Active COVID-19 cases declined slightly over the weekend — the first drop in weeks — but the death toll increased.
Patients who remain contagious were at 755 Tuesday morning, down from 778 Friday but still above the 745 recorded a week ago, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. The state reported 193 deaths from the coronavirus in Nacogdoches County since the pandemic began. That’s up from 173 total deaths right before the highly contagious delta variant began to spread.
Health care officials have said the vast majority of hospitalizations have been people who have not been vaccinated.
Fifty-four COVID-19 patients were hospitalized here Tuesday morning — roughly 40% of all hospitalizations and 7% of all active cases — with 18 in intensive care, according to South East Texas Regional Advisory Council, a regional health care coalition. The county has 22 operational ICU beds with the ability to expand temporarily to 26.
Local vaccine clinics continue each Friday though the end of October but with shorter hours because of decreasing demand.
“We’re going to shrink the hours a little bit from now on,” said Nacogdoches Fire Chief Keith Kiplinger. “We’re going to go from 9 a.m. to 1 or 2 p.m. so we’re not there from 8 to 6.”
Meanwhile, Pfizer said Monday its COVID-10 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and will seek U.S. authorization for that age group in the coming weeks, which could lead to a spike in demand for vaccines.
Earlier this month, FDA chief Dr. Peter Marks told The Associated Press that once Pfizer turns over its study results, his agency would evaluate the data “hopefully in a matter of weeks” to decide if the shots are safe and effective enough for younger kids.
An outside expert said scientists want to see more details but called the report encouraging.
“These topline results are very good news,” said Dr. Jesse Goodman of Georgetown University, a former FDA vaccine chief. The level of immune response Pfizer reported “appears likely to be protective.”
The Pfizer shot is currently approved for use in children as young as 12. Moderna’s vaccine is approved ages 16 and older, while Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine is only approved for adults.
Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine was in short supply in Nacogdoches County when shots first became available around the state. In May, Nacogdoches Fire and Rescue purchased an ultra-cold freezer able to store the vaccine.
“We’ve got plenty of storage as long as the vaccine is available. I could probably store 100,000 vials,” Kiplinger said.
Around 54% of Nacogdoches County residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and just shy of 44% are fully vaccinated. Nearly three quarters of locals 65 and older are fully vaccinated, and more than 81% have received at least one dose. That age group is most likely to face serious complications from the virus.
The Food and Drug Administration is also expected to authorize Pfizer’s booster shots for people 65 and older this week. Boosters are under evaluation for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines.
For elementary school-aged kids, Pfizer tested a much lower dose — a third of the amount that’s in each shot given now. Yet after their second dose, children ages 5 to 11 developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults getting the regular-strength shots, Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president said.
The kid dosage also proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects — such as sore arms, fever or achiness — that teens experience, he said.
“I think we really hit the sweet spot,” said Gruber, who’s also a pediatrician.
Gruber said the companies aim to apply to the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the month for emergency use in this age group, followed shortly afterward with applications to European and British regulators.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.