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Rotary given COVID update

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Covid graphicBy Emily Banks Wooten
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Dr. Nagakrishnal Nachimuthu, an internal medicine and infectious disease specialist with Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group, addressed the Livingston Rotary Club recently, presenting updates regarding COVID-19, treatments and vaccines.

“It’s so evolving. By the time I finish, there may be four more updates. In March of 2020 we didn’t expect it to get this bad, but here we are–into the second year of it,” Nachimuthu said.

Regarding some of the outpatient treatment options for COVID-19, she said the FDA has issued emergency use authorization for 2 new oral antiviral agents–Paxlovid and Molnupiravir.

“These oral medications are in limited supply and are recommended for mild to moderate COVID-19 patients who are at high risk of progressing to severe disease,” Nachimuthu said.

“Previously available was the monoclonal antibody infusion which has reduced activity against the omicron variant of COVID-19 so another monoclonal antibody Sotrovimab is recommended and this has emergency use authorization from the FDA for the treatment of non-hospitalized patients at risk of progression to severe disease,” she said, adding, “Remdesivir IV for three days as an outpatient is another treatment which has shown reduction in the risk of hospitalization.

“Evusheld can be used as a pre-exposure prophylaxis in adults and adolescents who do not have the COVID-19 infection but have been exposed to someone with the COVID-19 infection and who are immune-compromised or not fully vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine due to severe adverse reactions to a COVID-19 vaccine,” Nachimuthu said.

She addressed the available vaccines and their respective booster schedules.

“The vaccines available in the U.S. are Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson. With Pfizer, it’s two shots, 21 days apart and a booster five months after completing the primary series. The primary series is available for children five years and older. Immuno-compromised individuals five years and older should get an additional primary shot 28 days after the second shot. A booster is available for those 12 years and older and the booster can be either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine,” Nachimuthu said.

“The Moderna vaccine is two shots 28 days apart with a booster five months after completing the primary series. Immuno-compromised individuals 18 years and older should get an additional shot 28 days after the second shot. The booster is available for those 18 years and older and the booster can be either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine,” Nachimuthu said.

“The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is one shot and a booster with either Pfizer or Moderna two months later,” she said.

“There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there but there are no metals, no chips, no latex and no magnets in the vaccines,” she said, adding that the vaccine is safe for pregnant people and does not lead to infertility.

Asked if one should get a COVID vaccine if they’ve already had COVID, she said, “Yes, because we do not know how long and how well the natural immunity protects us. However, we do know that COVID-19 vaccines provide a high level of protection. A study done in Kentucky suggests that people who have recovered from natural immunity are two times more likely to be re-infected if they are not vaccinated compared to being vaccinated after recovery from natural immunity.

“Side effects of the vaccine are most commonly redness, swelling and pain at the site of the injection, but one may also have fatigue, fever, chills and nausea. Rarely myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle, has been reported with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. With the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome has been reported where there are blood clots in large blood vessels and low platelets,” Nachimuthu said.

“The other thing is a lot of people keep saying the omicron is mild. Yes, for the vaccinated but the unvaccinated can still end up in the hospital or on a ventilator,” she said.

“New variants are constantly being deployed. Variants will continue to happen. The bottom line is if the community does not have the immunity of the vaccine, this will be ongoing. If the majority of people are vaccinated then the infection can’t progress,” Nachimuthu said.

Asked when COVID will be treated like the flu, Nachimuthu said, “When we have a level of immunity in most of our population. The unvaccinated are two times more likely to get COVID a second time than those who are vaccinated.

“We’re in a better place than we were a year ago. The solution is the majority of our population getting vaccinated,” she said.

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Three city employees retiring

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City of Livingston LogoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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Two long-time City of Livingston employees will be honored with retirement receptions later this month, Livingston City Manager Bill S. Wiggins informed the Livingston City Council during its regular meeting Tuesday.

Utility Billing Clerk Carla Dunning’s retirement reception is slated for 2-3:30 p.m. Jan. 28 at the city’s public works building located at 222 Pan American Dr. Dunning’s been with the city for 25 years. A retirement reception honoring Electric Superintendent Dewayne Oates is slated for 2-3:30 p.m. Jan. 31, also at the public works building. Oates has been with the city for 42 years. Also retiring after 15 years with the city is Linda Hammond who opted out of a reception.

Noting that the city’s general election is slated for May 7, Wiggins said candidate 

packets have been prepared and are ready for pickup. Those who are up for reelection include Mayor Judy B. Cochran and Aldermen Marion A. “Bid” Smith and Alan Cook. The first day to file an application for a place on the ballot is Jan. 19 and the deadline is 5 p.m. Feb. 18.

Wiggins reported that the Livingston Municipal Library has been closed for inventory but will reopen to the public on Jan. 18. Visit www.livingstonlibrary.net for upcoming programs and events.

Council called a public hearing for Feb. 8 on the determination of an unsafe and/or dilapidated building. It is the abandoned building located at  522 W. Church St. in Livingston, situated on a called 100 x 75 foot tract of land situated in the M.L. Choate Survey, A-15, Polk County, Texas, as described in a deed dated May 20, 1996 from Kathleen Squyres Garner and Townie M. Squyres to Fred Jarrell, recorded in Volume 1017, Pages 055 et seq. of the Official Public Records of Polk County, Texas.

Membership in the Alliance for Interstate 69 Texas was approved by Council, as was payment of the membership fee in the amount of $1,150.

Council also approved a plat for Wells Development located just north of the Livingston Independent School District Administration Building on Hwy. 146. The development will begin with one duplex with plans to expand to a total of eight.

Other business included approval of the minutes of the Dec. 14 meeting and the accounts over $500.

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TRA celebrates longtime employee

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The Trinity River Authority (TRA) held a celebration Friday in honor of project manager Mark Waters who is retiring after 32 years.  PHOTOS BY BRIAN BESCH | PCEThe Trinity River Authority (TRA) held a celebration Friday in honor of project manager Mark Waters who is retiring after 32 years. PHOTOS BY BRIAN BESCH | PCE

By Brian Besch
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The Trinity River Authority (TRA) held a celebration Friday in honor of project manager Mark Waters, who is retiring after 32 years. Waters oversees the entire operation of five departments at the Lake Livingston Project.

His time at TRA began in November of 1989, with a degree in wildlife and biology management, and minor in parks administration from Texas Tech University. He got involved with the youth camp Lake Tomahawk during the summers of 1981-89, which is licensed through the State of Texas. He performed water sampling and testing for the lake, using the lab at TRA and making acquaintances.

“I don’t know if we will do that or not, but I am looking forward to a change. We have a three-day weekend coming up and everybody is happy and feeling good. My friends that have already retired tell me that every night is like Friday night and every day is like a Saturday when you are retired. I’m ready for that.” Mark Waters TRA Project Manager Retires“I don’t know if we will do that or not, but I am looking forward to a change. We have a three-day weekend coming up and everybody is happy and feeling good. My friends that have already retired tell me that every night is like Friday night and every day is like a Saturday when you are retired. I’m ready for that.” Mark Waters TRA Project Manager RetiresWaters also served as an eighth-grade earth science teacher at Livingston ISD. His wife taught physical education at Timber Creek Elementary for 35 years.

The hydroelectric project has been one of the largest during Waters’ time at TRA. The five-year stretch over 2015-20 was the wettest in Polk County since the dam was constructed, causing delays in the project.

“Finally, everything is in now and it is operational and producing electricity,” Waters said. “Now, as it has worked out, we are in a dryer cycle and we have one gate operational because there is not enough flow. It is at a third of its capacity right now, because we don’t have the flow that normally this time of year we do.”

He was also involved in the rehab project around 2000, where gates to the dam were reconditioned with new sealers, painting and steel. The electrical components of the spillway were updated with a control room, where the gates could be raised and lowered from indoors. In 2005, Hurricane Rita hit, taking half of the rock from the face of the dam – an $8 million project funded by FEMA.

There is currently another rehab underway, where the gates will be reconditioned and recoated after 22 years. The old paint contained lead, needing removal and containment.

There are plans to travel in retirement. Waters said his son is a pilot with Southwest Airlines, making travel easier. Friends are trying to pressure him into purchasing a recreational vehicle to travel along in a group.

“I don’t know if we will do that or not, but I am looking forward to a change,” Waters said. “We have a three-day weekend coming up and everybody is happy and feeling good. My friends that have already retired tell me that every night is like Friday night and every day is like a Saturday when you are retired. I’m ready for that.”

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Commissioners approve facility use policy

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PCE CommissionersApproveWendy Timm, an employee of the Polk County Clerk’s Office, was recognized Tuesday during the Polk County Commissioners Court meeting. Timm was recently recognized as exemplary in 2021 by the Vital Statistics Registration Process for the State of Texas. Courtesy photo

By Emily Banks Wooten
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In old business, the Polk County Commissioners Court approved a policy regarding the use of county buildings, grounds and facilities during its regular meeting Tuesday.

“Under Chapter  291 of the Local Government Code, per TAC (Texas Association of Counties) guidelines, the policy should recover the cost of any non-public use and should prohibit the use of any political purposes. Otherwise, the county would be required to provide the same access and use to any organization that requests it,” Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy said.

“We’ve prepared a proposed policy for the use of buildings, grounds and facilities. As it’s written, it does not stop or preclude the public from using the county-owned facilities. It just outlines the process for requesting the use of county-owned properties. This one excludes the Polk County Commerce Center and Dunbar–the commerce center because we have a long-term contract for that and Dunbar because it’s a designated emergency management area for sheltering. And Dunbar basically has its own agreement that’s already been set up that includes maintenance, utilities, setting up, everything,” Murphy said.

Following a public hearing in which no one spoke, the Polk County Commissioners Court approved a request from Ken Shipman to cancel a portion of Four Corners Subdivision Phase 4, Block 1, Lots 15-30 and Lots 65-73, Block 3 (removing lots) and re-plat the same as for Four Corners Phase 4 (The Park), also known as Lot 29A.

“Basically, this is a section that was not developed  by the original Four Corners Subdivision,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Ronnie Vincent said. “I think Mr. Shipman has taken ownership now. He’s just readjusting some of this, combining some lots to have for his personal use and I think he’s going to build  homes on the other lots.”

Commissioners approved rescheduling the regular commissioners court session set for Feb. 22 to Feb. 18. The  change was necessitated due to the Court’s attendance at the V.G. Young Institute of County Government School for Commissioners Courts in Bryan.

A memorandum of understanding between Polk County and the Polk County Precinct 1 constable to provide constable reserve deputy patrol in Precinct 1 was approved.

“Precinct 1 Constable Scott Hughes has requested approval of another MOU to allow Keagan Newman to be compensated $20 an hour for up to 30 hours per week to provide patrol services in Precinct 1,” Murphy said.

Commissioners approved a request from Sheriff Byron Lyons to purchase a 30-foot by 40-foot storage building for the sheriff’s office to store supplies and personal protective equipment to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the sheriff’s office and jail. Rocking P Construction submitted the successful bid of $33,930  with an additional $4,798 expense for shelves. The project will be paid for with money available in the capital outlay buildings fund.

A proposal from AT&T Services for enhanced cybersecurity measures for elections, to be funded by the Help America Vote Act grant, was approved for the Polk County Clerk’s Office. The proposed total is $40,044.54 and will be funded by grant funds received last year that have been extended from 2021 to 2022.

Commissioners also approved a proposal from Kofile for archival digitization of historical records for the Polk County Clerk’s Office, to be paid from the county clerk records management fund.

Nuisance abatement hearing determinations–and orders to abate the nuisances–on Cause Nos. ET0010-ET0019, all in Precinct 1, were approved.

Following a recommendation from Precinct 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis, Commissioners approved a proposal from Shepherd Surveying Company of Abilene to determine the appropriate boundary lines between school lands owned by Polk County and land owned by the Sunday McAdams family with the responsibility for the cost to be shared by both parties.

In old business, Commissioners approved minutes of the Dec. 14 regular meeting.

During informational reports, Murphy recognized Wendy Timm of the Polk County Clerk’s Office who was recently recognized as exemplary in 2021 by the Vital Statistics Registration Process for the State of Texas.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet apprised the court that he and Purvis recently attended a Texas Department of Transportation Meeting in Lufkin. He reported on upcoming changes regarding the off-system bridge replacement system regarding signs and different things.

“As of right now, there’s not any plans for relief on the traffic in Livingston regarding a loop or anything like that. It’s pretty much status quo,” Overstreet added.

In personnel matters, Commissioners reviewed personnel action form requests submitted since the last meeting and also reviewed an authorized emergency hire at the sheriff’s office.

Commissioners approved the consent agenda which included:

The schedules of bills;

An order designating surplus property;

Renewal of the Americare contract for primary EMS/ambulance service for Polk County;

Enrollment in the Texas Association of Counties annual cybersecurity training;

Receipt of the constable warrant service program quarterly report for the period ending Dec. 31, 2021;

The appointment of Keagen Newman to reserve deputy constable for Precinct 1;

The appointment of Anthony Brugnone to reserve deputy fire marshal;

Ratifying approval of the request from Republic Services for Sam Houston Electric Cooperative overhead easement at the Polk County Landfill;

Use of $5,400 from the justice court building security fund balance for security improvements for the Precinct 4 justice of the peace courtroom;

Updating signature cards for the county treasurer on all bank accounts; and

The sheriff’s request to purchase two 2022 Ford Explorers for jail transport in the amount of $62,222.50, to be funded from insurance payment on damaged vehicles.

Kevan Wood of First Baptist Church of Livingston opened the meeting with prayer.

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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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