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COVID sites vary in number of local deaths

Sunday, January 24, 2021

While active COVID 19 cases fluctuate in Gaines County, a discrepancy exists in the number of deaths recorded by the South Plains Public Health Department and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Active numbers at midweek in Gaines County were slightly over 20 but due to 36 new cases reported on Wednesday, Jan. 20 by the SPPHD, those cases rose to 61, with 1,264 recovered and 21 deaths. As of press time on Friday, the number of active cases had dropped to 47 with only one new case added. The Texas COVID-19 site’s figures run about the same but with one big exception; it shows Gaines County with 36 fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic in March, up 15 from the health department.

When asked on Dec. 30 about the difference in the number of deaths reported by the two sites on SPPHD, director Zach Holbrooks told the Sentinel, "We want to be absolutely sure, to the best of our ability, that we are correct on our numbers. We wait until we receive official death notifications before we add them to the health district update."

Vaccines rolling out slowly

Currently, both the health department and Seminole Memorial Hospital are assisting residents in receiving vaccines to combat theVID-19 virus. The South Plains Health Department has received second doses of vaccine for those who had their initial shots in late December and early January. A spokesperson for the department said they are currently awaiting a shipment for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. The doses should arrive sometime in February.

Seminole Memorial Hospital CEO Larry Gray said the hospital would receive the second dose from the state soon and begin to vaccinate the staff, first responders, and those 65+ who got their first dose with the Hospital District.

"To my knowledge, the focus was on Gaines County only for 65+ residents. The Gaines County and Seminole city officials are working with the local health department to develop a plan for vaccine administration. The plan will be in place when the vaccine is available and allocated from the state. We do not have any additional information from the state at this point regarding a vaccine delivery date for Gaines County," Gray explained.

The CEO added that CVS, Walgreens, and Costco have national contracts for vaccine administration. "It appears that each state is using these organizations and adding other organizations as they see fit," Gray explained. CVS Pharmacy in Seminole, however, does not currently have vaccine doses available for the public.

"The good news is that Covid cases are down 23% nationally during the last two weeks," Gray added. "We sincerely hope that trend continues."

Twenty is the magic number

In Wednesday's Gaines County Commissioners Court, Judge Tom Keyes reported that the county's COVID-19 active cases had dropped and were approaching twenty. On Thursday, however, all of that changed. "I may have jinxed us with my remarks in court. We had come down very dramatically, and we were sitting at 25 active cases on Wednesday. However, we had 36 new cases reported on Wednesday evening, so now, on Thursday, we are at 61 active," Judge Keyes said on Jan. 21.

The judge added that when the county goes under 20 active cases and stays there for 14 days (or if Trauma Service Area B goes below 15% COVID occupancy area-wide for seven days), he will be able to apply for a waiver.

"That (the waiver) will let us move occupancy rates in eating establishments to 75%, and our private bars will be able to open again. As far as the mask mandate, we will continue to follow the Governor's orders. And there doesn't seem to be any change coming from the Governor's office any time soon," Judge Keyes said.