Kleberg County Judge Rudy Madrid and U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela both made pleas to state officials Wednesday afternoon for testing supplies capable of detecting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Madrid's letter – also signed by Health Director Emilio Garcia and Kleberg County Medical Director Dr. Jose Ugarte – was addressed to the Texas Department of Emergency Management Region 3. Madrid said in the letter that the county has a "strong concern that we are left vulnerable without immediate offsite testing facilities at our disposal."
"Currently, physician are having difficulties with testing access and are being directed to send their patients to Harlingen, Texas. This is unacceptable," Madrid wrote.
There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kleberg or the surrounding counties, but county and city officials have implemented a number of measures meant to curb the spread of the disease should it arise. That includes a limit on the number of people who can gather in public to less than 50, excluding grocery stores, medical facilities or exempt county buildings.
The county judge said that the county's only hospital – Christus Spohn Hospital Kleberg in Kingsville – provides emergency services to a number of counties between Nueces County and the Rio Grande Valley.
"This leaves our community very vulnerable if our only hospital was to become infected," Madrid wrote. "We are duty-bound to provide our health care providers with a remote testing site to ensure absolute safety."
Madrid said the county was requesting needed testing supplies to establish an off-site testing facility for COVID-19. Another option he proposed in the event that could not be done was to allow Kleberg County residents direct access to off-site testing facilities in Nueces County.
Madrid said if that latter option is what the state allows for, he asked that the state increase supplies for the Nueces County testing facility to "adequately sustain regional healthcare efforts."
Vela's letter echoed Madrid's request, but focused instead on allowing neighboring counties access to Nueces County's testing site. He also called for more supplies sent to the area to meet that need.
The letter from Vela was addressed to Dr. Emilie Prot, regional medical director with the Texas Department of State Health Services for Public Health Region 11.
"Nueces and Kleberg Counties are working together to ensure that all their residents have access to testing and care," Vela wrote. "Key to the success of these and similar cooperative efforts is providing access to testing and sufficient resources at the Nueces County testing site to meet the requirements of neighboring counties."
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services website, 1,907 people have been tested in the state, with 83 confirmed cases statewide as of Wednesday morning. There have been two deaths in Texas from COVID-19, both of which were announced on Tuesday.