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Waco COVID-19 hospitalizations lower as testing, vaccines return

Waco COVID-19 hospitalizations lower as testing, vaccines return


Local COVID-19 testing and reporting resumed Monday after a week disrupted by severe cold, with 267 new cases and three deaths reported by the Waco-McLennan County Health District.

Nearly 4,000 doses of vaccine were expected to arrive this week for local vaccination clinics, as state data showed 25,315 people already receiving their vaccines in McLennan County.

Meanwhile, dropping hospitalization rates for the five-county Trauma Service Area M will see bars reopen, elective surgeries resume and capacity for some businesses and restaurants to expand to 75% in McLennan County.

Of the 267 new cases, 200 were previously unreported cases added to last week’s total of 67 cases. Those who died from COVID-19 were a 56-year-old white male, a 56-year-old Hispanic male and a 70-year-old white female, bringing the total number of county residents who have died from the disease over the last 11 months to 395. No other McLennan County deaths were reported in the previous six days.

The nation saw a somber milestone realized on Monday as the COVID-19 death toll surpassed 500,000, about twice the population of McLennan County.

In McLennan County, the case tally reached 24,747 total cases, 224 of which are estimated as active and another 24,128 reported recovered. Waco hospitals reported 65 COVID-19 patients, 40 of whom are McLennan County residents. Nine COVID-19 patients were on ventilators.

With testing down last week due to frigid temperatures and icy roads, the seven-day positivity rate of COVID-19 tests crept up to 17% after dipping to 9% early last week. The positivity rate reflects the proportion of COVID-19 tests that come back positive, and the rate tends to go down with widespread testing.

Last week saw COVID-19 hospitalizations in the five-county Trauma Service Area M, which includes McLennan County, decline to 9%, prompting McLennan County Judge Scott Felton to request the State Department of Health Services to allow bars and similar businesses to reopen. DSHS Commissioner John Hellerstedt approved his request, which will allow local bars to reopen and businesses to expand to 75% capacity. Hellerstedt’s order also allows hospitals to resume elective surgeries.

Bad weather put a pause to some testing last week, but COVID-19 testing through the public health district will resume its regular schedule this week with testing sites at McLennan Community College and the Waco Multipurpose Center. Both centers will conduct testing from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and people can register for testing at The MCC testing site is a drive-through clinic while the multipurpose center site is a walk-up one.

Those being tested are asked not to eat, drink or brush their teeth for 30 minutes before testing.

The health district will hold a drive-through vaccination clinic from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at McLane Stadium. The district administered 1,881 shots last week at the Waco Convention Center and will receive 1,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine from the state this week, said district spokesperson Kelly Craine.

Ascension Providence, another leading vaccination provider in the county, is expecting 2,340 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week.

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