A reporting technicality has left the impression for months that Loving County, Texas, the least populated county in the mainland United States, had made it through the pandemic, virus-free. But that was not the case, according to New York Times reporter J. David Goodman, who discovered local officials weren’t counting COVID-19 positive people who were tested there, but weren’t residents.
That’s because state health officials allow counties to report only those cases involving residents of their county. Goodman reported Tuesday there was at least one case this past summer involving a an oil worker traveling through Loving County who was diagnosed as having the coronavirus. After his story was published, three more Loving County cases were reported.
Goodman said he went to Loving County to better understand how it was possible that at least on paper, the county was virus-free.
“I had the impression that that just didn’t seem possible, that that could be true, just given how many people were coming through,” he said.
Although the county has fewer that 200 people, oil and gas workers frequently work, travel and stop in Loving County.
“The highways are actually quite busy. So, you know, as you’re driving through, it doesn’t feel empty unless you stop and then you really get a sense of the sort of wide open flat, you know, West Texas oil plains and that’s, you know, quite different from even other parts of Texas,” Goodman said.