Midway Independent School District employees will be among those lining up for the COVID-19 vaccine this week as several McLennan County sites are set to administer thousands more doses.
Waco-McLennan County Public Health District has been allocated another 1,500 first Moderna doses as it did last week and will get an additional 1,500 second doses to be distributed Thursday through Saturday at the Waco Convention Center. Those who are in the state’s 1a and 1b categories may join the waiting list at https://www.blockitnow.com/wacowaitlist.
The county’s other vaccine hub, Ascension Providence, will receive 1,950 Pfizer doses as it did last week. The health system will open registration from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday at healthcare.ascension.org/COVID-19/vaccinations for a shot clinic Friday at the hospital, 6901 Medical Parkway.
A third source of mass vaccinations in the area will also open up Friday as CVS Health begins offering federally provided doses at its pharmacies, including some in Waco. Signups begin Thursday on an appointment-only basis at cvs.com, or by calling 1-800-746-7282.
Ascension Providence will share some of its allotment Thursday with Midway ISD employees who fall under categories 1a and 1b. Category 1a includes frontline medical worker and long-term care residents, while 1b includes those 65 and older and those with chronic medical risks.
A hospital spokeswoman said an estimated 300 to 350 Midway ISD staff are eligible under those guidelines.
Midway ISD spokeswoman Traci Marlin said 240 Midway employees have registered for Thursday’s clinic as of Monday night. She said the district will also offer the vaccine to substitute teachers, and she expects the final number will be around 300.
“We’ve also had lost of inquiries from people asking if they could be on a waiting list, because they didn’t qualify as 1b,” Marlin said. “So there are 300 who are 1b who want it, and plenty more who are patiently waiting for their phase to open up.”
Waco ISD spokesman Josh Wucher said 384 people received the vaccine on Saturday through an Ascension Providence clinic at University High School. He said the district is grateful for Ascension Providence’s help, and the school district hopes to hold similar events in the future.
Wucher said last month the district conducted a questionnaire asking employees if they fall under Phase 1a or 1b. He said there hasn’t been a survey gauging employees’ interest in the vaccine, but said the response to Saturday’s clinic was “enthusiastic.”
Waco-McLennan County Public Health District reported 19 new cases of COVID-19 in McLennan County on Sunday and 183 cases on Monday for a total of 750 active cases and 22,689 cumulative cases. There are 78 patients in local hospitals, 45 of whom are county residents and 16 of whom are on ventilators. There were nine more deaths reported on Monday, bringing the death toll to 387.
The number of people taking COVID-19 tests has fallen alongside the daily case count. At its height, the county recorded 2,700 tests conducted in one day on Nov. 11, and testing numbers hovered between 2,000 and 1,000 for much of November. The daily number fell below 1,000 in December, but has not risen above 600 in the last week.
Vaidehi Shah, senior epidemiologist for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, said there was a swell of people taking COVID-19 tests before gathering with family members, catching far more asymptomatic cases.
Shah said local health care facilities have plenty of testing capacity, and the health district is equipped to conduct 1,000 tests a day at public testing sites. But the number of people getting tested has dropped since the holidays.
“We see our hospital capacity getting better, and we can state that we’re moving in the right direction,” Shah said. “We also have vaccines available now, and the high-risk, vulnerable population is getting vaccinated.”
Shah said hospital capacity has been back below 100% at Ascension Providence and Hillcrest for about a week, which is a good sign. But Shah said multiple studies show there could be four times as many asymptomatic cases as there are obvious ones, making symptomatic patients just the tip of the iceberg.
“We don’t have an exact number if you go by the standard,” Shah said. “I can say that there are several asymptomatic cases we hadn’t caught early on, because as you know there was a lack of availability of testing in the first six months of the pandemic.”