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County hosts clinics as vaccine hub

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    A graph of vaccine doses allocated each week to Bastrop County. Week nine is the week of February 8. To find this and more data regarding vaccine distribution in Texas, visit dshs.texas.gov/news/updates.shtm and click “Vaccine Data.”

After hosting COVID-19 vaccine distribution clinics in Bastrop, Bastrop County brought its first such clinic to Elgin on Friday.

Earlier this year, Bastrop County was designated by the state as a vaccination hub, which allows the county to receive vaccine doses on a regular basis, said Dr. Desmare Walkes, the local health authority for Bastrop County. Currently, Bastrop County is receiving 1,000 doses per week as a hub, in addition to the vaccines allocated to other healthcare providers and pharmacies.

Dr. Walkes said Bastrop County applied for the hub designation because of its good relationship with Walgreens, which provides the staff to administer vaccines, and the strong local infrastructure of volunteers through Bastrop County Cares and several other nonprofit organizations.

“These individuals have stepped up like nobody could ever have imagined to serve their neighbors and make this process a pretty joyous event,” Dr. Walkes said. “There are smiles, people are welcoming. … It's a pretty historic event for Bastrop County.”

As a result of its designation as a hub, Bastrop County has been able to host a series of vaccination clinics.

Currently in Texas, people who fall into Phase 1A and Phase 1B are eligible to receive vaccinations. Phase 1A includes healthcare workers and first responders, while Phase 1B includes people 65 years or older and people 16 years or older who have a medical condition that increases the risk of hospitalization or death due to COVID-19.

At Bastrop County’s clinics, people do not have to have insurance or show proof of residency.

Dr. Walkes said they are able to get people through the clinic with about 15 minutes, followed by a 15-minute observation period in a socially-distanced area to ensure they don’t have a reaction to the vaccine.

Those interested in receiving a vaccine at a Bastrop County vaccine clinic can sign up on the waitlist at www.covac.info or call 866-268-2289. 

The waitlist registration includes a survey asking respondents about topics such as their occupation, zip code, transportation needs, medical conditions and age group. 

This registration is open to people outside of Bastrop County, as well. After someone signs up, they will receive an email when there is an appointment available.

The county first held a vaccine distribution clinic in mid-January at Bastrop ISD’s Jerry Fay Wilhelm Performing Arts Center. They then ratified a site use agreement for the use of the performing arts center to continue administering vaccinations there in the future. The county also signed an agreement with the Bastrop Christian Outreach Center for the use of their facility for vaccinations.

Then, earlier this month, Bastrop County and the City of Elgin entered a 180-day agreement to allow the county to host vaccine distribution clinics at the Elgin Recreation Center. 

Elgin Mayor Ron Ramirez, who visited Elgin’s clinic on Friday, February 12, was impressed by how well-run the vaccine distribution clinic was, including the volunteers who braved the cold last week. A total of 500 doses were administered at the clinic in Elgin, while another 600 had been distributed in Bastrop the day before.

“I just couldn't be more proud of Elgin,” Ramirez said. “I couldn't be more proud of Bastrop County, and Dr. Walkes, and the whole program, it was just a positive experience. I talked to several people getting the shots, and they just raved about how friendly the volunteers were and how knowledgeable everybody was. … It was just like a well-oiled machine.”

Ramirez said the next clinic in Elgin is 28 days after the first one, which is the suggested time between the two doses for the Moderna vaccine, which is what is used in Bastrop County. That way, people who received their first shot at the clinic in Elgin could get their second dose in Elgin, as well. He added that Bastrop County is working on getting more points of distribution for vaccines in areas other than Bastrop, such as Smithville.

Dr. Walkes said there has been a lot of enthusiasm among the volunteers and a sense of relief that there is now a method to prevent people from falling ill with COVID-19.

“The ability to help people be vaccinated has given us all a really good feeling of accomplishment and a lot of relief, because it's been a long time that we've all been living through this pandemic,” she said. “This has been a good event in that we're able to help one another hopefully get to the next stage.”

Although people are receiving vaccines, Dr. Walkes cautions that people still need to practice social distancing, wash their hands, wear masks and stay home when sick, since there isn’t enough vaccine supply to cause herd immunity against COVID-19 yet.

“The fact that we're able to start vaccinating our population gives us hope that there is an end in sight,” she said. “We’re not at the end yet, and it's important that we try to keep the spread down and help our hospital systems stay at levels where they can treat people with severe illness that requires hospitalization. If we do our part, they can get that job done, and in time, we're going to work towards getting everybody vaccinated and hopefully back to a new normal.”

 

Six COVID-19 deaths reported, vaccinations increase

As of Monday morning, Bastrop County reported a total of 6,407 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 and 1,824 probable cases, according to the county’s dashboard.

On Monday, the Texas Department of State Health Services did not report any active cases; by Wednesday, the county's dashboard reported 1,010 active cases and 7,198 total recoveries.

At the same time last week, the county’s total number of confirmed cases was 6,296 and the total number of probable cases was 1,770, with 6,024 total recoveries and 1,975 active cases.

The dashboard reports six more COVID-19 fatalities, bringing the number of deaths in Bastrop County due to the illness to 73.

As of Monday, 3,908 residents of Bastrop County have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 1,793 of those people had received their second dose to become fully vaccinated, according to another dashboard from DSHS, found at dshs.texas.gov/news/updates.shtm. Last week, 3,226 people had received their first dose of a vaccine, and 1,245 of those people had received a second dose. 

As of last week, the ninth week of vaccine distribution, Bastrop County had received a total of 7,500 doses—6,300 first doses and 1,200 of which are designated as second doses. Due to Bastrop County’s designation as a vaccine hub, many of these doses are available to residents of other counties. During the tenth week of vaccine distribution, Community Health Center of Bastrop County in Bastrop will receive 400 doses, Seton Smithville Regional Hospital in Smithville will receive 400 Moderna doses, and A+ Life Style Medical Group in Bastrop, which is a vaccine hub provider, will receive 1,000 Moderna doses.

According to the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) weekly update last Tuesday, the county’s community testing site in Bastrop performed 257 tests between February 2 and February 8. The positivity rate of PCR testing by Bastrop County is 15.7 as of February 3, slight up from the previous week.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 across the 11-county Trauma Service Area O, which includes Bastrop and Travis counties, was at 10.67% as of last Tuesday, a decrease from the previous week.

“Please continue minimizing the spread of COVID-19 by wearing your masks, social distancing, washing your hands frequently and staying home when you are sick,” last week’s post said. 

The data backlog from DSHS for Region 7, which caused a one-time spike in Bastrop County’s case count on February 1, has been completed, meaning the data now reported by Bastrop County OEM is true to the dates it is reported, the update said.

For more information about receiving a test at the county testing site, visit www.bastropcountycovid19.org or call 512-972-5560. For local questions about COVID-19, call the Bastrop County hotline at 512-303-4300.

For the latest update, posted each Tuesday, visit @BastropCountyOEM on Facebook.

According to the City of Austin’s COVID-19 dashboard, found at www.austintexas.gov/covid19, the portion of the 78621 zip code in Travis County has reported 297 cases. Last week, this number was 296.

The City of Austin dashboard also includes information about hospitalized patients in the five-county Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), in addition to the case numbers for Austin and Travis County. The MSA includes Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson County.

As of Monday afternoon, the MSA has 364 inpatients in the region’s hospitals and an additional 33 patients hospitalized at an alternative care site, with 109 patients in the intensive care units (ICU) and 70 ventilators in use.

Last week, 446 people were in the hospital as inpatients due to COVID-19 with an additional 39 patients hospitalized at the alternative care site, 133 patients were in the ICU and 96 ventilators were in use.

In May 2019, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began gathering and reporting data from nursing homes about the number of confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19 in residents and staff. As of Monday, data was available through the week ending on January 31 at data.cms.gov. 

One more resident and one more staff member have tested positive for COVID-19 between January 24 and January 31. A total of 37 residents and 27 staff members have been confirmed with COVID-19 over the 37 weeks of data reported so far, and six residents have died due to the virus.

In early September, Elgin ISD launched a school district dashboard of daily reported COVID-19 cases by campus, found online at www.elginisd.net/Page/6358.

As of Monday afternoon, five more students and staff members have been reported as positive for COVID-19 since the previous week. This includes three cases at Booker T. Washington Elementary School, one case at Elgin Intermediate School and one case at Elgin High School or Phoenix High School.

Seven additional students and staff members tested positive earlier in the month, for a total of 12 cases so far in February.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, www.bop.gov/coronavirus, the federal correctional institution in Bastrop has three inmates and 36 staff members with active cases of COVID-19 as of Monday afternoon. Last week, two inmates and 36 staff members had active cases. One inmate has died of COVID-19, and 460 inmates and six staff members have recovered so far.