Washington County’s Health Authority is concerned about recent increases in COVID-19 cases around the state of Texas and what that means for the county.
On Tuesday, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) reported over 3,300 new confirmed cases, with some counties reporting their highest new-case totals since the winter.
Dr. William Loesch says while Washington County is not yet seeing an explosion of new cases, he acknowledges that local cases do appear to be on the rise.
Estimates from DSHS show the county had 75 active cases as of Tuesday. Over a two-week period, the highest estimated totals seen recently were 79 active cases on July 17th, versus a two-week low of 59 active cases on July 11th. As of Tuesday, the county had 3,563 total confirmed cases, 795 probable cases, 4,187 recoveries and 96 deaths.
Dr. Loesch believes many of these new cases to be the result of the more-transmissible Delta variant, as the virus seems to be affecting younger people more than the previous variant. He also said most of the cases are in people who are unvaccinated, but he has seen some breakthrough cases in vaccinated people, including a few patients who were hospitalized.
Data presented by Washington County EMS Director Kevin Deramus at Tuesday’s county commissioners meeting showed that, in May, the county’s COVID-19 hospitalization rate sat around 5 percent. As of Monday, that number, which indicates the percentage of hospital capacity made up of COVID-19 patients, was 8.8 percent for Trauma Service Area N, the hospital region that includes Washington County. That percentage is currently the highest out of any hospital region in the state; the next highest region is Trauma Service Area R—which includes Beaumont, Galveston and Texas City—with a rate of 7.84 percent.
According to DSHS, a total of 50 lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in the region as of Tuesday. Seventy-two hospital beds, one intensive care unit bed and 76 ventilators were available.
Dr. Loesch encourages unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated, saying there are now plenty of opportunities to do so. He also wants to reassure anyone who may have concerns about the safety of the vaccine.
DSHS figures show Washington County has 15,372 residents who have been vaccinated with at least one dose, and 13,537 who are fully vaccinated. Approximately 43.75 percent of the county’s population that is 12 and older is fully vaccinated, while 73.81 percent of residents 65 and older are fully vaccinated.
While Dr. Loesch does not believe there will be another shutdown, he recommends that residents take proper safety precautions, especially those who are at higher risk.