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Daily Record photo by Toy Mendez

Tighter COVID-19 restrictions in Hays County eased as hospital capacity rate lowers

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Following seven consecutive days of COVID-19 hospital capacity under 15%, tighter business restrictions have been eased in Hays County. 

Businesses can increase capacity from 50% to 75%, bars can reopen and elective surgeries can be scheduled in the state's Trauma Service Area O, which encompasses Hays, Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Lee, Llano, Travis and Williamson counties. Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra stated he received a letter from Dr. John Hellerstedt — director of the Texas Department of State Health Services — informing him of the change, saying he's pleased to see the region's efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus are working.

“This is a positive step in the right direction,” Becerra said in a statement. “Everything we are doing right now, combined with rolling out the vaccine to everyone who wants it, will aid in the fight against COVID-19.”

Hays County saw its deadliest month during the COVID-19 pandemic with 55 fatalities reported between the first and last coronavirus report issued by the local health department. There have been 186 COVID-19 related fatalities in the county since the first diagnosis of the virus within its boundaries on March 14, 2020. 

As of Friday, there are currently 2,288 active cases in Hays County and there have been 14,692 total lab-confirmed cases. According to the Hays County Local Health Department, 37 county residents are currently hospitalized by the disease — down from the peak in January of 49 residents hospitalized at one time. 

Alongside business restriction alleviation, Becerra addressed Hays County’s vaccine implementation, staging he “sees, hears and shares in the frustration felt in the community.” 

“With the current severe lack of vaccine supply, the tremendous demand makes dispensing the doses a huge disappointment,” Becerra said.

Hays County reopened its vaccine sign up portal Friday in advance of 1,950 Pfizer vaccines allotted to the county by the DSHS. But county residents were met with numerous user issues highlighted by a bottleneck of users trying to access the site. All shots were accounted for in 30 minutes, according to the county.

“While no system is perfect, our goal is to take care of Hays County residents in the most efficient and effective manner possible,” said Mike Jones, Hays County Office of Emergency Services director. “Receiving less than 2,000 doses per week from DSHS is a frustration felt by everyone at the county and in our community.”

According to the DSHS, 12,387 Hays County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while only 3,245 have been fully vaccinated. The DSHS estimates that the county has a population of 196,828 age 16 and older. 

The Hays County Office of Emergency Services and the Hays County Local Health Department (HCLHD) are currently working on creating a waiting list for anyone in the DSHS Phase 1A and Phase 1B groups.

Jones said the county will share information once the waiting list set up is finalized. To receive text alerts about the COVID-19 vaccine, text COVID to 844-928-3213.

San Marcos Record

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