries all over the world with lower infection rates and lower death rates. Inaction also has consequences - we see it right here in the USA.

And no, I don't expect that these facts will change your opinion.

Carlos Ponce

What Bailey fails to account for is the countries he is referencing have strong central governments. In the United States health is covered by the individual states. Instead of taking the United States as a single entity look at the per capita per STATE.

Remove New Jersey, New York and the US per capita case and death rate DROPS dramatically.

Bailey Jones

"Remove New Jersey, New York, and the US per capita case and death rate DROPS dramatically." There's that famous Trumplogic at work.

But let's just test that specious logic, lest someone new to these pages take you seriously:

Cases in the US per 100K = 3527

Cases by state per 100K:

North Dakota 9,027

South Dakota 7,784

Iowa 6,196

New York 6,038

Wisconsin 6,032

Nebraska 5,526

Utah 5,126

Idaho 4,927

Tennessee 4,804

Illinois 4,762

Montana 4,762

Mississippi 4,647

Alabama 4,572

Arkansas 4,566

Louisiana 4,505

Kansas 4,417

Oklahoma 4,377

Wyoming 4,375

Rhode Island 4,342

Minnesota 4,314

Florida 4,190

Missouri 4,137

Nevada 4,135

Georgia 4,123

Indiana 4,008

Arizona 3,948

South Carolina 3,923

Texas 3,653

New Mexico 3,362

Alaska 3,311

New Jersey 3,250

Kentucky 3,240

Delaware 3,118

Colorado 3,102

North Carolina 3,090

Michigan 3,034

Maryland 2,892

Massachusetts 2,889

District of Columbia 2,771

Ohio 2,728

Connecticut 2,716

California 2,649

Virginia 2,475

Pennsylvania 2,201

West Virginia 2,009

Washington 1,797

Oregon 1,424

Virgin Islands 1,403

Puerto Rico 1,391

Hawaii 1,167

New Hampshire 1,161

Maine 727

Vermont 505

There's a persistent myth promoted by right-wing media that the devastation of COVID is primarily in states run by Democrats. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine the veracity of that assertion.

https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_casesper100k

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_party_strength_in_U.S._states

Jim Forsythe

Fatal cases total for USA 255,390 One days death total, USA +1,967.

Jim Forsythe

I just talked to my Sister in Kansas, and she said that Kansas is in real trouble because they have almost ran out space for Corona people( She said about 10 beds left in all of Kansas). The worst part is that they can not send anyone to Oklahoma, because they have surpassed the number of people they can serve. Wichita announce that 1 in 10 COVID-19 people, admitted to the Hospital are dying.

The Midwest is in trouble.

Rate of U.S. coronavirus (COVID-19) cases as of November 18, 2020, by state. (per 100,000 people).

Number one on the list was North Dakoda at 8.656

Number two on the list was South Dakoda at 7.606

Number three on the list was Iowa at 6.123

Number four on the list was Wisconsin at 5.876

Drop down to number 30 one the per capita per STATE list. New Jersey at 3.125

Number 36 on the per capita per STATE list. New York at 2.924

Carlos Ponce

My statement is still valid.

Carlos Ponce

And of course, Jim and Bailey use comorbidity cases, not China Virus alone which according to the CDC amount to 6% of those numbers.

Jim Forsythe

Fatal cases total for USA 255,390 One days death total, USA +1,967.

Carlos Ponce

interesting... I write of DEATH RATES and Bailey Jones posts CASE RATES. That's a LIBERAL for you, change the parameters of the topic![rolleyes]

DEATHS in New York State = 34,156

DEATHS in North Dakota = 775

Bailey Jones

..... and there's the inevitable lie.

Carlos - "Remove New Jersey, New York and the US per capita case and death rate DROPS dramatically."

Also Carlos - "interesting... I write of DEATH RATES and Bailey Jones posts CASE RATES. That's a LIBERAL for you, change the parameters of the topic! "

I'm really going to miss you, Carlos. After you pay up your $1000. You are leaving, right? I mean, all your comments downplaying Trumplague have been proven to be tragically wrong. (Although to be fair, they were Trump's comments, you just regurgitated them.) Then there are all those predictions you made about arrests, and indictments, and conviction, and imprisonment of all the nasty Trumpenemies that never came true. And then horror of being pulled under the water by the weight of Trump's historic loss - disproving your perhaps most prolific wrong prediction. I can understand why you would feel as though you've lost all credibility among your fellow Trumpsters and might want to just run away and hang your head in shame and defeat.

tock tock

Carlos Ponce

Bailey, reality is going to slap you sideways.

Bailey Jones

Let's see if we can put the final nail in this coffin, shall we?

Using data from https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality :

US deaths per 100k = 252,535/327,160,254 = 77/100K. This puts the US near the bottom of the list of 156 nations, at 144th place. 143 nations are doing better than us.

New York state deaths = 33,740

New York state population = 19,400,000

New Jersey state deaths = 16,655

New Jersey state population = 9,241,900

Subtracting out deaths and population for these two states yields 202,140 deaths/298,518,354 = 68/100K. This puts the US (minus New York and New Jersey) at 138th place.

Carlos says, "Remove New Jersey, New York and the US per capita death rate DROPS dramatically."

I leave it to the reader to determine whether a change from 144th place to 138th place qualifies as "dramatic".

Jim Forsythe

Bailey it qualifies as we are in trouble. We are at 255,496 total deaths from Corna19 and 1,556 death's a day, and that number is increasing.

We have no National leadership, so it not going to get better anytime soon.

If one is waiting on the vaccine to save us, think about this, "We expect daily deaths to reach a peak of over 2,500 a day in mid-January," the IHME modeling team wrote on Thursday. The group also hiked its Covid-19 death forecast considerably, now predicting a total of 471,000 American deaths by March 1 -- up more than 30,000 since their last projection about a week ago. Also when asked, only 54% of people said that they were going to take the vaccine.

There were 79,410 hospitalizations reported on Wednesday, a record high for the United States.

Please do the right thing and wear your mask, wash your hands and all the rest of the things we need to do.

If we do not do these simple things , more will die.

Bailey Jones

Not to worry, Jim, the governor has decided to leave it to ordinary Texans to decide whether or not the virus will continue its uncontrolled spread across the state.

Fun fact, the death toll in just El Paso county (876) is now higher than in the entire states of Nebraska, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon, Delaware, Utah, South Dakota, West Virginia, Montana, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Maine, Wyoming, Alaska and Vermont.

On the other hand, the death rate in Texas is 69 per 100K, which is about the same as in the US minus NY and NJ. So, by Carlos' analysis, there's really nothing to see here. Move along.

Carlos Ponce

Bailey - another person unclear on the concept of comorbidity.[rolleyes]

Jim Forsythe

What is importin is the huge increase numbers that are dying, and the one's that will die.

We are at 255,496 total deaths from Corna19 and 1,556 death's a day, and that number are increasing.

Death rates are going up and you worry about verbiage!

The fact is the USA is in trouble and unless we step up now, the problems could become overwhelming as it is in the Midwest now.

We are at the breaking point at many facilities, and must reduce the numbers or face a incontrollable problem.

Gary Scoggin

Margaret, have you reached out to the new Texas City Mayor to see if the city has reconsidered its stance on this?

Dan Freeman

Faced with a surge in cases, 40 states, including recent holdouts like Iowa and North Dakota, now have put mask requirements in place. Because, “The more people who wear a mask, the more the community is protected and therefore the more you individually benefit,” said Dr. John Brooks, chief medical officer of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Covid-19 response program. “It’s like a herd effect.”

Dan Freeman

H’mm, which Republican Governor do you prefer? South Dakota led by Governor Kristin Noem who refused to mask the state or shut down but supports President Trump with a 7,000 person rally at Mount Rushmore. She welcomed hundreds of thousands to the Sturgis Rally. Today SD has among the worst infection rates in the country at 8 percent and 705 deaths.

In contrast Republican Governor of Vermont, Phil Scott, shut the state down beginning in April and continues a state wide mask mandate. It has the lowest infection rate in the country, 0.5 percent, and 61 deaths.

Both states are rural and have a population under one million. They both have similar employment rates.

Do we want to be like SD or VT? Mask up, wash up, stay home, and stay apart.

One more epidemiologic comparison:

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