WICHITA COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) — There are two more COVID-19 related deaths in Wichita County on Wednesday, bringing the total this year to seven.

The Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District reported 247 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, January 5.

“The last two or three weeks, we’ve seen a substantial increase in the number of cases daily and, of course, in aggregate weekly,” Wichita Falls-Wichita County Assistant Public Health Director Amy Fagan said.

COVID-19 cases in Wichita County continue to rise as health leaders await testing from the state to determine whether or not the Omicron variant is present in our area.

“Just today alone, closing out Sunday through today [Wednesday], we’re 725 cases for the week, and so that is very concerning,” Fagan said.

Fagan said though a positive case of the Omicron variant has not been confirmed in the county, based on information provided by the state, they believe the variant is here.

“What I’m seeing in what cases individuals are reporting to us, it’s consistent with what we are seeing in other locations that have had variant confirmed and so what that means is there is a higher rate of reinfections and so we have seen that number substantially rise here as well, we’re also seeing a higher number of vaccine breakthrough cases,” Fagan said.

Because of these increasingly high numbers, case managers with the Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District have been experiencing a backlog.

Fagan said they knew they would need to make some changes themselves going from 10 days to five-day quarantine discontinuation guidelines, per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’ve been working very closely with our medical providers to make sure they know about the updated guidelines, and they are issuing those notes of exclusion and return for their patients just as they would with other illnesses,” Fagan said.

Additionally, Fagan said they have changed their information-gathering process to spend less time on the phone with individuals, and so each person at home monitoring their symptoms can hear from their case managers in a timely manner.

They’ve also added more case investigators.

What happens if residents do not hear from the health department by the time their five days of isolation end?

“If they understand the rules, and it’s all on our website, it’s okay for someone to follow those rules and return based on if they have a physician’s note, and they are no longer symptomatic,” Fagan said.

Fagan said though the CDC said you can get out of isolation with improving symptoms, the health department said individuals should not exhibit any symptoms at all following the five days isolation.

Fagan said they are trying very hard to meet the needs of Wichita County residents.

Even after those five days, folks should continue to wear masks for another five days as an extra layer of precaution.

Fagan also wanted to add the Health District does not accept at-home tests for a definitive positive or negative result.