Liberty County added three new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total to eight cases for the county. Two of the new cases are Rev. Kevin Howard and wife, Luciana, senior pastors of The Sanctuary of Cleveland, Texas.
The Howards’ 17-year-old son is showing symptoms of COVID-19, and while he has not been tested at this time, doctors have prescribed the same regimen of hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin (commonly referred to as Z Pack) and steroids for all three family members.
The Howard family, which includes another son and daughter, are quarantined at their Cleveland home through April 21, a recommendation made by the Department of State Health Services, Pastor Howard said on Monday.
Howard said he believes his family came into contact with the coronavirus, the virus that often leads to COVID-19, back in mid-March from a couple from a neighboring county who attends their church.
“They were here at our house on March 18. When we found out they were positive, we thought we were outside the 14-day window for infection,” Howard told Bluebonnet News Monday afternoon. “We didn’t notice anything going on with our health until last Wednesday. We weren’t feeling sick. We had no fever but we had lost a sense of taste and a sense of smell. We started feeling sick on Wednesday, April 1.”
The Howards went for testing at Cleveland Emergency Hospital and returned home to self-quarantine while they awaited the results.
“It appears to be a mild case right now. Neither of us have had fever or breathing issues. If it gets into the bloodstream, that’s when it gets scary,” he said. “We will have to go to the emergency room immediately if we start having breathing issues. We have been on medication since Saturday.”
With two healthy family members in their house and the three others showing signs of the illness, Howard said his family members are keeping to their bedrooms as much as possible and social distancing in the common areas of the house.
“Everyone is washing their hands. The doctors said the truth is our children have already been exposed. There is nothing to do about it now,” Rev. Howard said. “Our 17-year-old is having symptoms but hasn’t been tested yet. Doctors felt he should go ahead and be treated rather than taking a chance. It won’t hurt him to be treated just in case.”
Howard, who serves as a volunteer chaplain for the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, says the last church service at The Sanctuary of Cleveland, Texas, was on March 15, just two days after Liberty County Judge Jay Knight put out the first emergency order regarding the Coronavirus.
“We canceled all public gatherings for The Sanctuary of Cleveland, Texas, and began holding connect groups and prayer groups, and streaming our services online. In fact, up until now, we have been out of church services for three weekends now,” he said. “We have obeyed, without deviation at all, the recommendations of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). We followed social distancing to the best of our abilities and continue to use all of our hand sanitizing as we should.”
Despite their best efforts to preserve their health and prevent the spread of the disease, Howard said they found themselves testing positive for COVID-19, proof that the virus is highly contagious as officials have been warning for weeks. He praised Judge Knight for how he has handled the crisis for Liberty County, saying that he is “doing a phenomenal job.”
He also has glowing praise for the staff of Cleveland Emergency Hospital for the manner in which his family was treated when they sought help.
“I cannot say enough kind words or properly sing the praises for Cleveland Emergency Hospital. The doctors and staff have treated us like family. Their professionalism and care have been absolutely extraordinary,” he said.
In a Facebook message he posted Monday afternoon, Howard offered encouragement for his church members.
“To our church family, we haven’t been able to have church together for so long. I want you to know that we are going to come through this as a stronger church, a stronger people. We are going to come through this better. We are going to be filled with faith and purpose, and the clarity of God will be with us,” he said.
While he is uncertain of the days ahead, Howard said his family isn’t living in fear.
“Here’s the deal. Fear can’t stay in my house. My faith has already pushed it out the door. We understand very purposefully that God is with us. We are going to be okay,” he said.