On Jan. 5, COVID-19 patients accounted for more than 15% of hospitals’ capacity for over a week in the Trauma Service Area that includes Austin, Colorado and Waller Counties.
Austin County Judge Tim Lapham, as well as those neighboring county judges, said they are holding Gov. Greg Abbott to his word when he said there would be no more lockdowns. An established governor’s order said that once hospitals reach 15% capacity of COVID-19 patients for seven days or more, restrictions are supposed to reinforce that bars close and restaurants reduce capacity to 50%.
In his Facebook update on Jan. 5, Lapham replied in the affirmative to a comment on the post that asked if the county was filing for an exemption request from the closures.
“We are,” Lapham said. “The whole group of us. Waller County, Austin County, Colorado County, Wharton County and others I’m sure. We may get chastised for it, but the Governor said No More Lockdowns. And surely he’s a man of his word.”
Lapham confirmed the sentiment in a Jan. 7 phone interview and added the one hospital in Austin County did not have any patients hospitalized due to COVID-19.
“I am holding Governor Abbott to his word not to lockdown Texas again,” he said last Thursday. “Bellville Hospital is not housing any COVID patients at this time and if you are considering elective surgery, wait if you can.”
Statewide, hospitalizations are higher than ever according to the Texas Tribune. As of Jan. 11, 13,397 patients were in hospitals around the state due to COVID-19 and there were only 614 available staffed ICU beds.
Locally, the Department of State Health Services had a record of 1,106 total cases and 15 deaths in Austin County as of Monday of this week. The numbers also showed an estimated 189 active cases and an estimated 1,020 patients recovered.
Only neighboring Colorado County had fewer total cases at the start of the week with 1,002 and had 15 deaths and 120 estimated active cases. Wharton had the most total cases in the area with 2,472, as well as 79 deaths and 331 estimated active cases while Waller had 2,163 total cases, 23 deaths and 331 estimates active cases as of Monday.
In his update to begin this week, Lapham said although vaccine doses are making their way to Austin County, not much notice is given before a shipment arrives.
“Last week, 200 doses arrived. Half in Sealy and half in Bellville, predominantly for healthcare workers,” Lapham said Monday evening. “This week, Bellville Medical Center should receive another 100 doses. Slowly, the 1B Group (65 or older and anyone 16 and older with a critical health condition) is being worked through. The state notifies us a day or two ahead of the vaccine shipment making it hard to plan ahead. There is no mandate to get the vaccine, it is your choice. Hopefully, the supply will increase and we can get all those vaccinated who want to be.”