Comal County’s public health department will continue its mass vaccination program next week after officials said they had received additional vaccine.
Cheryl Fraser, Comal County public health director, told county commissioners during their Thursday meeting that the county had received 4,000 COVID-19 vaccination doses for administration to residents with appointments next Wednesday and Thursday.
She said the public health office would be closed on those days.
“We just ask the public to be patient with us and know that we’re doing everything we can, including putting all of our efforts to make sure everyone who wants a vaccine gets a vaccine,” Fraser said.
Efforts to administer vaccinations to residents have been ramping up in the last couple of weeks for residents 65 and older and people age 16 and older with a qualifying health condition.
The county ran a mass vaccination test last week to demonstrate it could give shots to large numbers of people in a quick and efficient manner.
The county received 700 doses last week, with 200 receiving first-dose inoculations at the first vaccine clinic last Thursday at the Civic/Convention Center.
On Wednesday, 500 more Moderna vaccine doses were administered to residents in a second mass vaccination event, including teachers and counselors from Comal ISD and New Braunfels ISD.
“Our mass COVID-19 clinic was very successful (Wednesday),” Fraser said.
In addition to the first dose mass vaccination clinics, public health employees administered more than 200 second doses to residents this week.
There is no shortage of people who want to receive the inoculation.
Comal County officials closed a COVID-19 standby list on Wednesday after 12,000 people registered in just 24 hours.
“We had 12,000 residents sign up for the standby list so quickly,” Cary Zayas, the county’s public information officer, told commissioners. “That doesn’t mean it’s closed permanently. We’re going to reopen that when we get more supply. We don’t want to just open this up and then not be able to get you a vaccine. We don’t want you waiting six months for a vaccine. We want to make sure that if we open this up for registration, that supply is hopefully going to be coming in.”
County officials had established the standby list online and by phone on Tuesday for residents who met the criteria in Phase 1A and 1B of the state’s vaccination plan.
Phase 1A recipients are front-line healthcare workers and residents at long-term care facilities, and 1B recipients are people over 65 and people 16 and older with a chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness.
According to officials, residents on the standby list will be contacted to schedule an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine as the County Health Department receives supply.
Public health officials are asking those contacted to participate in upcoming vaccination clinics to respond to appointment emails, texts and voice calls as soon as possible.
Officials said residents should continue to look for alternative vaccine locations, such as their primary medical provider or larger mass vaccination hubs and monitor the Comal County website and social media platforms for updates.
As of Wednesday, 1.9 million doses have been administered, with 1.6 million people receiving one dose and 320,310 people — 1.1% of Texas’ population — fully vaccinated.
Both vaccines currently available — Pfizer and Moderna — require two doses, and neither vaccine is approved for children under age 16.
The state received its first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14. Initially, only front-line health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff were eligible for vaccinations.
On Dec. 23, state health officials announced that providers should also begin vaccinating Texans 65 and older and people age 16 and older with a qualifying health condition, even though vaccine doses are in short supply.
99 Comal County residents hospitalized
Comal County health officials reported 109 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday morning, bringing the number of active cases to 718.
Sixteen of those new cases are confirmed, 92 are probable, and one is a suspect case.
No deaths were reported on Thursday.
The county also added an additional 104 recoveries from the virus, bringing that total to 7,039 since March.
Ninety-two of the new cases came from New Braunfels, with another seven from south of Canyon Lake, four from north of it, five from the Bulverde/Spring Branch area and one from the south Comal County/Garden Ridge area.
The largest number of new cases came from people in their 50s and 60s with 37, people in their 30s and 40s with 32, people in their 20s with 16, people 70 or older with 16 and eight people under 20, with one of those an infant under 12 months.
As of Wednesday, the state has reported roughly 2 million confirmed cases in 254 counties and 289,597 probable cases in 223 counties since the pandemic began.
The number of COVID-19 patients hospital beds across the region Wednesday remained well above the 15% threshold that triggered tighter state restrictions late last year, which closed bars and lowered capacity limits at other businesses.
The percentage of hospital beds taken by COVID-19 patients in the 22-county region, which includes both Comal and Guadalupe counties, stood at 23.06% Thursday, slightly lower than the 23.63% rate on Wednesday, according to county officials.
Of the 718 active cases, 99 patients were hospitalized with the virus on Thursday, according to county officials. Comal County hospitals reported caring for 78 COVID-19 patients, with 24 of those in intensive care and 17 on ventilators.
Local hospitals are caring for a mix of local and outside patients, and officials have said that some of its patients may be treated at outside hospitals.
Tighter restrictions in the region would be lifted once hospitalizations drop below 15% for seven consecutive days.
On Wednesday, there were at least 12,795 hospitalized patients in Texas with confirmed coronavirus infections. 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 10,392 available staffed hospital beds on Wednesday, including 637 available staffed ICU beds statewide. COVID-19 patients currently occupy 18.8% of total hospital beds.
The county’s seven-day molecular positivity rate on Thursday stood at 45.08%, while the antigen positivity rate was 4.52%. Fraser told commissioners that the molecular rate, a test that’s more accurate but takes longer to process, can be misleading because fewer residents are taking it. The antigen test is quicker but less accurate.
As of Thursday morning, public health has received reports of 60,262 tests conducted, with 4,296 confirmed cases, 3,690 probable cases and 13 suspect cases.
Those 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 requires an appointment.
The Texas Tribune contributed to this story.