COVID-19 vaccine

New Braunfels firefighter Randy Diaz gets vaccinated for COVID-19 at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital - New Braunfels. Submitted photo

 

Texas health officials on Sunday released a list of coronavirus “vaccination hubs” that will receive the state’s next shipment of vaccines, but none of those hubs are located in Comal or Guadalupe counties, and new cases continue to mount.

The 28 hubs, located mostly in metropolitan areas, will get 158,825 doses of the vaccine this week, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Another 38,300 doses will go to other providers across the state.

The number of doses that each provider is getting is based on its own estimate of how many people it could vaccinate in a week, DSHS officials said.

The hubs are meant to streamline large-scale vaccination as Texas continues to prioritize vaccinating people who are health care workers, people who are 65 and older, and those with medical conditions that increase their risk.

In announcing the plan, DSHS officials said the hubs would be required to set up registration phone numbers and websites and to focus on the most vulnerable communities in their regions. 

Two of those hubs are in Bexar County: 

San Antonio Metro Health District, phone: 210-207-6000 (select option 8), website: covid19.sanantonio.gov/vaccine

University Health System, phone: 210-644-1960, website: wecandoitsa.com

However, by Monday morning, all appointments for the latest allocation of vaccinations at the two sites were filled.

The sites are providing initial vaccinations to those most at risk of exposure to COVID-19 regardless of where they reside. 

Individuals have been placed in two groups, designated as Phase 1A and 1B:

Phase 1A: Frontline healthcare workers and residents at long-term care facilities.

Phase 1B: People over 65 or with a chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from COVID‑19.

According to DSHS, some of these chronic conditions are:

• Cancer.

• Chronic kidney disease.

• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

• Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathy.

• Solid-organ transplantation.

• Obesity and severe obesity.

• Pregnancy.

• Sickle cell disease.

• Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

More than 877,000 Texans have received a COVID-19 vaccine since they first began arriving in Texas nearly four weeks ago, and that number is expected to increase by at least 50,000 more per day, Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday.

“Never before in the history of this state has Texas vaccinated so many people so quickly,” Abbott said during remarks at the Arlington Esports Stadium Arlington & Expo Center, a newly-designated “vaccination hub” that local health officials said can vaccinate thousands per day. “It’s stunning to see what we’ve accomplished.”

But for many, the vaccinations can’t come fast enough.

Just over 2 million doses have been allocated to the state since mid-December, according to DSHS.

Texas has administered first doses to more people than any other state in the nation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but demand among the more than 8 million people who currently qualify still far outweigh the state’s vaccine supply.

Officials promise bigger allotments in the weeks and months to come, but a patchwork local system of vaccine distribution, among other issues, has created a tumultuous rollout to the long-awaited vaccine.

Abbott said the number of those vaccinated should increase to somewhere between 50,000 and 75,000 per day.

Texas Health Commissioner John Hellerstedt said the rate and scale of the state’s rollout has been “a really amazing operation” and said the creation of the hubs would ratchet up the rate of administration.

“Through the kind of vaccination operation we see here, we’re very confident it’s going to accelerate here even more,” Hellerstedt said. “It is really the way forward.”

Abbott and other health officials at the Arlington site on Monday urged Texas residents and providers to be patient while the state supply catches up with the demand among those eligible for the shot.

“We will be getting more vaccine, and we will be discovering better ways to administer the vaccine in a timely way to everyone who is willing to get it, but we just don’t have that supply yet,” Hellerstedt said. “I can’t say that more emphatically. If we had more, there’d be more going out.”

Comal County’s public health department last week said it had used all of its available COVID-19 vaccine. Officials urged people to check online for other locations in the county that might have some available and the expected criteria.

Cheryl Fraser, director of public health, told county commissioners last week they are expecting an allocation of 200 Moderna vaccines next week for administration to those who have already received one dose.

A DSHS list of vaccine allocation shipments for this week did not include any providers in Comal or Guadalupe counties.

Officials said they would announce when they had additional vaccine available. Most of those vaccinated in the first wave include frontline health workers and some first responders. Both New Braunfels hospitals began vaccinating some of their staff at the end of the year.

Officials at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – New Braunfels said the hospital had exhausted its allotment of vaccine.

Officials at Resolute Health Hospital said they are continuing to vaccinate eligible members of the staff.

“Several Resolute Health Hospital staff received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which was offered to them in San Antonio in December,” said hospital spokesperson Natalie Gutierrez. “Those individuals will receive their second dose in San Antonio as scheduled this month. During the first week of January, the Moderna vaccine was made available to staff at the hospital in New Braunfels, who received their first dose here and are now scheduled to receive their second dose in New Braunfels at the appropriate time interval. At this time, we are not yet offering vaccine to the general public.” 

The Pfizer vaccine was approved for use in the United States on Dec. 11 and the Moderna vaccine was approved Dec. 18.

Big box pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, are working through the federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care program to administer vaccines to residents at long-term and nursing facilities.

According to DSHS data, 3,434 people in Comal County have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 147 receiving the two doses needed for full immunization.

New cases 

Comal County health officials reported 82 more COVID-19 cases on Monday morning, bringing the number of active cases to 833.

No deaths were reported on Monday.

The additional cases bring the number of total cases to 6,874 since the pandemic began.

Of that total, 5,855 patients have recovered from the virus, with three recoveries added Friday morning. 

As of Sunday, the state has reported 1,716,824 confirmed cases in 254 counties and 237,582 probable cases in 223 counties since the pandemic began.

Hospitalizations

The percentage of hospital beds in use by COVID-19 patients sat at 21.17% for the larger 22-county region that includes Comal and Guadalupe counties, continuing a streak of high hospital usage since before Christmas.

The state recently instituted stricter restrictions on the region after it eclipsed 15% for seven consecutive days. Those restrictions closed bars and reduced capacities at many businesses from 75% to 50%.

Those tighter restrictions are slated to remain in place until the regional percentage falls below 15% for another seven consecutive days in a row.

Of the county’s 883 active cases, 59 are now hospitalized, remaining the same from the county’s last report on Friday.

Comal County hospitals on Wednesday reported caring for 84 COVID-19 patients, down two from Friday, with 15 in intensive care and nine on ventilators. 

Local hospitals are caring for a mix of county patients as well as those from outside the area, health officials said. Some Comal County residents may also be hospitalized outside the area.

There were at least 13,111 hospitalized patients in Texas with confirmed coronavirus infections on Sunday. This data does not account for people who are hospitalized but have not gotten a positive test, and the Texas Department of State Health Services says some hospitals may be missing from the daily counts.

The state reported 8,108 available staffed hospital beds as of Sunday, including 506 available staffed ICU beds statewide. COVID-19 patients currently occupy 22.5% of total hospital beds.

The public can find more data on hospitalizations at dshs.texas.gov/ga3031/

Of the county’s newest cases, 51 came from the New Braunfels area. The Bulverde/Spring Branch area recorded 23 additional cases while south of Canyon Lake added one, north of Canyon Lake added three and southern Comal County and Garden Ridge added four.

Four of the newest cases are in people 70 and older, and 18 are people in their 50s and 60s. Nineteen cases were people under the age of 20, 14 were people in their 20s, and 27 of them were in their 30s and 40s.

As of Monday morning, the county’s office of public health had received reports of 48,379 tests conducted with 3,992 confirmed, 2,871probable cases and 11 suspect cases.

The county reported a seven-day molecular positivity rate of 22.61% and a seven-day antigen positivity rate of 10.70%. 

The seven-day average positivity rate is calculated by dividing the average of confirmed cases by the average of tests conducted over the last seven days.

The state recently split the positivity rate in half to account for the difference between the more accurate molecular tests and the quicker but less reliable antigen tests.

Residents wishing to be tested for COVID-19 can call the county’s dedicated hotline, 830-221-1120, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to schedule an appointment. Testing is only done on Tuesday and Friday, and you must have an appointment.

For more information, visit www.co.comal.tx.us/health.htm.

The Texas Tribune contributed to this story.

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