As FDA approves emergency use authorization of first COVID-19 vaccine, local cases continue
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The Federal Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, but locals shouldn’t expect to see a vaccine available to the general public anytime soon.
Coryell County Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Harrell told Coryell County commissioners on Tuesday morning that he wished he had good news to report, where the spread of the COVID-19 virus is concerned in the county.
“Yesterday I posted 34 new infections in the county. If I was a betting man, I’d say this is the result of the holidays, and as we go through the holidays, we will probably see a lot more.
I can’t say how dangerous this is. We have young folks who are contracting this. Across the state of Texas we are at an all-time high for deaths and infections, and this will probably be all the way through January,” Harrell said. “The thing I’d like to bring out, I’m asking the businesses in our community, to ask patrons to wear masks. This will stop, or at least mitigate, some of the spread that we have in our community.”
In addition to the EUA for the Pfizer vaccine, Harrell said that next week, the pharmaceutical company Moderna is going to have the same hearing for its vaccine. He said that his office will be meeting with providers in Coryell County to determine the issues the counties faces as far as vaccination. He added that the county will be issuing surveys to the public to see which groups want to have the vaccine.
“This will be an individual choice, not a mandate for the general population,” Harrell said.
County Judge: All-time record highs for new cases, don’t expect general public vaccine until early next year
County Judge Roger Miller also briefed commissioners on the case trends over the last three weeks.
“In the past three weeks, we have set two all-time record highs for week over week totals,” Miller said, adding that three weeks ago, in one-week period, there were a total of 131 new cases, followed by 108 new cases in a seven-day period two weeks ago.
Then on Dec. 2, there were a total of 133 new cases in a one-week period for the county, another all-time high.
Although there have been 16 deaths in Coryell County, a proportionately low number compared to the total number of cases, Miller said the bad news is the impact on local hospitals.
“The shutdown, stay-at-home orders at the beginning, were all to protect our healthcare resources,” Miller said. “Right now we are seeing the impact.”
Currently, every major hospital in Trauma Service Area L is not accepting ICU patients of any kind whatsoever.
Also, now area hospitals are starting to see staffing shortages due to COVID-19, with one local hospital having had as many as 40 staff out with the virus.
On Tuesday morning, Miller said there was only one ICU bed available in neighborindg Region M, achonred by McLennan County.
“There’s a shortage of beds, and there’s beginning to be a shortage of staff to man the beds. And that’s the nitty gritty of it,” Miller said.
Also, the first batch of vaccines has already been allocated by the state of Texas.
“There is not a rural county listed anywhere on the state report to receive the vaccine,” Miller said, adding that counties like Harris, Galveston, Bexar, Fort Bend, Dallas, Travis, El Paso, and
Montgomery Counties are among the ones receiving the doses.
“Whether you believe in the vaccine or not, if you live in a rural county in Texas, don’t think you’ll have the opportunity to get it…the writing is on the wall that we will not have access to it locally until maybe January, February, that’s speculation. Coryell County is not high on the pecking order.”
COVID-19 numbers, locally and statewide
On Monday, the city of Copperas Cove issued its weekly COVID-19 report, which included 270 active cases out of a total of 795.
The office of Coryell County Judge Roger Miller issued an update on Wednesday, with a total of 361 active cases in the county, out of a total of 1,476 cumulative cases.
Miller said new cases from the state’s Department of State Health Services show up on the list generally five to 10 days after the individuals are tested.
According to the state, cases excluding those for inmates housed in TDCJ facilities number 1,594. However, Miller’s office removes cases from the list that have unknown addresses, addresses for those who actually live outside the county, and probable cases. Altogether, there are 35 with unknown addresses, 71 “probable” cases, and 12 who are not county residents.
Active cases rose to an all-time high on Tuesday, Dec. 8, with a total of 53 among students and staff. Altogether there are 14 at the high school (14 students, 10 staff), and both S.C. Lee and Copperas Cove Junior High campuses have seen an uptick in active cases among students, with nine at CCJHS and eight at S.C. Lee. Both campuses each have one staff member with an active case.
The remainder of the cases, at the elementary and prekindergarten campuses, include a total of 14 staff, six of which are at the Mae Stevens Early Learning Academy, and five students.
As of Nov. 29, the Copperas Cove Independent School District had a total of 118 test-confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, to include 70 students and 48 staff.
In the state of Texas, active cases were at 202,457 as of Wednesday, Dec. 9. Total positive cases rose to 1,283,674. The seven-day positivity rate is 13.17 percent.
Hospitalizations statewide were at 9,053. Locally, in Trauma Service Region L as of Wednesday, there were 132 hospitalized for COVID-19 out of a total of 1,226 patients, or 10.77 percent of hospitalized patients.
COVID-19 cases in Central Texas*
Bell County 1,488 active cases (9,793 total)
Burnet County 269 active cases (1,593 total)
Coryell County 361 active cases (1,476 total)
Copperas Cove (city) 270 active cases (795 total)
TDCJ-Coryell Co. 81 active cases (1,186 total)
Lampasas County 93 active cases (723 total)
McLennan County 1,284 active cases (15,880 total)
Williamson County 1,146 active cases (14,827 total)
*As of press time Thursday, numbers from Texas DSHS, City of Copperas Cove, Coryell County, TDCJ COVID-19 dashboard, Bell County Public Health District