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COVID-19 surge subsides in Central Texas, death toll rises, vaccines remain elusive

The post-holiday COVID-19 surge appeared to be subsiding Friday in Central Texas, but the death...
The post-holiday COVID-19 surge appeared to be subsiding Friday in Central Texas, but the death toll continues to rise, and vaccines remain elusive. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)(Jae C. Hong | AP)
Published: Jan. 22, 2021 at 6:19 PM CST
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(KWTX) - The post-holiday COVID-19 surge appeared to be subsiding Friday in Central Texas, but the death toll increased by 14, vaccines remain elusive and there are mounting concerns about a new strain of the virus that’s not only more easily transmitted, but may also be deadlier, according to health officials in the United Kingdom.

Patrick Vallance, the British government’s chief scientific adviser, said there’s some evidence the new variant carries a higher risk of death, but he stressed the data are uncertain.

But he said there’s growing evidence the new strain, which has been detected in Dallas and Harris counties, is between 30% and 70% more transmissible than the original virus.

The Central Texas case count increased by 337 Friday to 58,077.

The virus may have claimed as many as 1,028 lives in Central Texas, but according to Texas Department of State Health Services data Friday, at least 1,023 Central Texas residents diagnosed with the virus have died, including 226 Bell County residents, 26 more than the local count of 200; 21 Bosque County residents; 47 Coryell County residents, 23 more than the local count of 24; 23 Falls County residents; 30 Freestone County residents; 22 Hamilton County residents; 54 Hill County residents; 19 Lampasas County residents; 28 Leon County residents; 38 Limestone County residents; 360 McLennan County residents, 19 more than the local count of 340; 21 Milam County residents, one more than the local count of 20; 16 Mills County residents; 76 Navarro County residents, five fewer than the local count of 81; 26 Robertson County residents, and 16 San Saba County residents.

The statewide death toll rose by 422 to 33,707 Friday.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported an additional 18,234 confirmed cases of the virus Friday, 17,862 of them new, increasing the statewide total to 1,935,747.

Of the total, 376,288 cases were active Friday and at least 1,785,578 patients have recovered.

At least 13,564 patients were in Texas hospitals Thursday.

In Trauma Service Area L, which includes Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam and Mills counties, at least 207 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Friday, accounting for about 22% all hospitalizations and filling about 19% of available beds.

At least 151 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Friday in Trauma Service Area M, which includes McLennan, Bosque, Falls, Hill and Limestone counties, accounting for about 30% of all hospitalizations and occupying about 22% of available beds, above the 15% ceiling that triggers capacity reductions under orders Gov. Greg Abbott issued on Sept. 17 and Oct. 7.

About 16.3 million molecular tests have been administered statewide.

The Lab Test Date positivity Thursday was 16.57%, up slightly from 16.51% on Thursday.

Experts say a positivity rate of 5% or less indicates the virus is under control.

Laredo, with one of the highest per-capital outbreaks in the U.S., has become one of the nation’s biggest COVID-19 hotspots.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has sent 470 staff members to the border city and has delivered equipment and personal protective equipment including more than 87,000 COVID-19 test kits, eight auxiliary medical units and ambulances, and more than 29,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday.

“The State of Texas is working closely with Laredo officials to provide support that will help bring hospitalizations down, treat COVID-positive patients, and mitigate the spread of the virus,” Abbott said.

VACCINATIONS

About 3.3 million doses of vaccine have been allocated to the state and about 2.6 million have been shipped, but an interactive Texas Department of State Health Services vaccine availability map Friday showed the majority of sites to which doses have been delivered have none available, although several Brookshire Brothers pharmacies in the area showed to have doses in stock for which there’s a waiting list.

Houston software developer Artem Kamshilin created an interactive vaccine tracking map that filters state data to provide up-to-date reports.

Statewide about 1.4 million initial doses of the vaccine and 228,214 second doses have been administered for a total of about 1.6 million.

Texas officials have established 77 vaccination hubs around the state.

Five of the vaccine hub providers are in Central Texas including the Bell County Public Health District, the Coryell Health Medical Clinic in Gatesville, Falls Community Hospital and Clinic in Marlin; Ascension Providence Health Center in Waco; the Waco-McLennan County Health District.

Now eligible for vaccination are those covered by Phase 1A of the state’s vaccination distribution plan, including frontline healthcare workers and residents and employees of long-term care facilities and those covered by Phase 1B of the plan including residents 65 and older and residents 16 and older with medical conditions that put them at risk of severe COVID-19 illness.

The Waco-McLennan County Health District has replaced its online vaccination registration system with an online waiting list that residents can access anytime.

The City of Waco has activated its Public Information Hotline to allow residents who don’t have access to email or the internet to get the latest updates on testing sites, vaccine availability and other information related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The number is (254) 750-5606.

Administration of second doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Bell County is expected to begin on Feb. 3 at a drive-thru site at the Bell County Expo Center, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday, health officials announced Thursday.

Residents who received the first dose of the vaccine at one of the county’s two vaccination centers will be notified this week to make appointments for the second dose.

The Bell County Health District announced this week its vaccination centers at the Killeen Community Center at 2201 East Veterans Memorial Blvd. and at 220 West Avenue D in Temple will be open on Tuesdays through Saturdays and closed on Mondays and Sundays.

“The goal of these changes is to create a schedule that will not be disrupted by potential delays with the shipping of our allocated vaccine doses,” health district Director Dr. Amanda Robison-Chadwell said.

“By closing on Sunday and Monday, we should be able to reserve enough doses that we can continue to operate, even if we do not receive that week’s delivery,” she said.

Residents with appointments scheduled on or after this Sunday are being notified by email.

Those with Sunday appointments will be rescheduled for vaccinations on a date two to four days later.

“I can certainly understand the frustration that this may cause some of our patients,” Chadwell said, “but we believe that this is a necessary adjustment to help us better serve the people of Bell County and Texas moving forward.”

Anyone unable to make an appointment online may call the Bell County COVID-19 vaccination hotline from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at (254)-933-5203.

Coryell Health received 600 doses on Dec. 23, but didn’t receive any vaccine last week, is expecting a shipment of Pfizer vaccines this week, and has scheduled an appointment-only vaccination clinic Saturday at the Gatesville Civic Center for which all appointments have been filled.

Veterans can get up-to-date information on VA’s VA COVID-19 vaccine webpage, which launched on Dec. 11, may sign up for regular updates on the vaccine on the vaccine on the VA’s Stay Informed page, and may contact their primary care providers through www.myhealth.va.gov or by calling 1-800-423-2111.

The Texas Department of State Health Services vaccination dashboard Friday showed that in Bell County, with 265,191 residents who are 16 and older, 13,309 residents have received a first dose and 2,451 have received both, while in McLennan County, with 198,642 residents 16 and older, 11,667 residents have received a first dose and 1,172 have received both.

The dashboard Friday showed the administration of 729 initial and 27 secondary vaccinations in Bosque County; 1,460 initial and 141 secondary vaccinations in Coryell County; 389 initial and 30 secondary vaccinations in Falls County; 485 initial and five secondary vaccinations in Freestone County; 1,561 initial and 86 secondary vaccinations in Hamilton County; 1,423 initial vaccinations and 54 secondary vaccinations in Hill County; 463 initial and 55 secondary vaccinations in Lampasas County; 432 initial and 13 secondary vaccinations in Leon County; 802 initial and 13 secondary vaccinations in Limestone County; 1,233 initial and 42 secondary vaccinations in Milam County; 257 initial and 19 secondary vaccinations in Mills County; 1,446 initial and 49 secondary vaccinations in Navarro County; 468 initial and 35 secondary vaccinations in Robertson County, and 82 initial and six secondary vaccinations in San Saba County.

VACCINE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

BELL COUNTY

The Bell County Public Health District reported another 145 confirmed cases of the virus Friday, increasing the county’s total to 17,393.

The health district reported 2,317 active cases Friday, said at least 15,076 patients have recovered, and that 200 have died.

State data, which includes Fort Hood personnel who live on post, showed 226 deaths, an increase of three.

In state Trauma Service Area L, which includes Bell County, at least 207 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Friday, accounting for about 22% all hospitalizations and filling about 19% of available beds, sufficiently high to trigger capacity reductions under orders Gov. Greg Abbott issued on Sept. 17 and Oct. 7.

Temple’s city hall, public library, historic post office, Parks and Recreation administration building, Public Works Service Center, Human Resources Department, and Utility Business Office and Municipal Court will remain closed to walk-in traffic through Feb. 28 because of COVID-19 infection rates, City Manage Brynn Myers said Friday. Services at the facilities remain available online, by phone, by appointment, at curbside or by drive-thru, she said. City employees who are able to work remotely will continue to do so, the city said. Essential employees will adhere to safety guidelines including social distancing, regular hand washing and the use of face coverings.

Temple Fire & Rescue will host drive-thru COVID-19 testing from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 at Fire Station No. 1 at 210 North 3rd St. Tests are free. Residents may register online or on site. More information is available online.

A temporary drive-thru COVID-19 testing site will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday at the Killeen Special Events Center at 3301 South WS Young Dr. Online registration is required.

Testing is available from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays in January at Nolanville’s Central Fire Station at 84 North Main St. Registration is not required.

The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor dashboard Friday showed 20 active cases and a cumulative total of 210 cases since Aug. 1.

Texas A&M University-Central Texas Friday reported no active cases and 26 positive tests for the virus since March, 20 involving students.

The Killeen ISD’s online dashboard Friday showed more than 1,200 cases since March 16, 562 involving students and 677 involving staff, and 36 involving students and 47 involving staff in the past seven days. The dashboard showed one active case Friday involving a student at Clear Creek Elementary; one involving an employee at Harker Heights Elementary; one involving a student and one involving an employee at Hay Branch Elementary; two involving students and one involving an employee at Haynes Elementary; three involving students and four involving employees at Iduma Elementary; one involving an employee at Maude Moore Wood Elementary; one involving an employee at Maxdale Elementary; one involving an employee at Montague Village Elementary; one involving a student at Mountain View Elementary; three involving students and one involving an employee at Pershing Park Elementary; two involving employees at Richard E. Cavazos Elementary; one involving a student at Skipcha Elementary; one involving an employee at West Ward Elementary; two involving employees at Willow Springs Elementary; two involving students at Audie Murphy Middle School; six involving students and five involving employees at Charles Paterson Middle School; one involving a student and one involving an employee at Liberty Hill Middle School; one involving a student and one involving an employee at Live Oak Ridge Middle School; one involving a student and two involving employees at Nolan Middle School; one involving an employee at Palo Alto Middle School; two involving students at Rancier Middle School; one involving a student at Smith Middle School; one involving a student at Early College High School; three involving students and one involving an employee at Ellison High School; four involving students and three involving employees at Harker Heights High School; two involving students and two involving employees at Killeen High School; one involving a student and one involving an employee at Shoemaker High School, and 13 involving employees at non-campus facilities, eight in Learning Support Services, three in technology and two in transportation.

The Killeen ISD is offering free COVID-19 screening to students and employees from 7 a.m. to 11 .m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on regular school days at the former Nolan Middle School building at 505 Jasper Dr. in Killeen, using the 2nd Street entrance. Screening is by appointment and students younger than 18 require signed waivers from parents or guardians. The state-funded testing uses BinaxNOW nasal swab tests, which provide results in 15 minutes. Information is available online.

The Temple ISD’s online dashboard Friday showed six cases at Temple High School, one at Bonham Middle School, one at Raye-Allen Elementary, two in administration and one in transportation.

The Belton ISD’s online dashboard Friday showed one case at Belton Early Childhood School; two cases at Charter Oak Elementary; one at Chisholm Trail Elementary; nine at Lakewood Elementary; one at Leon Heights Elementary; three at Miller Heights Elementary; two at Southwest Elementary; two at Sparta Elementary; four at Belton Middle School; one at Lake Belton Middle School; five at North Belton Middle School; four at South Belton Middle School; seven at Belton High School; three at Belton New Tech High School; nine at Lake Belton High School, and five at non-campus facilities.

VACCINE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

BELL COUNTY COVID-19 DEATHS

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

MCLENNAN COUNTY

The Waco-McLennan County Health District reported the county’s 341st death from the virus Friday, an 83-year-old woman.

State data, based on death certificates and county of residence, showed 360 deaths, an increase of four.

The health district also reported 83 additional cases of the virus Friday, 20 confirmed and 61 probable, raising the county’s total to 22, 587.

Of the total, 1,020 cases were active Friday, at least 21,226 patients have recovered, and 127 were hospitalized, 21 of them on ventilators.

Of the 127, 87 are McLennan County residents.

At least 151 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Friday in the Trauma Service Area that includes McLennan County, accounting for about 30% of all hospitalizations and occupying about 22% of available beds, which is above the 15% ceiling that triggers capacity reductions under orders Gov. Greg Abbott issued on Sept. 17 and Oct. 7.

The new cases involve two residents younger than one; one who ranges in age from 1 to 10; four who range in age from 11 to 17; 28 who range in age from 18 to 25; six who range in age from 26 to 29; 14 residents in their 30s; eight in their 40s; seven in their 50s; six in their 60s, four in their 70s, and one who is 80 or older.

The health district has replaced its online vaccination registration system, which left some residents frustrated, with an online waiting list that’s always accessible, officials announced Wednesday.

The City of Waco has activated its Public Information Hotline to allow residents who don’t have access to email or the internet to get the latest updates on testing sites, vaccine availability and other information related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The number is (254) 750-5606.

Free COVID-19 test sites are in operation in the Waco area after the federal government provided 40,000 test kits to McLennan County as part of the effort to stem the spread of the virus. The health district has contracted with Aardvark Mobile Health to provide mobile COVID-19 tests, using a small truck that can accommodate two testing lines with the capacity to administer as many as 500 tests daily. Additional details are available online.

For those experiencing disabling feelings of loss, change and sadness, short-term counseling is available through the Texans Recovering Together Crisis Counseling Program. A counselor can be requested using an online form or by calling 1-866-576-1101.

The Central Texas Food Bank will distribute food from 10 a.m. to noon on Jan. 28 at Waco ISD Stadium at 1401 South New Road.

Baylor University’s online dashboard Friday showed 261 active cases including 229 involving students, 20 involving staff, six involving faculty and six involving contractors. In the past seven days 124 positive tests have been administered. A total of 2,367 cases have been confirmed since Aug. 1. Baylor, which is requiring weekly COVID-19 testing of students, faculty and staff announced Thursday it has opened a multi-million dollar lab at the 330,000-square foot Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative facility in partnership with My Labs Direct (MLD) to process the molecular PCR tests. The lab can process as many as 8,000 tests daily and in most cases can deliver results within 24 hours, the school said.

The McLennan Community College dashboard showed 18 active cases Friday, 14 involving students, and 290 total cases in the past three weeks, 227 involving students. The college is offering classes in blended-hybrid and online formats during the spring semester.

The Waco ISD dashboard Friday showed cumulative totals of 224 students, 253 employees, and 10 classified as “other” have been diagnosed with the virus since Sept. 8. The dashboard showed one active case Friday at Alta Vista Elementary; one at Hillcrest PDS; two at Mountainview Elementary; one at Parkdale Elementary; two at Provident Heights Elementary; one at West Avenue Elementary; two at Cesar Chavez Middle School; three at Indian Spring Middle School; one at Tennyson Middle School; two at University High School; six at Waco High School; two at Brazos High School, and two at non-campus facilities. Indian Spring Middle School has shifted to remote instruction through Jan. 29. In-person instruction will resume on Feb. 1.

The Midway ISD’s online dashboard Friday showed one case involving a student at Castleman Creek Elementary; one involving an employee at Hewitt Elementary; three involving students and five involving employees at South Bosque Elementary; one involving a student at Speegleville Elementary; one involving a student and one involving an employee at Spring Valley Elementary; two involving students and one involving an employee at Woodway Elementary; nine involving students and four involving employees at River Valley Intermediate; four involving students at Woodgate Intermediate; four involving students and one involving an employee at Midway Middle School; 13 involving students and six involving employees at Midway High School, and two involving employees at non-campus facilities.

The Lorena ISD dashboard Friday showed two cases involving students at Lorena Primary; one involving a student at Lorena Elementary; one involving a student at Lorena Middle School, one involving a student at Lorena High School, and one involving an employee at a non-campus facility.

The Mart ISD’s online dashboard showed no active cases Friday.

The McGregor ISD’s online dashboard Friday showed five cases at McGregor Elementary, three at Isbill Junior High and two at McGregor High School.

VACCINE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

MCLENNAN COUNTY COVID-19 DEATHS

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

CORYELL COUNTY

Coryell County reported 2,564 confirmed cases of the virus Friday.

Of the total, 483 cases were active, 2,057 patients have recovered and 24 have died.

State data, which includes inmates in state prison units, showed 4,221 confirmed cases Friday, an increase of 36, and 28 probable cases.

Of the total, 3,670 patients have recovered and 47 have died, state data showed.

In state Trauma Service Area L, which includes Coryell County, at least 207 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Friday, accounting for about 22% all hospitalizations and filling almost 19% of available beds.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has advised the county that the TSA’s hospitalization rate is sufficiently high to trigger capacity reductions, bar closings and suspension of elective surgery under orders Gov. Greg Abbott issued on Sept. 17 and Oct. 7.

Coryell Health continues to offer elective surgeries despite the restrictions because the hospital has “available beds and adequate supplies,” which allows for an exemption under the governor’s orders.

The Copperas Cove ISD’s online dashboard Friday showed 10 cases involving students and two involving employees at Cove High School; four involving students and one involving an employee at Cove Junior High; two involving students and two involving employees at S. C. Lee Junior High; one involving a student and one involving an employee at Clements Parsons Elementary; one involving a student at Fairview Jewell Elementary; one involving an employee at Hettie Halstead Elementary; three involving students at Martin Walker Elementary; one involving a student and three involving employees at Williams/Ledger Elementary; three involving employees at Mae Stevens Early Learning Academy, and one involving an employee at a non-campus facility.

The Gatesville ISD’s online dashboard Friday showed nine cases at Gatesville High School, eight involving students; two at Gatesville Junior High, one involving a student; six cases at Gatesville Intermediate, three involving students; seven at Gatesville Elementary, six involving students, and two involving transportation employees.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Friday reported two cases involving inmates and 17 involving employees at the Christina Melton Crain Unit where 115 inmates were on medical restriction and two were isolated; 35 cases involving inmates and 19 involving employees at the Hilltop Unit where 318 inmates were restricted and 35 were isolated; 84 cases involving inmates and 56 involving employees at the Alfred D. Hughes Unit in Gatesville where 1,441 inmates were medically restricted and 85 were medically isolated; 19 cases involving inmates and 15 involving employees at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville where 158 inmates were restricted and 19 were isolated; one case involving an inmate and 16 involving employees at the Dr. Lane Murray Unit where 151 inmates were restricted and one was isolated, and two cases involving inmates and 10 involving employees at the Linda Woodman State Jail where three inmates were isolated.

The Cove House Free Clinic at 806 West Avenue D, Suite H, is offering free COVID-19 testing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays. Appointments are required and may be made by calling (254) 289-9865.

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

FALLS COUNTY

Falls County had 1,305 confirmed cases Friday, an increase of 17, and 65 probable cases.

Of the total, 1,192 patients have recovered and 23 residents have died, according to state data.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Friday reported 36 case involving inmates and 14 involving employees at the William Hobby Unit in Marlin where 999 inmates were restricted and 36 were isolated, and five cases involving inmates and five involving employees at the Marlin Transfer Unit where 56 inmates were restricted and five were isolated.

LIMESTONE COUNTY

Limestone County had 1,190 confirmed and 255 probable cases of the virus Friday.

Of the total, 1,279 patients have recovered.

State data showed a 38th death.

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

NAVARRO COUNTY

Navarro County had 3,144 confirmed and 1,893 probable cases Friday for a total of 5,037.

Local data showed 81 deaths.

State data showed 4,135 recoveries and 76 deaths.

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

OTHER COUNTIES

Bosque County had 828 confirmed and 190 probable cases of the virus Friday, according to state data. At least 823 patients have recovered and 21 have died, according to state data.

Freestone County had 683 confirmed and 320 probable cases of the virus Friday, according to state data. Of the total, 918 patients have recovered and 30 have died. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Friday reported five cases involving inmates and five involving employees at the William Boyd Unit in Teague where 373 inmates were medically restricted and five were isolated.

Hamilton County had 543 confirmed cases Friday and 39 probable cases, according to state data. At least 469 patients have recovered and 22 have died.

Hill County had 2,005 confirmed and 446 probable cases of the virus Friday, according to state data. At least 2,213 patients have recovered and two more have died, raising the county’s death toll to 54, according to state data. The Hill College dashboard showed one case involving an employee Friday on the Hill County campus. The Hillsboro ISD dashboard Friday showed one case involving an employee at Hillsboro Intermediate and four involving employees at Hillsboro High School.

Lampasas County had 861 confirmed cases Friday, an increase of 23, and 104 probable cases of the virus Friday, according to state data. At least 770 patients have recovered and a 19th resident has died, according to state data.

Leon County had 662 confirmed and 226 probable cases of the virus Friday, according to state data. At least 773 patients have recovered and 28 residents have died.

Milam County reported 1,116 confirmed cases and 771 probable cases Friday. Fifteen patients were hospitalized, 20 cases were active, 1,804 patients have recovered and 20 have died, according to local data. State data showed a 21st death.

Mills County had 349 confirmed and 25 probable cases of the virus Friday according to state data, which showed 266 patients have recovered and 16 residents have died.

Robertson County had 809 confirmed and 266 probable cases of the virus Friday according to state data, which showed 941 patients have recovered and 26 residents have died.

San Saba County had 381 confirmed and 115 probable cases Friday, according to state data, which showed at least 434 patients have recovered and 16 residents have died. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Friday reported two cases involving inmates and two involving employees at the San Saba Transfer Unit where three inmates were medically isolated.

VACCINE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

COVID-19 INFORMATION, LINKS AND RESOURCES

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