Breckenridge Texan

Number of local active COVID-19 cases doubles in past week; vaccines available

Number of local active COVID-19 cases doubles in past week; vaccines available
August 14
14:19 2021

By Carla McKeown and Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Stephens County more than doubled in the past week, going from 12 on Aug. 6 to 25 on Friday, Aug. 13. Additionally, two more people died from the disease this week, taking the local total of COVID-19 deaths to 28.

In the past week, in Stephens County, four or five children under the age of 10 have been diagnosed with COVID-19, said Chris Curtis, director of new business for Stephens Memorial Hospital. Stephens County remains under the Stage 4 of the Community Health Plan (click here for more details).

Curtis said the hospital is working on getting the Pfizer vaccine, which can be given to children age 12 to 17. Previously, the vaccine had to be kept at extremely low temperatures and had to be ordered in large batches. But, now, the hospital can order fewer vials that can be kept at regular refrigerator temperatures for up to 30 days.

“I made a post (on Facebook) this week, to gauge the interest to see if it’s even worth it,” Curtis said. “And, I had a lot of private messages from community members wanting their children vaccinated. So I was very reassured by that.”

At this time, Curtis said, the hospital does not have a timeline for when they will be able to get the Pfizer vaccine in Breckenridge. For more information, contact the hospital at 254-559-2241 or your regular doctor. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s Vaccines.gov website, there are places in Abilene and Mineral Wells that have the Pfizer vaccine. Check out the website to verify locations where it’s available.

The Breckenridge Medical Center continues to offer the Moderna vaccine on Wednesdays. That vaccine is currently available for anyone age 18 or older. Additionally, the medical center offers COVID-19 testing for anyone who has symptoms of the disease. For more information, call the BMC at 254-559-3363.

On Friday afternoon, SMH posted a video on its Facebook page featuring hospital CEO Brian Roland, who addressed the current COVID-19 situation. He said he encourages everyone to get the vaccine and wear a mask (in public) and to talk to their doctor or other health professional if they have any questions about the vaccines.

Additionally, Roland said that there are more than 10,000 COVID-10 patients in hospitals around the state and that affects more than just people with the disease. With so many beds being taken up by COVID-19 patients, local patients who need to be transferred to a bigger hospital because of something like a stroke, heart attack or automobile accident,  may not be able to be transferred quickly.

“That is one of our bigger challenges right now,” Roland said. “While COVID plays a big role in this, where do we send you when these things happen? Right now, we’re having to send patients to New Mexico, Amarillo, Oklahoma. There are other rural hospitals that are having to make 50 and 60 phone calls to figure out where to transfer their patients. And a lot of that is driven by the … ICU beds not being available.

“When you look at North Texas, whether it’s east or west of us, there are no ICU beds available at this time,” he continued. “And, in those ICU beds, 90 percent of those patients are COVID and are unvaccinated. … When you look at the numbers that are out there right now, especially the age group 20 to 49, those are the ones that are in the hospital. And, even pediatrics. Ninety-seven percent of the pediatric beds in North Texas are no longer available because those beds are full. Eighty-six percent of the beds in the state of Texas are full of patients right now. Our goal is for you not to be a statistic because we couldn’t get you to where you needed to be to be taken care of.”

Across the state of Texas, as new cases of COVID-19 surge, the governor’s office is embroiled in a legal fight with several school districts and state courts of appeals. On Friday afternoon, both the 4th and 5th Courts of Appeals ruled against Gov. Greg Abbott’s challenges to some school and other officials who are mandating masks in their districts, counties, etc. And, on Friday night, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a tweet that he has taken the mask mandate fight to the state Supreme Court, according to an article on the Texas Tribune.

Although Abbott issued an executive order in May prohibiting governmental entities from enacting mask mandates, last week he issued a series of directives meant to deal with the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in the state. The directives include:

  • opening additional COVID-19 antibody infusion centers that will treat COVID-19 patients who do not need hospitalization with therapeutic drugs that can prevent their condition from worsening and requiring hospital care;
  • asking hospitals to voluntarily postpone elective medical procedures, for which a delay will not result in loss of life or the deterioration of a patient’s condition, in order to increase hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients;
  • directing the Texas Department of State Health Services to utilize staffing agencies to provide medical personnel from out-of-state to Texas health care facilities to assist in COVID-19 operations;
  • directing the Texas Division of Emergency Management and DSHS to increase vaccination availability across the state’
  • and, encouraging all Texans to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The State of Texas is taking action to combat the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and ensure that our hospitals and communities have the resources and support they need to mitigate the virus,” Abbott said. “Texans can help bolster our efforts by getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, and it is our best defense against this virus. Texans can visit covidvaccine.texas.gov to find a COVID-19 vaccine provider near them.”

Despite Abbott’s order against mask mandates, several school districts across the state have implemented mask mandates for their students and staffs. On Monday, Aug. 9, Breckenridge Independent School District Superintendent Bryan Allen said that masks will be optional for staff and students when school starts next week.

Additionally, he said the Texas Education Agency’s latest health guidelines no longer require that school districts conduct close contact tracing.

“Probably the biggest thing that’s going to make an impact on us is the contact tracing is no longer a requirement. (In the case of) any kind of close contact, quarantine would be at the parents’ discretion,” Allen said. “So if a child has come into contact with an infected person, if they want to come to school, they have that opportunity and that right. We’re going to ask that they closely watch for symptoms, and if any symptoms arise, then to notify us so that we can take those next steps.

“But…the requirement where we’re going to have to send home a whole class at a time…if one person gets sick, is no longer there. So I feel like that will help us out tremendously as we move forward,” he continued. “…this is as of today, and this is subject to change at any time. But I feel like this is the guidance that … is going to be predominant. It’s going to be district decisions; it’s going to be parent and local decisions. And, hopefully, in the course of that, people use good common sense and, you know, to take care of each other.”

Curtis said that although he has been discouraged lately because of negative feedback he’s received after encouraging people to get the vaccine, he’s also been encouraged by the recent increase in the number of vaccinations that have been administered in the past couple of weeks.

Not only are COVID-19 vaccines available at the Breckenridge Medical Center on Wednesdays, but they also are available locally at the CVS and Walmart pharmacies.

 


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