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Waco's COVID-19 numbers slow before holiday break

Waco's COVID-19 numbers slow before holiday break

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The usual weekend bump of new COVID-19 cases in McLennan County reported on Mondays continued its slow shrinkage with 33 new cases, no fatalities and only seven country residents hospitalized with the disease.

The Waco-McLennan County Public Health department numbers released Monday also showed 150 active cases and four COVID-19 patients on ventilators, levels last seen in early July before a second surge hit hard in August and September, with hospitalizations averaging nearly 200 patients with about 40 on ventilators at the surge’s peak.

The slowly decreasing case counts, joined by slowly increasing vaccination numbers, particularly after the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 in early November, added up to an encouraging trend in the days before Thanksgiving.

“It’s good to see that happen. It’s good news,” noted public health district spokesperson Kelly Craine.

The positive trend suggested a different Thanksgiving for thousands of McLennan County residents, one including gatherings or travel, after COVID-19 concerns last year had public health officials urging people to stay home if possible.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends the use of masks and social distancing in indoor situations and gatherings this Thanksgiving, but Craine said the best guarantee for curbing any spread of the coronavirus remains vaccination.

“Vaccination is the key,” she said.

So far 57 percent of McLennan County’s eligible population of 239,819 has received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and 50 percent are fully vaccinated.

Common sense and caution also play a part for those who think they might have COVID-19 or the flu.

“If you’re not feeling well, it’s OK to stay home,” she said, adding that symptoms also should steer someone to a doctor for diagnosis and advice on whether to be tested for COVID-19.

Flu cases, often starting to rise at this time of year, seem to be lower than usual, Craine observed. COVID-19 protective protocols observed last year largely caused the annual flu season in McLennan County to disappear.

Craine pointed out that those who haven’t yet been vaccinated could take advantage of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which would produce full antibody protection in two weeks rather than five for the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. A shot now could provide protection in time for holiday concerts, gatherings and shopping in early December, she said. The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, which offers COVID-19 vaccinations for all eligible ages, is open Tuesday and Wednesday before closing for the week for Thanksgiving.

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