Nurse Trey Schleicher cares for a coronavirus patient in the intensive care unit at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa on Monday, July 13, 2020. MIKALA COMPTON | Herald-Zeitung

Comal County's active COVID-19 case count continued its steep climb on Wednesday, nearing the 700 mark just a day after it crossed 600 and less than a week since it rose above 500.

County health officials added 99 new cases on Wednesday morning and 35 additional recoveries. Of the new cases, 61 are confirmed and 38 are probable. The county now has 690 active cases.

The new surge in cases, which national health officials have said is being driven by the rapidly spreading delta variant, continues to veer younger than those previously seen. Only six of the cases are in people who are 70 or older. Fifteen are under the age of 20, 21 are in their 20s, 26 are in their 30s and 40s and 31 are in their 50s and 60s.

Most of Comal County's senior population — more than 80% according to the Texas Department of State Health Services — has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Of those 690 cases, 21 county residents are now hospitalized with COVID — up from the nine reported on Tuesday. Three of those patients are in their 30s, one in their 40s, five are in their 50s, seven are in their 60s, three are in their 70s and two are 80 or older.

Comal County hospitals reported caring for 42 COVID patients on Wednesday, with 11 of those in ICU and four on ventilators. That's a decline in ICU usage by one. Officials have said that number could include both county and non-county residents hospitalized.

The percentage of hospital beds being used by COVID patients across the 22-county region that includes both Comal and Guadalupe County also continued to rise on Wednesday, with that number climbing to 8.06% — up almost a full percentage point since Monday.

Local doctors have echoed those across the rest of the country in saying that the large majority of those patients who have been hospitalized with the virus have been unvaccinated and state health officials said last week that 99.5% of the COVID deaths since early February have been among unvaccinated patients.

The county's seven-day positivity rates were at 9.32% for the molecular test and 6.79% for the antigen test on Wednesday.

Comal County's Public Health Department is continuing to offer vaccination appointments with the Pfizer vaccine available to those 12 and older and the Moderna vaccine for those 18 and older. Those interested can call 830-221-1150.

There have been no vaccines approved for those younger than 12.

On Tuesday the Center for Disease Control advised Americans, even those who are vaccinated, to mask up again in indoor spaces in places where COVID spread is high. Comal and Guadalupe counties both fall under that designation.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that he won't put a mask mandate back in place and said now is the time for "personal responsibility."

Comal County's Public Health Director Cheryl Fraser said Wednesday that wearing a mask is an "easy way to help protect yourself and those around you" but that "the best defense we have against this virus is the vaccines."

"Everyone needs to make the best educated decision for their own health and the health of others," Fraser said.

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