The coronavirus continues to cause havoc in Kerr County as the death toll from the virus crept up again, and Peterson Health reported at least 44 new cases but there does appear to be some level of hope as Pfizers vaccine rolled out across the country on Monday.
Some 145 sites around the country, from Rhode Island to Alaska, received shipments, with more deliveries set for the coming days. High-risk health care workers were first in line.
Peterson Health spokeswoman Lisa Winters said it will be Wednesday before the health system will know when and how much vaccine it will receive. In recent weeks, Peterson has received remdesivir and two antibody therapies, including the one made by Regeneron, which was administered to President Trump.
On Monday, Peterson health reported another death at Peterson Regional Medical Center, while the Texas Department of State Health Services reported a death on Saturday. That death was from Dec. 9. Petersons latest death drove Kerr Countys estimated toll to 47 people, including 15 at two nursing homes and the Kerrville Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The Kerrville Daily Times tracks deaths from all Kerr County facilities, while the state, county and Peterson only track deaths from those hospitalized.
From Friday through Monday, Peterson tested 266 people, returning about a 16% positivity rate, which has been about the norm for the county since the first of November. In December, 282 people tested positive, with more than 300 active cases. Peterson Regional Medical Center reported that there were 18 people hospitalized.
The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 300,000 Monday just as the country began dispensing COVID-19 shots in a monumental campaign to conquer the outbreak.
The number of dead rivals the population of St. Louis or Pittsburgh. It is equivalent to repeating a tragedy on the scale of Hurricane Katrina every day for 5 1/2 months. It is more than five times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It is equal to a 9/11 attack every day for more than 100 days.
The numbers are staggering -- the most impactful respiratory pandemic that we have experienced in over 102 years, since the iconic 1918 Spanish flu, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the governments top infectious-disease expert, said days before the milestone.
In North Texas, there was a sense of relief and at the same time disbelief washing over Chad Bush, a Dallas health care worker. Bush, a CT technologist said he was the fourth person at Methodist Dallas Medical Center and among the first people in Texas to get the coronavirus vaccine on Monday.
God, its just, I cant believe this is happening, he said in an interview with The Texas Tribune. And I mean, theres a sense of relief for myself, but a sense of relief knowing that Im doing what I can as a health care worker to protect other people from this disease as well.
From the Rio Grande Valley to the Texas Panhandle and from the Gulf Coast to West Texas, some 109 medical facilities are slated to receive the first allocation of 1.4 million doses earmarked for Texas this year, said Chris Van Deusen, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.
There is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, said Liz Youngblood, president of Baylor St. Lukes Medical Center in Houston, which is set to get their allotted doses on Tuesday.
Van Deusen said 19,500 doses will be arriving at four sites Monday: MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, UT Health Austin at the Dell Medical School, Methodist Dallas Medical Center and UT Health San Antonio. Another 75,075 doses will be arriving at 19 sites in 12 cities on Tuesday, including facilities in Edinburg, El Paso, San Angelo, Corpus Christi, Galveston, Amarillo and Lubbock, among others. Many of the early facilities are at universities. Vaccine doses for the remaining 86 sites will begin shipping later in the week, he said.
More vaccines are expected to arrive in Texas the week of Dec. 21, likely including doses from Pfizer and Moderna, whose vaccine is expected to get federal approval by the end of this week, Van Deusen said.
And while supply limitations mean that public availability of the vaccine is still months away, experts say, its arrival signals the advent of a new era of the pandemic where a return to pre-pandemic life is, for the first time, within striking distance.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses to be administered over several weeks to be effective. Pfizer requires temperatures of negative 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes storing it in smaller areas difficult, while the Moderna vaccine is expected to remain stable at negative 4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Those two things, along with the sheer size and population of the state, bring massive challenges to a scenario in which the stakes couldnt be higher.
Injections could begin as early as Thursday at the University Health System in San Antonio, said Leni Kirkman, the systems vice president of strategic communications and patient relations. Staff have been trained and feel well prepared, Kirkman said.
Identifying and reaching out to front-line workers is key because the vaccine isnt mandatory, Kirkman said.
We want to educate our staff and have them make their personal decision if they want to be in this first tier, Kirkman said. Were reaching out to those folks.
(The Associated Press and Texas Tribune contributed to this report)
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