Jack Bryant, 81, is Brazos County's first COVID-19 victim

Published: Mar. 28, 2020 at 8:12 PM CDT
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Jack Douglas Bryant passed away Saturday morning inside a College Station assisted living center, according to a family member.

The 81-year-old from College Station had dementia and was in hospice care when his health took a turn for the worst on Wednesday, said Cassie Schildknecht, his granddaughter.

He was tested for COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon and his results were returned on Friday and revealed he was positive for the virus.

Brazos County health officials said on Saturday in a news conference that his case was a community spread case, meaning he had no history of recent travel outside the area.

Schildknecht lives more than 2,000 miles away in Spokane, Washington. She was notified Saturday morning that her grandfather had passed away.

"He died alone. None of us could be with him by his side in his final days," said Schildknecht. "We were not anticipating him going as fast as he did nor him testing positive. The virus just expedited the whole situation."

"The worst part of it is that we're here in Washington and we can't come home to be with family," said Schildknecht in a phone interview Saturday night with News 3's Rusty Surette.

Bryant was a mathematician and worked in the math department at Texas A&M University for decades. He also worked for NASA and enjoyed statistics and data.

"He was a brilliant man. He loved working with math and numbers, but I can guarantee you he never wanted to be this statistic," said Schildknecht.

Bryant's ex-wife was allowed inside the assisted living center located on Rock Prairie Road shortly before his passing, but only because she had already frequently visited him before it was confirmed he was a carrier of the coronavirus, according to Schildknecht.

"She is now having to self-quarantine herself at home, and I can't go visit her or my family because of my own health complications and I have a 6-month old daughter," said Schildknecht.

She said the last time her grandfather saw his great-granddaughter is when she was just six weeks old.

Bryant's ex-wife is in good condition, remains asymptomatic, and is frequently checking her temperature at home while staying away from others, said Schildknecht.

Her grandfather's case highlights the dangers of the virus and how quickly it can run its course in some patients.

Health officials have said many COVID-19 carriers recover within a period of weeks, but for others like Bryant, it can be a fast death sentence.

"I'm begging everyone in my hometown to please take this seriously. I never expected this to hit me and my family so hard, so quickly," said Schildknecht. "I have an uncle in New York City who is an EMT and he's been diagnosed positive with it. Now my grandfather has died from it. I'm begging people to please stay home. Please take it seriously and please help stop the spread of this."

In Brazos County, 40 people have been confirmed positive with COVID-19. Six of them remain hospitalized.

The total for the Brazos Valley area is now 54.

As of Saturday afternoon, more than 2,000 cases have been confirmed across Texas with 27 deaths.