Posted by on Aug 19, 2021 in Uncategorized |

PRESS RELEASE: COVID-19 UPDATE

August 19, 2021

As of 8/18/2021, Somervell County has experienced 1209 total cases since the beginning of the pandemic, and a current case load of 28 active cases.  Somervell County has recorded only 1 death due to COVID-19 in the last 5 months, for a total of 15 deaths attributable to COVID-19 infections.  We have had a dramatic increase in our active cases in the last 6 weeks, after having zero cases for most of the month of June.  This activity is due to the presence of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2.  Based upon genetic analysis of positive test results, at least 85% of current COVID-19 cases are due to the Delta variant.  It is likely higher than that at this time, and those numbers hold true at the local, state, and federal levels.   The vast majority of the illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths in the state and locally, are in unvaccinated individuals.  Vaccinated individuals are experiencing breakthrough cases, with some data suggesting that the length of time since being vaccinated may be having some impact on the risk of infection.  The data, however, is far from conclusive.  Late last week, the CDC and ACIP both recommended vaccine booster doses for individuals on medication that would suppress the immune system.  Currently no blanket recommendation has been made for booster doses.

The most current numbers are found at: https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus then click on the button that says TEXAS CASE COUNTS.  This website will be the most consistent place to get information regarding local and statewide numbers.

Hospitalizations have jumped statewide in the last four weeks.  This is impacting both regular hospital beds, and ICU beds across the state.  Most hospitals/systems have had to start postponing elective surgery cases to improve bed availability for ill patients.  In Trauma Service Area E (TSA-E), that we belong in, there are only 80 available ICU beds for a population greater than 8,000,000 people.  Many critically ill patients are being cared for in hospitals that would not normally care for these types of patients.  The inability of smaller hospitals to get patients transferred to larger hospitals with more capacity and capabilities has become a big problem statewide.  This is having a major impact on all patients, not just patients suffering from COVID-19 infections.

CDC recommendations for vaccinated individuals are that they should mask up indoors.  However, based upon risk, it might be more important for vaccinated individuals to mask up in high-risk indoor settings, such as a poorly ventilated room, and/or a large crowd relative to room size.  Outdoors, masking is not recommended for vaccinated people.  For unvaccinated individuals, masks are recommended in all indoor settings.  Out of doors, masks are not needed, except possibly, at an event where people may be standing shoulder to shoulder.  The delta variant appears to be substantially more contagious than other variants, or the original version of the virus.  This contagiousness accounts for the increase in breakthrough infections, the rapidity of the current spread, and therefore the change in recommendations by the CDC.  Patients continue to have a much higher risk of complications and/or death from the disease, compared to the risk of complications from the vaccines.  If you would like to get vaccinated, please start by calling your doctor’s office, or your pharmacy.  Vaccines are readily available at this time for anyone aged 12 and up.

Monoclonal antibody treatments continue to be made available to patients free of charge.  If you contract COVID-19, and are interested in this treatment option, please contact your doctor’s office.  People who meet the CDC definition of high risk (65+, obese, diabetes, hypertension, etc), can use monoclonal antibody treatment for prevention of infection.  It appears that they need to bring proof of the source patient’s infection (with that person’s permission of course).  These treatments continue to be refined, and have been shown to help patients get better faster, and also decrease their contagiousness.  There may be an administration fee, almost always coved by insurance, or governmental funds.

If you choose to not be vaccinated, and have not had the disease, avoiding crowds/social distancing, especially indoors, good hand hygiene, and masking up are the best bet to avoid getting any version of the virus causing COVID-19.

Finally, with school starting, I have concerns about how we are going to prevent a significant increase in cases locally.  The guidance from TEA to Texas school districts is found here: https://tea.texas.gov/sites/default/files/covid/SY-20-21-Public-Health-Guidance.pdf

The information from Dr. Overbo, and GRISD is found here:

http://www.grisd.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/2021-2022-School-Letter-8-17-2021.pdf

and here:

http://www.grisd.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Fall-2021-Glen-Rose-ISD-COVID-19-Protocols-Updated-8-17-2021-1.pdf

Texas DSHS recommendations include exclusion from school or work while ill with COVID-19.

A school administrator shall exclude from attendance any child having or suspected of having COVID-19. Exclusion shall continue until the readmission criteria for the conditions are met. The readmission criteria for COVID-19 is as follows:

If symptomatic, exclude until at least 10 days have passed since symptom onset, and fever free*, and other symptoms have improved. Children who test positive for COVID-19 but do not have any symptoms must stay home until at least 10 days after the day they were tested.

*Fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever suppressing medications. Fever is a temperature of 100° Fahrenheit (37.8° Celsius) or higher.

Texas DSHS recommendations for close contacts of known COVID-19 cases are as follows:

Stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19

Watch for fever (100.4◦F), cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19

And if possible, stay away from people you live with, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19

There are alternative recommendations that might be less optimal with a more transmissible or more severe strain of COVID-19, especially during high levels of community transmission.  Theis could include return to school or work on day 7 or 8, if asymptomatic, and a negative PCR test performed after post exposure day 5.

Please do not send your children to school if they are sick or exposed to COVID-19 positive individuals.  While our children are at low risk overall for complications from COVID-19, the Delta variant is causing more complications and hospitalizations than the original form of the virus, or other variants.  I am more concerned about who our children can transmit the virus to (whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic), as the adults in their lives are more likely to suffer the consequences of COVID-19.

Please consider how you can help protect your family, neighbors, and community.  I hope that it doesn’t require another tragedy, or near tragedy, to galvanize us into action to take better care of each other.

In my opinion, the single best way to help stop people from getting critically ill, is for more people to get vaccinated.  Nothing else can compare to the combination of effectiveness and safety that the current vaccines offer.

Thank you!

Steven J Vacek, M.D.

Glen Rose HealthCare Inc.

Somervell County Local Health Authority