As COVID-19 case rates ramp up in Comal County, vaccine availability slowly increases

In Comal County, New Braunfels residents account for more than 70% of the total reported coronavirus cases. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
In Comal County, New Braunfels residents account for more than 70% of the total reported coronavirus cases. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

In Comal County, New Braunfels residents account for more than 70% of the total reported coronavirus cases. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Since Jan. 18, Comal County has reported 416 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 7,659.

More than 73% of reported cases in the county have been residents of New Braunfels, while 9.37% are from the Canyon Lake area, 14.11% are from Bulverde or Spring Branch, and the remaining 3.34% are from other areas in the county.

The county has reported 19 new coronavirus-related deaths since Jan. 20, with the deaths having occurred between Dec. 21 and Jan. 18. The reported deaths included those of 19 New Braunfels residents, one resident of Spring Branch and one resident of Bulverde.

As of Jan. 25, the county has 691 active, confirmed cases and has reported a total of 6,729 recoveries.

The molecular positivity rate was reported to be 45.37% and the antigen positivity rate was reported to be 5.50% on Jan. 25, compared to 31.26% and 10.24%, respectively, on Jan. 20.

According to Cheryl Fraser, the director of the Comal County Office of Public Health, the significant increase in molecular positivity has been attributed to fewer residents receiving molecular tests, as rapid antigen tests have become more widely available.

On Jan. 25, Comal County hospitals reported caring for 75 COVID-19 patients, 21 of which are in intensive care and 16 are on ventilators.

Comal County also reported Jan. 25 that 79 county residents were hospitalized with the coronavirus, though not all county residents are hospitalized within county hospitals, up from 58 residents who were hospitalized Jan. 15.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Trauma Service Area P was reported to be 23.98% of total hospital capacity on Jan. 25, up from 23.61% on Jan.20. The percentage has remained above 20% since Jan. 5.

According to Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-32, which went into effect Oct. 14, any business operating at 75% capacity in a TSA with seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 patients exceeds 15% of total hospital capacity must cut back to 50% capacity.

According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, Guadalupe County reported a total of 999 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases between Jan. 18-25, for a total of 10,122 confirmed and probable cases reported since March 16.

Of the reported cases, 842 are active as of Jan. 25, and a total of 139 Guadalupe County deaths have been reported by the DSHS, though only 52 have been reported to the Guadalupe County Office of Emergency Management.

Comal ISD and New Braunfels ISD have been reporting symptomatic cases as well as incidents of exposure to a case since the beginning of the school year.

Exposure to a COVID-19 case includes being directly exposed to fluids from the mouth or nose or being within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more without a face covering.

On Jan. 25, NBISD reported 66 current cases, 93 symptomatic cases and 531 exposures to a lab-confirmed case, up from 517 as of Jan. 15. A total of 358 confirmed cases have been reported in NBISD: 252 students and 106 staff members.

CISD reported there were 159 current cases, 135 symptomatic cases and 553 exposures to a lab-confirmed case as of Jan. 25, up from 519 exposures as of Jan. 15.

On Jan. 21, the Comal County Public Health Department partnered with the city of New Braunfels to create a vaccination center in the New Braunfels Civic/Convention Center and provided the first dose of the vaccine to 200 county residents over the age of 65 or with qualifying underlying health conditions.

“This is sort of our small test run of only 200 people, but we're going to continue to ramp this operation up in the next few weeks as we receive more vaccine,” said Gentrea Hendrickson, the public health emergency preparedness coordinator for the county health department. “We do expect to receive another allocation next week, and fingers crossed that we're going to continue to receive weekly allocations as we apply through that system.”

On Jan. 20, the Guadalupe County Emergency Management Department, the city of Seguin and Guadalupe Regional Medical Center released a joint plan to create three vaccine hubs in the county.

According to a press release, the proposal was submitted to the DSHS along with an application for vaccine allocations that would enable the hubs to administer up to 1,000 doses per day should it be approved.

The DSHS released information about the next allotment of vaccines Jan. 24, in which the Comal County Office of Public Health was allotted 500 doses while no Guadalupe County providers were allotted additional doses.

Residents can view a list of vaccine providers on the DSHS website, and those seeking to be tested can call the county’s hotline at 830-221-1120 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday to schedule an appointment. Testing is conducted on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Residents can also utilize the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ online search tool to find a testing site.
By Lauren Canterberry

Reporter, New Braunfels

Lauren joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in October 2019. After graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, Lauren was a freelance journalist and worked as a college English teacher in China. At CI, Lauren covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in New Braunfels.