Texas – The statewide COVID-19 death toll increased to more than 29,300 Friday, McLennan County’s rose to more than 300 and hospitalization rates remain high here and around the state as the Texas Department of State Health Services prepares to establish mass vaccination hubs next week.
At least 13,921 COVID-19 patients were in Texas hospitals Friday, almost 140 more than the record 13,784 who were hospitalized on Thursday.
In Trauma Service Area L, which includes Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam and Mills counties, at least 228 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Friday, accounting for about 26% all hospitalizations and filling about 21% of available beds.
The Texas Department of State Health Services has advised the counties that the TSA’s hospitalization rate is sufficiently high to trigger capacity reductions.
At least 202 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Friday in Trauma Service Area M, which includes McLennan, Bosque, Falls, Hill and Limestone counties, accounting for about 44% of all hospitalizations and occupying about 32% of available beds, well above the 15% ceiling that triggers capacity reductions under orders Gov. Greg Abbott issued on Sept. 17 and Oct. 7.
Freestone, Leon, Navarro and Robertson counties are also in Trauma Service Areas in which hospitalization rates exceed 15%.
Another 525 confirmed cases of the virus were reported Thursday in Central Texas, boosting the regional total to 51,763.
McLennan County officials reported six additional deaths Thursday, increasing the virus’ toll in the county to more than 300.
In Bell County Ellison High School science teacher Cathy Falkner, who was last on campus on Nov. 20 after she was diagnosed with COVID-19, died Thursday night, the Killeen ISD announced Friday. Falkner was hospitalized in December, district spokeswoman Taina Maya said.
The virus may have claimed as many as 830 lives in Central Texas, but according to state data Thursday, at least 826 have died including 179 Bell County residents, two more than the local count of 165; 18 Bosque County residents; 34 Coryell County residents, 13 more than the local count of 21; 19 Falls County residents; 25 Freestone County residents; 18 Hamilton County residents; 36 Hill County residents; 15 Lampasas County residents; 26 Leon County residents; 31 Limestone County residents; 300 McLennan County residents, two fewer than the local count of 302; 15 Milam County residents, one more that the local count of 14; 12 Mills County residents; 63 Navarro County residents, five fewer than the local count of 68; 21 Robertson County residents, and 14 San Saba County residents.
The statewide death toll increased by 372 to 29, 310 on Friday.
DSHS reported another 17,784 confirmed cases of the virus Friday, 17,335 of them new.
Of the total 334,711 cases were active Friday and 1,536,690 patients have recovered.
About 14.5 million tests have been administered statewide.
The Lab Test Date positivity rate Friday was 20.01%, down from 20.68% on Thursday.
Experts say a positivity rate of 5% or less indicates the virus is under control.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was briefed Friday in Austin on the state’s vaccine rollout.
“Amid all the tragedies brought on by this pandemic, the emergency management and health care workers in Texas continue to give me great hope,” he said.
“Brighter days are ahead for Texas, but in the meantime we must continue to wear masks, socially distance, and help our fellow Texans get through this together.”
The Texas Department of State Health Services will publish a list on Sunday of hub sites to which vaccines will be directed next week in order to step up the pace of vaccination in Texas, which, as of Friday, had received 1.488 million doses of the vaccine.
A total of 589,332 residents have been vaccinated so far.
DSHS says it will direct most of the vaccine it receives to “large providers who can vaccinate a total of more than 100,000 people” next week.
“As the vaccination effort continues to expand to people who are at a greater risk of hospitalization and death, in addition to front-line health care workers, these vaccination hubs will provide people in those priority populations with identifiable sites where vaccination is occurring and a simpler way to sign-up for an appointment with each provider,” DSHS said.
The vaccine will be administered at the hub sites to healthcare workers, residents and employees of long-term care facilities, residents who are 65 or older and those with medical conditions that increase the risk of severe disease or death.
The large providers and smaller sites will receive a total of about 200,000 doses next week.
Frontline healthcare workers and residents and employees of long-term care facilities are first in line to receive the vaccine in Texas, under Phase 1A of the state’s distribution plan, followed in the second phase by residents 65 and older and residents 16 or older with such chronic medical conditions as cancer, kidney disease, COPD, heart disease, severe obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease and Type 2 diabetes.
The Texas Department of State Health Services vaccination dashboard Friday showed that 4,219 of 22,610 Bell County residents eligible under Phase 1A have been vaccinated and that 83 have received the second dose and that 4,211 of 17,922 eligible McLennan County residents have been vaccinated and that 29 have received the second dose.
The dashboard Friday showed the administration of 254 initial vaccinations and two secondary vaccinations in Bosque County; 713 initial vaccinations and one secondary vaccination in Coryell County; 142 initial vaccinations in Falls County; 134 in Freestone County; 534 in Hamilton County; 531 initial vaccinations and five secondary vaccinations in Hill County; 272 initial vaccinations in Lampasas County; 203 initial vaccinations and one secondary vaccination in Leon County; 272 initial vaccinations in Limestone County; 238 initial vaccinations in Milam County; 170 in Mills County; 657 initial vaccinations and four secondary vaccinations in Navarro County; 185 initial vaccinations in Robertson County, and 20 in San Saba County.
Baylor University has received 300 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which is being administered to Health Center staff, medical personnel, emergency responders, and School of Nursing faculty, staff and students who work in hospital settings under Phase 1A of the state’s plan.