COVID-19 cases in Wharton County are on the rise, with county and state officials urging caution. Infection numbers, at this point, remain well below January’s stats.

State data reports 163 new cases in the last 14 days, 18 per day on average, but that average is quickly changing.

“Since our last reporting on July 1, Wharton County has added 150 cases, with 76 active cases as of (Tuesday),” Wharton County Emergency Manager Andy Kirkland said Monday. “These numbers are obviously going the wrong way in a hurry.”

Tuesday, he added, “Yesterday we had 80 new cases reported.”

The new cases brings the active county count to 168.

The hospital bed space needed for COVID cases in the Greater Houston Area has leaped from 2.77 percent on July 1 to 12.4 percent Tuesday, a 327 percent increase.

“What we should keep in mind is these numbers are, in most cases, five to seven days old, so the actual totals are likely much higher,” Kirkland said.

At a sustained 15 percent, mask mandates have been previously ordered.

El Campo Memorial Hospital is seeing that spike in COVID numbers.

“Our COVID inpatient census (in July) has been an average of 10 patients per day. We have seen an average of 25+ COVID ER patients per month who are not sick enough to be admitted. This number is substantially higher than either May or June,” ECMH Marketing & Managed Care Coordinator Donna Mikeska told the Leader-News. 

No information was released on whether cases were the base COVID-19 virus or a variant like Delta or Lambda, but hospital officials have their suspicions.

“Due to patients’ infection rate, we suspect that the majority of our patients have the Delta strain,” Mikeska said. “They are all young and unvaccinated as opposed to before when we had mostly older COVID patients. Ages have ranged from 25 to 45 with only a handful over 60 years of age.“

Most stay in the hospital four to eight days, generally with milder symptoms, she added.

“None have been admitted to the ICU and none have died from COVID in at least three months (at ECMH),” Mikeska said.

Since COVID was identified in Texas last year, the state reports 122 people listing a Wharton County address have died as a result of the virus.

More than 30,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Wharton County with almost 36 percent of the population believed to be fully vaccinated. That’s not enough, officials say. “Vaccination is the safest and most effective intervention for this disease. Please consider being vaccinated as soon as possible. We have been assured that there is plenty of vaccine available at the various pharmacies in Wharton County,” Kirkland said.

In El Campo, Mid Coast Medical Clinic, 305 Sandy Corner Road, offers the vaccines by appointment. For an appointment, call 979-543-5510. Most pharmacies also have a supply.

Concerns continue to grow as Texas’ historical flu season nears. Generally, flu cases start in Texas in October with numbers peaking December through February.

It’s why residents are encouraged to get a flu shot starting Sept. 1.

“In 2020, we had a very low number of flu patients as compared to previous years. We attribute this to mask wearing and social distancing,” Mikeska said. “We are still highly encouraging this practice this year to prevent COVID as well as the flu. We also encourage getting the flu vaccine.”

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