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County COVID-19 cases rise

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A line forms for those wishing to be tested for COVID-19 Tuesday afternoon on Abbey Street in Livingston, just behind the Polk County Annex Building. Photo by Brian Besch | PCEA line forms for those wishing to be tested for COVID-19 Tuesday afternoon on Abbey Street in Livingston, just behind the Polk County Annex Building. Photo by Brian Besch | PCE

Covid IllustratonFrom Enterprise Staff

In Polk County and across the state, healthcare workers and public health officials are seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (Texas DSHS), Polk County’s level of community transmission is considered high. 

Counts of submitted positive tests from Jan 7-10 saw an increase of 289 cases in Polk County, according to the Angelina County & Cities Health District. 

Texas DSHS estimates Polk County has 370 active cases. Polk County has had a total of 221 COVID-related fatalities throughout the pandemic. The South East Texas Regional Advisory Council reports that seven patients with COVID-19 are hospitalized in Polk County and two of those are in intensive care units. 

The Angelina County & Cities Health District continues to urge all to get vaccinated and a booster, including children. They have reported that the current number of positives are far above anything seen so far with COVID-19. The Omicron variant is said to be much more contagious and that more people than ever before are exposed and testing positive. 

The unvaccinated, elderly and young who are not eligible for vaccinations are vulnerable to severe disease, according to the health district. They encourage those testing positive to remain at home for five days from onset of symptoms or the positive test date until all symptoms have resolved and to continue wearing a mask in all public settings. 

In the Houston area alone, schools in the districts of Matagorda, Katy and Fort Bend have recently been closed until statistics improve.

Livingston ISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins was filmed in a COVID-19 update Tuesday that parents and guardians of students received. Hawkins said there is still a priority on in-person instruction and there are no plans to close Livingston ISD schools. 

However, Hawkins said COVID-19 numbers are on the rise, with 12 staff members and 95 students either quarantined or positive. Both of those numbers represent around 2% of each population at the district. When last the school closed, staff numbers were around 12% for those who could not attend work.

Only two campuses are currently open to parents — Livingston Junior High and Cedar Grove Elementary. The remaining campuses can only be entered if there is an educational need.

“We just want you to know this morning that we are doing our best to work with you and to work with our students to provide the best education that we can in these uncertain times,” Hawkins said in the video. “We know that obviously the things that are coming down from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) — they are ramping up as well. We wanted to make you aware that we will continue to bring you communication in an effort to try to keep everybody on the same page.”

The issue extends into the incarcerated population, where Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons, has announced there are 16 positive COVID-19 cases within the inmate population. 

Out of the 18 dorms within the sheriff’s office, seven are currently under quarantine. A total of 96 inmates are quarantined and until the quarantine period has passed, all inmate movements, including in-person visitation, have been canceled. Inmate symptoms are being treated by the sheriff’s office medical staff, directed by Dr. Raymond Luna.

For those wishing to get tested, Polk County has partnered with AIT Laboratories, a HealthTrackRx Company. A convenient drive-thru site has been set up behind the Polk County Annex Building (602 East Church Street) off East Abbey Street in Livingston. Their hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

 They ask that you first register for the COVID-19 test in the patient portal by going to https://cov19.health or by scanning the QRcode (see above). The location code is POLKCOTX, you then agree to a disclaimer, complete the medical data questionnaire, and enter insurance and driver’s license information. 

Those to be tested will also need to bring their insurance card and license to the testing location. Once registered, you will receive confirmation via text or email. Bring that confirmation number or barcode to the testing location.

“The provider we have been working with (AIT Laboratories) has been an excellent partner,” Polk County Emergency Management Coordinator Courtney Comstock said. “They have a great system set up and we have been really impressed with their work, so we are really glad that they are here helping us.” 

The pharmacies in Polk County that offer the COVID-19 vaccine can be found at the link below: 

Vaccine Locations: https://polkcountyoem.com/information/covidvaccine/ 

STATE OF TEXAS VACCINATION ASSISTANCE 

Texas businesses, groups, or civic organizations with 5 or more persons who voluntarily choose to be vaccinated against COVID-19 can call the State Vaccine Call Center at 844-90-TEXAS (844-908-3927) and select option 4 to schedule a visit from a state mobile vaccination team. 

Texans who are homebound can call 844-90-TEXAS (844-908-3927) and select option 2 to request a state mobile vaccination team to come to their home. 

COVID-19 MONOCLONAL ANTIBODY INFUSION THERAPY 

The state-supported Polk County Regional Infusion Center at the Dunbar Gymnasium in Livingston closed on October 30, 2021. 

Texas DSHS reported in December that there is a national shortage of Sotrovimab, which is distributed by the federal government. Sotrovimab is the monoclonal antibody that can decrease the risk of severe disease from the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

For COVID-19 resources near you, visit the TDEM COVID-19 Provider Search Interactive Map at https://MEDS.TDEM.TEXAS.GOV for details on the availability of vaccine, COVID-19 testing, and therapeutics, which includes monoclonal antibody infusion therapy. 

COVID-19 ORAL ANTIVIRAL DRUGS 

According to Texas DSHS, oral antiviral drugs, Paxlovid and Molnupiravir are now available for high-risk patients with mild/moderate COVID-19 infection. A limited supply has been shipped to pharmacies; more shipments will depend on allocations from the federal government. Due to limited availability, all patients may not initially be able to receive medication. Visit https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/therapeutics/ for more information. 

Polk County pharmacies report they have no COVID-19 oral antiviral drugs in stock at this time. Please check availability with your pharmacy if your doctor prescribes this medication for you. 

Please look for further updates from Emergency Management on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/PolkCountyEmergencyManagement) or on our website at www.PolkCountyOEM.com.

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