Caution Urged

With holiday celebrations coming and an already rising COVID-19 case count in Wharton County, officials urge the public to follow standard safety protocols of washing hands, maintaining social distance, wearing a mask, avoiding large groups and staying home when possible.

Much-touted COVID-19 vaccines won’t be available to the average Wharton County resident in time for Christmas or New Year’s, officials say, and that means the time for safety precautions is now.

The 14-day average of positive COVID-19 cases in the county is 239 as of Friday morning, up more than 45 percent from last month, and from averages in the 30-range just two months ago.

“It’s just exploded in the last month,” Wharton County Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator Debbie Cenko told the Leader-News Friday. “It’s exponential and we still have Christmas, New Year’s and weddings going on. January is going to be horrible.”

Recommendations remain the same – stay at home as much as possible, avoid large gatherings, social distance, wear a mask and wash your hands.

The Department of State Health Services is indicating it will likely be the end of the month at the earliest before the first vaccine doses come to Wharton County, Cenko said, adding that won’t be the much-touted Pfizer vaccine because of the ultra-cold storage requirements.

Moderna, the next vaccine likely to get approval, will likely be the one coming here.

“The hospital will get it first,” Cenko said, adding those to be vaccinated in the first wave include not just doctors and nurses, but also custodial staff and others coming into contact with patients. Next will be first responders.

“The general public? It will likely be two months. Maybe three months,” she said.

So far, all indications are any COVID-19 vaccination will require two shots.

Currently, 164 people in Wharton County have active cases of the coronavirus causing a year-long global pandemic. Of those, 98 are people listed as living in the El Campo area, three in Louise and two in Danevang. Wharton has 45 active cases while Boling has five, East Bernard nine and one each in Glen Flora and Hungerford.

The county OEM records 63 deaths from the virus: 33 in El Campo, 24 in Wharton, four in East Bernard and two in Boling.

The state, however, puts the fatality number at 73 as of Friday. DSHS does not provide a community level report.

The next free testing site will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22 at the Wharton Civic Center, 1924 N. Fulton. Registration is required at to be tested.

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