UT Health East Texas commemorates COVID-19 anniversary in Tyler

Nashelle Gonzales, patient advocate, affixes a lantern to the skywalk window at UT Health Tyler on March 17, 2021. Each paper lantern contains the initials of a patient treated for COVID-19 at hospitals across the division. Hospitalizations in Tyler have decreased over the last week.

COVID-19 data in Smith County reflects lower transmission levels of the virus and a decline in hospitalizations, according to data from the Northeast Texas Public Health District.

As of Thursday, the county’s community transmission level has decreased by more than 39% since Monday and Tyler’s COVID hospitalizations have declined to 242 after being in the 300-range for nearly a week. The decline that began Monday when about 30 more patients were hospitalized.

The county’s community transmission level on Thursday is now as 85.19, according to NET Health, compared to Monday’s report of 140.67.

Since Thursday’s significant decline in spread levels of the virus, Smith County is now the county with the second-highest rate of community spread levels among counties covered by NET Health. Anderson County has the highest spread as of Thursday and Rains County has the lowest, at 46.80.

All seven counties remain in substantial spread levels, meaning the seven-day rolling rate of infection is more than 35 cases a day. Substantial spread levels indicate a large-scale, uncontrolled community transmission in congregate settings.

The number of COVID-19 patients in the state’s 19-county Trauma Region G, which includes Tyler and Longview, shows a decline as well. On Thursday, 453 patients were hospitalized in the region, a decrease of 32 since Monday’s report. Hospitalizations include 117 patients in ICUs and 88 patients on ventilators. In September 2021, hospitalizations reached 822, the highest number of single-day COVID-19 hospitalizations in the region since the pandemic began.

Active cases of the virus in Smith County have increased by just over 5% since Monday. NET Health’s report shows active cases within the county are at 14,309 compared to 13,619 reported Monday.

There have also been 763 new COVID-19 cases reported in the county since Monday. The last time Smith County saw a similar number of new cases was Jan. 3.

Of new cases reported Monday, 473 are confirmed and 290 are probable. NET Health defines probable cases as those that are attributed to patients who have received positive antigen tests, until the person has been administered a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test. If a person’s PCR laboratory result is positive, that becomes a confirmed case.

A total of 11,244 cases were reported in the county throughout January. On Jan. 24, Smith County surpassed a pandemic high of new COVID-19 cases in a single month since NET Health began reporting data in September 2020. The previous pandemic high of new virus cases was September 2021, when the county saw a total of 8,351 new cases, according to NET Health. January’s new COVID cases in the county topped the previous record by 2,893 new cases.

So far in February, the county has seen 3,052 new cases. Comparatively, there were 1,382 new cases reported in December and 504 new cases in November, according to NET Health.

As of Thursday in Smith County, vaccination rates hardly changed since Monday. Approximately 55.24% of people aged 5 and older had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 48.69% of people aged 5 and older had been fully vaccinated, according to the state. State data shows 85.91% of people 65 and older in the county had been vaccinated with at least one dose as of Thursday, while 79.39% of that population had been fully vaccinated. As of Nov. 4, children 5 to 11 years of age are included in vaccination numbers and rates.

At the Smith County Jail as of Thursday, three inmates had an active diagnosis of COVID-19, and one inmate has died due to COVID-19, according to NET Health. It was recently announced the Smith County Jail’s in-person visitation will remain canceled until March 3.

There have been 52,901 total COVID-19 cases in Smith County since the pandemic began and 38,151 total recoveries, according to NET Health.

Other counties

Gregg County had 321 new cases — 87 confirmed, 234 probable — reported since Monday. There were 5,779 total active cases within the county.

Henderson County had 109 new cases — 43 confirmed, 66 probable — reported since Monday. There were 2,847 total active cases within the county.

Van Zandt County had 111 new cases — 35 confirmed, 76 probable — reported since Monday. There were 2,375 total active cases within the county.

Rains County had 17 new cases — five confirmed, 12 probable — reported since Monday and there were 379 total active cases within the county.

Wood County had 114 new cases — 48 confirmed, 66 probable — reported since Monday. There were 1,992 total active cases within the county.

Anderson County had 237 new cases — 89 confirmed, 148 probable — reported since Monday. There were 1,676 total active cases within the county.

Total recoveries and total active cases include probable and confirmed data. Data gathered in Thursday’s report represents data from noon Monday to noon Thursday.


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Bilingual Multimedia Journalist

I cover COVID-19 and health in the East Texas area for Tyler Morning Telegraph, the Longview News-Journal and Tyler Paper Español. Stephen F. Austin State University alumna. For story ideas, email me at rtorres@tylerpaper.com.