WACO, TX — This morning, local public and Waco city leaders are delivering a warning to McLennan County residents on an increasing number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, now approaching record levels not seen since January.
"I've gotten calls from doctors and health care leaders in the community who are as concerned as they've been throughout the entirety of the pandemic in regards to hospital capacity," Waco Mayor Dillon Meek said.
In a virtual press conference slated for 9 a.m. today, Mayor Meek will join healthcare representatives and community members to discuss the critical juncture hospitals are back at once again and urge those not vaccinated yet, to do so.
"Our number one concern throughout the entirety of the pandemic has been hospital capacity," Mayor Meek explained during an interview on Tuesday. "And, now we have more ventilators in use than we've had throughout the entirety of the pandemic."
On Tuesday, Kelly Craine of the Waco-McLennan County public health district said more than 90 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations were people unvaccinated.
"On Monday, we had one hundred 165 people in our local hospitals due to COVID-19 and in the ICU," Craine explained. "The ICU beds are full, and hospitals are now having to make room and create new ICU beds."
Craine said hospitals are seeing younger patients in their 20s and 30s, and the month of August has been what she describes as a gut punch.
"We've seen a steady increase throughout the month of August," she said. "Cases are increasing every day, hospitalizations are maxing out, and we're seeing an increase in the number of deaths."
On Tuesday, Craine said the health district reported 28 deaths due to COVID-19 for August alone. While Crane said this month's numbers mirror the troubling surge in cases we experienced in November, December, and January, there is one difference.
"The only thing that has changed from our last surge in November, December, and January to now is the vaccine," she said. "We can stop this. COVID-19 is a preventable disease."
It's a message public health officials and city leaders have been delivering since the mass distribution of COVID-19 vaccines began in January. On Tuesday, Craine said the number of residents considered fully vaccinated in McLennan County was about 43 percent. An increase of two points from July, when the number was 41 percent.
"Not good enough," Craine said. "We really need everyone that can be vaccinated to be vaccinated. And that's 12-year-olds and up."
A message public health officials and Waco City leaders hope will spur those unvaccinated to take action, especially following Monday's announcement from the FDA that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is now fully FDA approved.
"We have the Pfizer vaccine here at the health district," Craine said. "It's readily available, and we'll be happy to take you. We don't need an appointment. You can just show up and say, I'm ready to get the Pfizer vaccine."
The now FDA-approved Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccines available under emergency use authorization are proven to protect from severe illness or to need hospitalization if they get COVID-19.
When asked what message community residents should take away following Wednesday's press conference, both Meek and Crane expressed an identical message. The situation is serious, and the solution is to get vaccinated.
"What you need to know right now about our COVID situation in McLennan County, is that it's serious," Craine said. "COVID is spreading rapidly. Our hospitals are overwhelmed. Our hospitals are full. It is time to stop this. And the way we do that is with vaccinations."
This morning's press conference will be streamed live over Spectrum Channel 10 and on Channel 810, with a full Spanish-translated version made available by 1 p.m. Wednesday.
More information regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and how to receive yours can be found by visiting this link.