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COVID-19 vaccine providing hope for the future, but health officials say focus needs to be on the present

Hospitalization rates continue to spike in Central Texas
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Posted at 4:50 PM, Dec 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-29 17:50:52-05

WACO, TX — Trauma Service Area M, which includes McLennan County, is going on a month of COVID-19 hospitalization rates over 15%. Trauma Service Area L includes Bell County, and although they haven't reached that 15% threshold, they have been inching closer to it each day.

Distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine brings hope for the future, but health experts say we shouldn't rely on it to bring our numbers down. It's still going to take effort from the community, as statewide hospitalizations increase daily.

"We have our highest COVID utilization ever," CEO of Advent Health Central Texas, Kevin Roberts said.

Roberts said in a Bell County press conference that their hospitals in Killeen and Lampasas are working around the clock, but are prepared when spikes occur.

"This is putting stress on our critical care beds in particular. The medical surgical area is also strained," Roberts said.

"We're just seeing more people in the hospital. We're seeing a higher amount of death. We're seeing a higher amount of people getting sick," said Kelly Craine with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District.

Looking toward a better future, the health district already distributed 41 of their 200 vaccines on Monday.

Statewide, hundreds of thousands of doses have been distributed, but the vaccine isn't going to show its effects on case numbers right away.

"In terms of spread in the community and the penetration in the community from the vaccine, it's not going to make any difference in the near future," Roberts said.

It's going to take the community to continue practicing those health and safety guidelines issued by the CDC.

"At the same time, we have the reality of today, which is high hospitalization rates, high death rates. We're not out of the woods yet. We're close, but we're not out yet," Craine said.

Currently, Trauma Service Area L has a hospitalization rate of 13.83% and Trauma Service Area M sits at 23.82%

The DSHS is tracking how many in the state have received a COVID-19 vaccine thus far.

For McLennan County, 1,366 people have been vaccinated with the first round of the COVID-19 vaccine. 1,234 people in Bell County received their first round, and statewide, 146,988 people have been vaccinated.

So far, no one in the state has received a second dose of the vaccine.