From staff and wire reports
In East Texas, the latest state data shows the number of COVID-19 patients on Sunday accounted for the second-highest percentage of hospital capacity in a region that includes Longview and Tyler since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as it surpassed 15% for the 28th straight day.
COVID-19 patients accounted for 24.33% of hospital capacity in the Trauma Service Region G that stretches across a 19-county region in Northeast Texas and includes Gregg, Upshur, Rusk, Harrison, Panola and Smith counties. According to Texas Department of State Health Services, the number is down from 25.43% the previous day, the highest COVID-19 capacity seen in the region.
Seven consecutive days of hospitalization rates for the Trauma Service Area on Dec. 20 set in motion renewed restrictions at businesses and restaurants in the region, per an executive order issued in October by Gov. Greg Abbott. The counties that make up the trauma service area are Gregg, Anderson, Camp, Cherokee, Franklin, Freestone, Harrison, Henderson, Houston, Marion, Panola, Rains, Rusk, Shelby, Smith, Trinity, Upshur, Van Zandt and Wood.
Seven consecutive days in which the COVID-19 hospitalization rate is less than 15% of total hospital capacity in the region are required to lift the new mandate.
The state on Monday reported 35 ICU beds were available in hospitals throughout Trauma Service Area G.
COVID-19 case numbers for Smith County and other surrounding areas, including Gregg, Wood, Van Zandt, Anderson, Henderson and Rains, were not available as of 9:30 p.m. Monday, according to the Northeast Texas Public Health District website.
The state reported 45 new cases of the coronavirus in Rusk County since Friday and two additional deaths. The county has had 1,637 positive cases, according to the state, and 58 COVID-19 deaths.
Upshur County’s coronavirus cases increased by 28 for a total of 866, and the county’s deaths from the virus increased by four to 37.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the state should be able to rapidly increase the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations by using new mass hubs for getting shots, but the effort is still limited by the supply of medicine coming from the federal government.
In response to frustrations over a slow and often confusing rollout of vaccines over the past month, Texas is shifting from its original model of using thousands of smaller vaccine providers to large-scale sites that can process thousands of shots per day.
Texas is one of several states opening football stadiums, major league ballparks, fairgrounds and convention centers to inoculate a larger and more diverse pool of people.
“We have the structure to vaccinate Texans very swiftly,” Abbott said after touring the new vaccine hub at the Esports Stadium Arlington & Expo Center. Other sites among the 28 vaccine large hub include the Alamodome in San Antonio, Fair Park in Dallas and Minute Maid Park in Houston.
“The only limitation that we now face is the limitation of supply. The vaccination is not something that the state of Texas is in control of. The supply of the vaccination comes only from the federal government,” Abbott said.