While COVID hospitalizations are down & vaccinations are up, DSHS says Texas is not in the clear yet

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Department of State Health Services said during its weekly update Thursday that the state is on track to receive around 2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses next week.

So far, the state has administered nearly 13 million doses. More than 5 million Texans are fully vaccinated, and the other 8.6 million have received their first dose.

On Thursday, DSHS Associate Commissioner Imelda Garcia explained the 2 million doses Texas will be getting this week is in large part due to a reduction in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which isn’t unique to Texas.

“There is a significant reduction in the amount of Johnson & Johnson being allocated to the states. For us here in Texas, it’s going to go from about 500,000 doses to just around 130,000,” Garcia said.

The state is also seeing a near nine-month low in hospitalizations so far in April, hovering just below 3,000 — numbers Texas hasn’t seen since June 2020.

Health care workers are noticing a difference, including Tampa-based emergency room Dr. Fernando Jara. Jara was recruited to come to El Paso in December, when the region’s hospitals were overwhelmed.

“There was a surge of COVID patients there, and it had exceeded the capacity of the ICU,” Jara said, explaining his experience at Las Palmas Hospital.

He continued to return to Texas for a couple weeks each month, eventually moving from El Paso to Muleshoe, a town with a population of just under 6,000.

“A place like that that’s so small, they just don’t have the capacity to be able to manage COVID patients, especially the sick ones that require in the ICU setting,” Jara explained.

Doctors like him were needed when the state was struggling with surges, but his last official trip to Texas ended in March, because the caseload is finally decreasing.

“I think we’re nearing the end of the tunnel, we’ll still see sort of bumps here and there, and then it starts to trend, start to go down,” Jara said, but both he and Garcia said we’re not quite at the finish line yet.

“It’s too early for us to really be excited about a lot of things,” Garcia said. She explained the state is seeing vaccine demand begin to dwindle as supply increases.

“We are wanting to do more and more messaging around vaccine hesitancy all across the state in order to help make sure that everyone is educated about the safety of the vaccine,” Garcia explained.

She said the expansion of eligibility to all Texans over the age of 16 should soon lead to more progress as well.

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