New COVID-19 cases along with hospitalization rates and death rates have dropped in Smith County since hitting record-high numbers earlier this week.

Smith County recorded nine COVID-19 related deaths since last Thursday, bringing the county’s overall death toll to 241.

The Northeast Texas Public Health District recorded 555 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases for an overall case count of 16,289.

There are 9,328 confirmed cases and 6,961 probable in Smith County.

Of the 241 deaths, 164 are confirmed to be COVID-19 related and 77 are probable deaths, according to NET Health.

There are 6,479 confirmed recoveries and 4,406 probable ones. Confirmed active cases are at 2,685 in Smith County, while probable active cases are at 2,478, NET Health reported.

Hospitals

A total of 269 East Texas patients were receiving treatment for COVID-19 at Tyler hospitals as of Thursday.

The latest state data show COVID-19 patients have taken up more than 15% of hospital capacity in a region that includes Longview and Tyler for 38 straight days, yet it showed the lowest rate since Christmas Day.

COVID-19 patients on Wednesday, the latest day for which data was available, accounted for 17.01% 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 rate has been above that every day since Dec. 25 when it was 16.77%.

The rate on Tuesday was 19.55%.

Seven consecutive days of hospitalization rates above 15% 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 mandate.

The state on Thursday reported 14 ICU beds were available in hospitals throughout Trauma Service Area G.

Two Smith County Jail inmates have an active diagnosis of COVID-19 as of Thursday, according to NET Health data.

According to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, 6 detention officers are COVID-19 positive as of Thursday. One inmate has died due to COVID-19.

Other Counties

Gregg County has 9,097 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, including 5,175 confirmed and 3,922 probable diagnoses.

Confirmed recoveries are at 3,655, while there are 2,180 probable recoveries, according to NET Health.

The county death toll is at 161, which includes 88 confirmed deaths and 73 labeled as probable.

Henderson County has 4,659 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, including 3,173 confirmed and 1,486 probable diagnoses, NET Health said.

The death toll is at 81. Sixteen of the total deaths list COVID-19 as a probable cause of death, according to NET Health.

Confirmed recoveries are at 1,988, and there are 928 probable recoveries in the county, NET Health said.

Van Zandt County has 3,301 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, including 2,013 confirmed and 1,288 probable diagnoses, NET Health said.

Confirmed recoveries are at 1,318, and 796 people have likely recovered in Van Zandt County, NET Health reported.

The Van Zandt County COVID-19 death toll is at 62, including 14 deaths listed with COVID-19 as the probable cause.

Anderson County has 2,889 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, including 1,761 confirmed and 1,128 probable diagnoses, NET Health said.

Confirmed recoveries are at 1,332, and probable recoveries are at 678, the health district reported.

COVID-19 deaths in Anderson County are at 64. Out of the total deaths, 16 are listed with the virus being a probable cause.

The Anderson County numbers do not reflect inmates at the prisons in Tennessee Colony.

Wood County has 2,700 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, including 1,555 confirmed and 1,145 probable diagnoses, NET Health said.

Confirmed recoveries in Wood County are at 1,042, and there are 726 probable recoveries, NET Health said.

The county’s death toll is at 70. Out of the total deaths, 14 are listed as probable.

Rains County has 655 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, including 321 confirmed and 334 probable diagnoses, NET Health said.

Confirmed recoveries are at 213, and there are 202 probable recoveries, according to NET Health.

COVID-19 deaths in Rains County are at nine. Out of the total deaths, three are deemed as probable.

On Thursday, the Northeast Texas Public Health District, known as NET Health, had not updated by deadline new daily COVID-19 case counts for Gregg and the other six for which it provides disease surveillance.

The Texas Department of State Health Services on Thursday reported just 17 new cases of coronavirus in Harrison County residents and one additional death.

The county has had 1,945 cases and 74 fatalities from the virus, according to state data.

The state reported nine new cases of the coronavirus in Rusk County and three additional deaths. The county has had 1,791 positive cases, according to the state, and 69 COVID-19 deaths.

Upshur County’s daily coronavirus cases increased by six for a total of 1,057, and the county’s deaths from the virus remained at 42.

Statewide

A North Texas congressman tested positive Thursday for the illness caused by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, according to a statement.

Also Thursday, Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, a Republican, defended the state’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines after newly sworn Democratic President Joe Biden called the federal rollout “a dismal failure” under the Trump administration.

Both developments came as state health officials reported 441 new COVID-19 deaths Thursday, pushing the week’s death toll past 1,200.

Rep. Ron Wright, a 66-year-old Arlington Republican, said in the statement issued by his office that he was informed of his positive test results Thursday morning after he was exposed to an infected person last week. He was quarantined since Friday and will remain quarantined until doctors give him the all-clear, he said.

He was experiencing minor symptoms, he said, but felt good in general and would continue to work from quarantine.

Wright was hospitalized last September for complications from lung cancer therapy.

In Houston on Thursday, Patrick said at a news conference that while mistakes on the vaccine rollout have been made at the state and local level, “Everyone is trying to do the best they can.”

When asked about what is being done to get vaccines into underserved neighborhoods and communities in Texas, Patrick said that is up to cities and counties.

“We can’t control every dose in every neighborhood, every street from the state level,” he said. “That’s where you get your mayors and your county judges and they have to be communicating to the public. If they’re only getting 50,000 doses, then allocate those in a straightforward way that takes care of folks and don’t fill them with false hope.”

That would appear to contradict the state’s demand that Dallas County commissioners rescind a plan to grant residents in underserved ZIP code areas priority for vaccinations. The plan, which commissioners approved Tuesday, was rescinded at an emergency commissioners meeting.

Meanwhile, newly report deaths that continue to run at record levels have pushed the Texas death toll for the pandemic to 33,285. The 21,422 newly reported COVID-19 raised the pandemic count to close to 2.2 million, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Of those, 13,564 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, but 376,769 cases are active.

The Longview News-Journal and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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