Lubbock Health Authority Dr. Ron Cook said it’s not a second wave.
"I don't think it ever went away," the family medicine physician said. "I think it’s just bubbling back up.”
The recent increase of active cases of COVID-19 in Lubbock was expected by city and health leaders. Data shows a boost in testing has revealed a younger group of patients.
On Tuesday, 61 new people tested positive for the virus, a record high for single-day cases. That makes a total of 265 cases diagnosed halfway through June, a high number compared to 167 total cases in May.
Testing is also up in Lubbock and is likely contributing to the uptick in diagnoses. More than 900 tests were pending on Tuesday. About 5% of all COVID-19 tests in Lubbock since March have returned positive results.
After multiple student-athletes were diagnosed with the illness, Texas Tech Athletics did mass testing, adding to these total numbers, Cook said. University Medical Center’s drive-thru screening site also tested more than 500 people on Monday.
“At the UMC drive-thru clinic, they tested more patients, or people, than they ever tested before even at our biggest peak six weeks ago," the doctor said.
Cook thinks contact tracing, notifying people who may have been with a sick person, has encouraged people to get tested.
“This is a different infection," he said. "It does make some people nervous. ‘Oh, you were exposed.’ If you’re told you’re exposed, you need to go get tested. I think most people would go do that.”
Exposure to a known case is the most common way people are contracting coronavirus in Lubbock, city data shows.
Case spikes in April were mostly isolated at nursing home facilities. Cook says a younger, more mobile, group is affected this time around.
“Most of these are associated with young adults, 18-29 or so,” he said early Tuesday morning.
More than half of people who have tested positive for coronavirus in June are under age 30. The group is less likely to experience severe COVID-19 symptoms and require hospitalization, Cook said. On Tuesday, there were 14 confirmed-coronavirus patients hospitalized, as state hospitalizations reached new highs.
But younger carriers may spread it to someone who would require more care.
“Because you don’t feel as poorly as somebody else, then you may continue to be out in public when you’re sick and continue to spread," Cook said. "At some point, we’re going to get it back into a vulnerable patient population. That’s what makes us most nervous.”
Patients under 30 is a growing group statewide. Texas Governor Greg Abbott noted the rise of young patients at a Tuesday news conference.
“This typically results from people going to bar type setting," Abbott said. "I can tell you that’s the case in Lubbock County, Bexar County and Cameron County. There were news reports in each of those three counties that a majority of people who have tested positive since the beginning of June have been people under the age of 30.”
Cook is worried people are lowering their guards - and face masks - and that’s contributing to the spread. Different activities have different risks, but there are two prevention methods proven to limit spread.
“I wish that we could get people to continue to do social distancing and wearing face masks. Those are the two absolutely proven, over and over, those are the two things that slow this virus down," Cook said. "I absolutely don’t believe we’re going to make it go away. But we need to slow it down so we don’t get vulnerable patient populations sick.”
That means wearing a mask while hanging out at a bar or restaurant, when you’re not eating or drinking, Cook advised. Exhaling and talking releases infectious particles.
“Especially if you’re in a loud bar and you’re having to yell at each other to have conversations. Which now forces more virus particles out of your breath and you’re standing elbow to elbow with people. Yeah, this is the perfect environment for this virus to spread.”
The City of Lubbock on Tuesday announced a COVID-19 outbreak among people ages 18-25 who recently visited bars where they say social distancing was not possible. Seven businesses voluntarily closed for cleaning due to the outbreak. Of the 61 new cases Tuesday, 50 people were under age 30.
More information on this outbreak and Lubbock’s continued response to the pandemic is expected at a weekly news conference Wednesday.