As the area’s vaccination rates continue to lag behind the state, new cases of COVID-19 have recently increased for all East Texas counties, public health officials said.
Panola County, since the end of June, has seen the estimated number of active COVID-19 cases double from 15 on June 29 to an estimated 35 on Tuesday, according to numbers from the state.
Terrence Ates, spokesman for NET Health, said the number of new COVID-19 cases has increased for all area counties “as compared to recent months.”
“These are recent cases of people who have been exposed to the virus and have active cases of COVID,” Ates said.
The active case numbers are still much lower than it was at the beginning of the year before vaccines were widely available, when the county was seeing the number of active cases in the triple digits.
Confirmed deaths from the disease have remained flat, standing at a total of 77 since June 23, according to state data.
Hospital data released Tuesday by the state showed Trauma Area G, which includes Panola County, had 132 COVID patients in the region’s hospitals, with 34 available ICU beds. The area’s hospitalization rate stood at 4.42 percent.
It is unknown if the recent numbers include cases caused by the Delta variant of COVID-19, which is considered to be more easily spread than the original virus.
Ates said recently that the district’s epidemiologists also have not received any confirmation of COVID-19 cases as being “specifically tested and confirmed as the Delta variant.”
However, the state also recently said the data is more likely an issue of gathering information about and reporting patients as having the variant. Also, most COVID-19 cases are not studied to determine if they were caused by the variant.
NET Health was encouraging everyone to get the COVID vaccine if they had not already done so.
“Vaccines are extremely effective, even against the Delta variant of COVID-19,” the health district said Tuesday. “If you are 12 years of age and older, you are urged to get the vaccine as soon as possible.”
Panola and other area counties are far behind the state in COVID-19 vaccination rates — and Panola is the lowest in the region.
The state on Friday reported just more than 59 percent of the state’s population of residents 12 and older have been fully vaccinated.
No area county is close to the state rate, with the highest being Smith at 38.68 percent of residents 12 and older being fully vaccinated. Gregg County trails slightly at 37.9 percent.
And the more rural the county, the fewer number of residents vaccinated.
Harrison, Rusk and Upshur counties show vaccination rates at 30.93 percent, 29.85 percent and 27 percent, respectively. Just more than 15 percent of residents age 12 and older in Panola County, which has the smallest population in the area, are fully vaccinated.
Christus Good Shepherd Medical Center in June shut down its weekly mass COVID-19 vaccine hub at the Longview Exhibit Center and transitioned to offering shots on weekdays at its clinics as the demand at the hub slowed to a trickle.
In Tyler, NET Health also shut down its vaccine hub at Harvey Hall Convention Center in June.
Christus Health continues to schedule vaccines through its website at vaccinate.christushealth.org. NET Health offers vaccines at its clinic on North Broadway Avenue in Tyler by appointment. To make an appointment, visit NETHealthCOVID19.org.
Vaccines can also be found at CVS Pharmacy and Walmart. Schedule a CVS appointment online at https://www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine and a Walmart appointment online at https://www.walmart.com/cp/flu-shots-immunizations/1228302,
Hope Community Medicine in Carthage has also been giving the COVID shot as supplies and appointments become available. Call (903) 690-8395.
The Marshall-Harrison County Health District has also been offering COVID vaccines. Call (903) 938-8338. A vaccine clinic, with registration available at the event, is taking place Monday, July 26 from 1 to 4:30 p.m. at the Marshall High School gym.