County judge loses relative to virus
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Austin County, the virus hit home for County Judge Tim Lapham.
“Yes, this virus is real, I have friends who have contracted it and this weekend we lost a family member to COVID-19,” he said in his weekly report Monday.
He did not specify which family member but advised people to do the best they can under the circumstances.
“While this is a sobering issue we are dealing with at what is normally a cheerful time of year, don’t let all the issues our great country is experiencing change your outlook on life,” he said. “One life lost is too many to any ailment or accident but we persevere and we keep pushing forward.”
Lapham reported the Department of State Health Services showing Austin County with an estimated 90 active cases, 13 fatalities, 721 total cases, and 61 probable cases.
“The cases continue to rise throughout the country. We will undoubtedly see the same rise after Christmas as we are seeing now, and people gather and socialize more. Don’t let those numbers surprise you. Keep up the precautions you have been doing,” he said.
Bellville Medical Center issued a press release confirming the increase in cases and also informing the public that it may be a while before the vaccine gets to Austin County.
“COVID didn’t disappear after the election; however, we are seeing the post-Thanksgiving surge that medical professionals feared,” the release says. “Vaccines are, indeed, around the corner for many. Bellville Medical Center filed an application for vaccines but was not in the first round to receive a supply.
“The Pfizer vaccine has significant restrictions and requirements for distribution that make it difficult for rural areas to meet. The Moderna vaccine does not have such stringent requirements for transportation and distribution, so hopefully Austin County will be receiving an allotment of those in the coming weeks.”
Lapham said it is unlikely that the Pfizer vaccine will be used in Austin County.
“The Pfizer vaccine is slowing being rolled out. The first to have it available will be medical workers at large hospitals and then gradually on down,” he said. “The Pfizer vaccine must be kept at -70 degrees Celsius until it is ready to be used and it is not in individual doses. Once brought to dosing temperature, the shelf life is very short. So for now the vaccine goes to the facilities capable of the ultra-cold storage and large numbers to utilize the vaccine quickly.
“The Moderna vaccine is not yet FDA approved but can be stored in a regular freezer. This will help tremendously with the smaller communities. As more details come out, we will pass them along,” Lapham said.
Bellville Medical Center reported that it has tested 1,904 people as of Dec. 14 with 245 positive results.
“The percentage of positive cases has risen dramatically,” the press release says. “Most patients are able to recover at home, but Austin County has had patients hospitalized locally as well as transferred to a high level of care facility. It is encouraged that anyone suspecting they may have COVID contact their primary care provider for instructions.
“As symptoms can escalate quickly, COVID patients are encouraged to monitor their symptoms and seek medical care immediately if they experience shortness of breath or symptoms are difficult to manage. Medical offices and emergency rooms are equipped to assess and treat patients safely.”
BMC advised people to keep holiday gathers small this year.
“Recommendations remain regarding avoiding large groups, staying home if you have an underlying condition, continuing hand hygiene and wearing a mask. Cleaning frequently touched surfaces at home and avoiding them in public places will also reduce the risk of contracting the virus,” it said.
“With Christmas around the corner, small groups or immediate family only are the safest way to celebrate. Keeping everyone safe this year means a bigger celebration next year. While the sacrifice is difficult, keeping older relatives and those with underlying conditions safe should be the priority.”