With Christmas approaching, Hays County residents were increasingly impacted by the coronavirus with active hospitalizations increasing 68.75% from the previous week, and active cases reaching levels that have not been seen since the summer's surge.

In the lead up to the holidays, county officials repeatedly urged residents to take precautions, such as visiting with family virtually over the holidays, to help curb the rise in cases.

“We strongly recommend staying home when possible, avoiding crowds and large gatherings and holding small holiday get togethers or celebrating virtually,” said Ian Harris, Hays County epidemiologist. “It’s up to each of us to do our part to protect the community and our loves ones.”

Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra announced on social media Dec. 21 he and his family received positive COVID-19 test results earlier the same day.

"I'm posting about this immediately because I want to remind everyone this virus is extremely contagious," Becerra's post read. "I know I'm asking a lot, but please consider gathering with your extended family remotely this holiday season."

COVID-19 data for Hays County

On Dec. 21, the number of active cases in Hays County for the previous three week period hit 2,008 before dropping to 1,892 on Dec. 22, according to data from county's health department. At the beginning of December, there were 1,040 active cases for the previous 21 days.

In a similar category, the number of cases reported by the county as active—but requiring a county official to contact patients to verify a recovery—was 1,428 on Dec. 22, and was previously 719 on Dec. 1.

There were nine deaths reported by the county between Dec. 16 and Dec. 22, bringing the county's total to 122, which was an increase of roughly 8%.

Active hospitalizations saw a sharp increase during the same time period, jumping from 16 to 27. To date, there have been 499 county residents hospitalized due to the coronavirus.

Lab confirmed cases increased by 606 and probable cases increased by 72 from Dec. 16 to Dec. 22.

A total of 9,175 lab-confirmed cases have been reported to date, or just shy of 4% of the county's estimated population of 230,191. Probable cases account for an additional 1,084 cases.

The testing positivity rate for the previous seven days was 10.33% with 5,869 tests reported alongside the 606 positive tests.

San Marcos CISD COVID-19 data remained unchanged from a week earlier with 42 staff and 44 student cases reported for all of the fall semester.

However, Hays CISD cases were updated for the week of Dec. 14 and went from 173 to 203—an increase of 30 cases. It was the district's second largest increase in cases by week, beaten only by the previous week's report of 44 cases. Students accounted for 119 cases and the other 84 cases were staff members.