Judson COVID Teasting

School nurse Janice Brooks spends her morning administering rapid COVID-19 tests on Thursday at Judson Middle School.

Smith County continues to see a rise of COVID-19 cases trending toward pandemic-high records. But as of Monday, the county’s community transmission rate remains the same as it was three days ago.

Smith County continues to have the highest community transmission rate in the Northeast Public Health District’s jurisdiction, although it remained at 129.19 on Monday, the same number reported on Thursday. The “substantial” level had decreased by 6% since Jan. 10 when the rate reached 137.60. Gregg County continues to follow closely behind with a rate of 127.70.

A substantial rate means cities across each county are experiencing large-scale, uncontrolled community transmission of the virus in places such as grocery stores, schools, churches, workplaces, nursing homes, daycares and other congregate settings. Substantial seven-day rolling rates are measured at 35 or more new cases, compared to moderate measured at a level of 10 to 35, and minimal at a level of zero to 10. According to NET Health, the rate calculates the average number of all COVID-positive cases from the previous seven days. That number is divided by the population of the county, multiplied by 100,000, and the final number equals the rate.

According to NET Health, Smith County recently reached a pandemic-high in community spread levels since NET Health began publishing that data in September 2020.

During the week of Aug. 27 through Sept. 2, 2021, Smith County reached a community spread level of 112.44. That level was surpassed earlier this month on Jan. 6 when Smith County reached a substantial level of 115.20. As COVID data continues to trend toward highs last seen in the fall of 2021, Smith County’s number of new COVID-19 cases in January continues to steadily climb toward highs last seen in fall 2021.

From Jan. 1 to Monday, Smith County has seen 4,967 new cases of COVID. Comparatively, there were 1,382 new cases reported in all of December and 504 new cases throughout the month of November, according to data from NET Health. The last pandemic high reported was in September, when the county saw a total of 8,351 new cases in a month, according to NET Health.

Also on Monday in Smith County, active cases rose by more than 20% in the last three days. On Monday, there were 5,860 active cases in the county compared to 4,872 reported Thursday. The total of active cases is more than eight times the 573 active cases reported a month ago on Dec. 16.

Smith County saw 988 new cases — 449 confirmed and 539 probable — reported since Thursday, NET Health data show.

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

On Monday, NET Health reported there were 213 East Texans being treated for COVID-19 at Tyler hospitals. The county’s hospitalization rates now trend similar to data last seen in mid-to-late October.

The number of COVID-19 patients in the state’s 19-county Trauma Region G also continues to increase. On Monday, there were 373 patients hospitalized in the region, an increase of 65 patients since Thursday’s report. The hospitalization number includes 95 patients in intensive-care units and 63 patients on ventilators. In the first half of September, hospitalizations reached 822, the highest number of single-day COVID-19 hospitalizations in the region since the pandemic began.

As of Monday in Smith County, 54.57% of people age 5 and older had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 47.86% of people age 5 and older had been fully vaccinated, according to the state. State data shows 85.55% of people 65 and older in the county had been vaccinated with at least one dose on Monday, while 79.01% 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 Monday, 43 inmates had an active diagnosis of COVID-19, and one inmate has died due to COVID-19 since the last report on Thursday, according to NET Health. The Smith County Jail recently announced it has suspended visitation due to the recent uptick in cases.

About two months ago, Smith County reached a minimal community transmission level for the first time since June. At that time, all counties in NET Health’s seven-county district had reached minimal spread levels. As of Dec. 28, all counties had reached moderate spread. On Jan. 3, multiple counties reached substantial transmission rates.

There have been 43,572 total COVID-19 cases in Smith County since the pandemic began and 37,287 total recoveries, according to NET Health.

Other Counties

■ Gregg County had 520 new cases — 221 confirmed, 299 probable — reported since Thursday. There were 2,763 total active cases within the county.

■ Henderson County had 143 new cases — 103 confirmed, 40 probable — reported since Thursday. There were 1,081total active cases within the county.

■ Van Zandt County had 144 new cases — 64 confirmed, 80 probable — reported since Thursday. There were 828 total active cases within the county.

■ Anderson County had 39 new cases — 19 confirmed, 20 probable — reported since Thursday. There were 825 total active cases within the county.

■ Wood County had 144 new cases — 76 confirmed, 68 probable — reported since Thursday. There were 711 total active cases within the county.

■ Rains County had 19 new cases — 11 confirmed, eight probable — reported since Thursday and there were 144 total active cases within the county.

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


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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.