Although Central Texas COVID cases low, doctors worry about surges overseas

Published: May. 4, 2022 at 8:58 PM CDT
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TEMPLE, Texas (KWTX) - While it feels like the coronavirus is somewhat behind us, U.S. health officials are concerned surges in other countries could be a preview of COVID’s next chapter here.

“COVID does seem to be at bay and is circulating at much lower levels than we’ve seen in a long time over the past month or month, so that’s been really encouraging,” said Dr. Tresa McNeal, a hospital physician at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Temple. “However, we are continuing to monitor for variants, we do think there are still some risks related to that, particularly the BA.2 variant that’s occurring around the world.”

New surges in South Africa, China and Europe have the medical community on edge, and it’s one of the reasons why not all COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in healthcare facilities.

“We are continuing to be very careful in our healthcare facilities and so everyone is still masking,” said McNeal.

Data shows, since February there’s been marked improvements in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Central Texas.

As of Wednesday, McLennan County public health data showed there were only three COVID-19 patients hospitalized and in Bell County there were seven: six adults and one child.

It’s a far cry from January and February when hospitals were reaching capacity with COVID patients and testing facilities couldn’t keep up.

While it’s much calmer now, health officials warn: don’t throw the masks away just yet.

“I move about in places without a mask right now, I think there are going to be times in the future when that risk is higher and actually we can help each other and we can help the healthcare system take the best care of everyone if we mask when we’re going through those harder times,” said McNeal. “I think we need to enjoy it right now and then realize there may be a time when we’re needing to mask again.”

McNeal says, while local vaccination rates have improved greatly, there’s still “room to go.”

As of Wednesday, the vaccination rate for those over age five in McLennan County was 55% and in Bell County it was 66.6%.

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