COVID-19 vaccine pace rises while statewide hospitalizations drop

State Capital Highlights

 

 

The number of people in Texas hospitalized with COVID-19 has declined more than 28 percent in the past month, according to the Texas Department of Health Services. As of Feb. 7, Texas hospitals were treating 9,957 COVID-19 patients, down from nearly 14,000 a month ago. The number of new cases in the past week was 123,239 — a 22 percent drop from the record high of 158,922 the week of Jan. 10, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.

At the same time new cases and hospitalizations were decreasing, the number of Texans getting their first dose of vaccine crossed the 2.3 million mark as of Sunday, according to TDHS. That’s 700,000 more initial shots in a week. Those who are now fully vaccinated reached 733,287 as of Sunday.

The state received 401,750 first doses from the federal government this week, which are going out to 358 providers in 135 counties. That includes 85 hub providers, according to TDHS.

Not everyone is on board to receive the vaccine

About one-third of Texans polled in a recent statewide survey by the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs say they are unlikely to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. More than one out of five respondents were adamant they will not receive the vaccine.

Kirk P. Watson, founding dean of the Hobby School, said he hopes the survey will help public health officials address concerns of those unwilling to be vaccinated.

“More than 60% of people who are hesitant to be immunized had concerns about potential side effects and worried that the vaccine is too new,” Watson said in a news release. “Understanding why people resist immunization is an important step in reaching herd immunity.”

Most of those polled who say they are certain or likely to refuse vaccination asserted they don’t trust the government or pharmaceutical companies to ensure the vaccine is safe. Health experts say that between 70% and 90% of the population must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, according to the press release.

On the flip side, more than 40% of Texans say they will get the vaccine when available, or they have already gotten at least one dose, while 18% said they would probably get it.

SNAP benefits extended through February

Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits have been extended through February, with $300 million in benefits provided. The move came after the Texas Health and Human Services Commission received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which funds the program. Recipients will also continue to receive a 15% increase in their total benefits, at least until June.

GARY BORDER is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. You may reach him at gborders@texaspress.com

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