Family gathering additions?

Masks are recommended at all indoor gatherings as is social distancing, although that may be difficult when families gather. 

Two weeks from now, you should know if COVID-19, the modern equivalent of a Christmas lump of coal, was in your proverbial stocking.

With holiday gatherings, especially those that include large numbers of guests or those from different regions, come the possibility of illness, officials say.

The concern is real with a wave of assorted illnesses already sweeping through Wharton County.

Wharton County health reports to the state show COVID-19 cases are up from a seven-day average of just a single case on Thanksgiving Day to a seven-day average of 10 cases as of Wednesday, the most recent report available. Statewide active cases have doubled in the last two weeks.

“It’s gone up a bunch just since yesterday,” Wharton County Emergency Management Assistant Coordinator Debbie Cenko said Thursday. “The huge (precaution people can take) is test before you go. And if you test positive, don’t go.”

In all, 88 COVID cases have been reported in Wharton County since Dec. 9.

Wearing masks indoors remains a recommendation as well as hand washing and trying to avoid touching your face to keep possible to contaminants at bay.

“But the only way to know whether you have COVID is to test,” Cenko said, adding, with the variations in symptoms, there is no single indicator.

“Everyone can carry this thing so we are hoping folks will take heed and be very careful. The unvaccinated and our young kids are the ones who will be the most susceptible to severe disease, should they contract it,” she added.

The numbers are well below spikes in the summer and last Christmas, but still indicate a concern – especially with the traditional flu season also underway. Rapid tests reported to the state indicate flu is now active in Wharton County and most of the surrounding area.

Almost 5,500 county residents have been sickened by the COVID-19 virus since it was recognized in Texas.

The collective death toll throughout Wharton County is now 192, up three since Dec. 11.

Information on El Campo Memorial Hospital patient counts were not available as of press time. Throughout the medical region, hospitalization rates are at 5 percent, up from 3.5 percent earlier in the month.

The COVID virus continues to mutate with the omicron variant now the dominant strain throughout the United States, amounting for up to 90 percent of cases in some parts of the country.

“It’s highly contagious. It’s three to four times more contagious than the Delta variant,” Cenko said, adding vaccinations and booster shots are the best protection.

It’s too late for those to be sought out and take effect before the last holiday parties and ringing in the new year, she said, but if you are not vaccinated it needs to be a priority now and in the coming days. “People who are vaccinated and have the booster have much lighter cases,” she said.

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