Lufkin is one of the leading cities in the nation for COVID-19 related deaths over the last two weeks, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

The Times is reporting 19 new deaths and lists the data as “flat or decreasing.” The paper ranks Lufkin as No. 13 in the nation for fatalities based on population in that time span.

Angelina County Judge Don Lymbery said this number is false.

The Lufkin Daily News reached out to the Angelina County & Cities Health District for more information about those 19 deaths. Health district administrator Sharon Shaw didn't answer that question. Beginning Saturday, the health district will no longer be reporting fatalities.

State health officials on Monday changed how they are compiling fatality data by using the cause of death listed on death certificates, instead of waiting for local and regional public health authorities to report them. Death certificates are required by law to be filed within 10 days.

Only deaths directly attributed to the COVID-19 virus are counted. This method does not include deaths of people who had COVID-19 but died of an unrelated cause, health officials said.

Thirty-one people have died from COVID-19 in Angelina County as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The Rufus H. Duncan Geriatric Prison Facility in Diboll currently lists 16 fatalities but only one of those happened in the last two weeks. The health district is reporting 14 deaths, only five of which were reported since July 14. This leaves one unaccounted for death in the 31 listed by the state, and leaves 13 unaccounted for by The New York Times' list.

Shaw said she is attempting to reconcile that discrepancy.

Additionally, the Times said Lufkin is 17th highest in the nation for new cases over the last two weeks with 732. However, Angelina County's case count shows 724 cases from July 15-29 or 775 new cases from July 14-28.

The health district reported 40 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. This means the county has received 1,606 positive tests — not including either prison facility in Diboll.

The state is now reporting 1,055 active cases and 401 recoveries. This is a discrepancy of 147 cases, 133 minus the 14 confirmed deaths.

The Angelina County Emergency Management webpage lists 463 recoveries. In an email asking about the 19 deaths, emergency management coordinator Ricky Connor said he gets all of his information from the health district.

The Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council is reporting 18 confirmed cases in the intensive care unit and two suspected cases. They make up 42.2% of the ICU beds in use. There are 42 confirmed in general isolation and two suspected. They make up 27.3% of general beds in use.

There are 13 COVID patients being ventilated and 20 adult vents are in use, their report said.

The Duncan Unit lists four active inmate cases and 270 recoveries. They list nine active employee cases and 41 recoveries. There are 62 people on medical restriction and four in isolation.

The Diboll Unit lists 10 active inmate cases and nine recoveries. They also list two active employee cases and no recoveries. They have 490 on medical restriction and 13 in isolation.

Neither unit is on lockdown. 

Numbers reported by the Texas Department of Public Safety will fluctuate because they represent an active count rather than an historical count.

The health district said Polk County has 656 positive cases, 66 recoveries and one death. San Augustine has 153 positive cases, 75 recoveries and 12 deaths.

Nacogdoches has 922 confirmed cases, 337 active cases, 553 recoveries and 32 deaths. Based on population, The New York Times listed Nacogdoches as the No. 2 city for most improved death rate.

Additionally, Shaw said the health district is changing how they report their statistics. They will begin reporting confirmed positive, probable and recovered cases separately beginning Saturday.

She defined a confirmed case as one that was confirmed by a laboratory. A probable case is someone who has had specific antigen in a clinical specimen, or specific antibody in serum, plasma, or whole blood that indicates a new or recent infection.

“I am gathering more data regarding TDCJ inmates and/or Nursing Home LTC deaths and how they are counted by county,” she said.

Jess Huff's email address is jess.huff@lufkindailynews.com.