WATCH: The COVID-19 Vaccine is Coming to San Angelo Soon
SAN ANGELO, TX — One or both of the vaccines for COVID-19 will be here by January, Dr. James Vretis, the Local Health Authority for Tom Green County and San Angelo, said at a press conference held at the McNease Convention Center Friday, Nov. 20.
But, he added, the distribution of the vaccine will go to frontline health care workers first and he didn’t anticipate enough inoculations in the general population can be completed or the antibodies to provide adequate protection for recently inoculated in time to help increase the capacity of the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo scheduled for Feb. 4-21, 2021.
Rodeo official Kermit Wendland said the current plan is to hold the rodeo with only half the capacity of the Foster Communications Coliseum, or about 2475 spectators instead of the 4950 tickets usually sold per performance. Rodeo officials have been delaying official announcements about their final plans as they await more news and information about the rapidly changing conditions of the pandemic response.
Wendland said that there is no chance the rodeo date would be moved to later in the year to await anticipated benefits of more vaccine distribution as doing so will disrupt the national rodeo industry.
Vretis said his hope was that by April or May the vaccines will begin having a significant impact to move San Angelo and Tom Green County back towards normal life.
City and county officials agreed that a light can be witnessed at the end of the tunnel for the 8 month struggle with COVID-19. Texas Governor Greg Abbott shutdown the Texas economy March 20 in anticipation of a long summer and winter ahead as the SARS-CoV-2 virus spread rapidly through the United States.
Restaurants were allowed increased dine-in capacity and bars reopened Oct. 14. Last week, however, storm clouds brewed with worries of another shutdown because of rapidly rising COVID-19 hospitalization rates in San Angelo’s Trauma Service Area K. In Executive Order GA-32, Gov. Abbott ordered that county judges in Texas must re-close bars and limit dine-in capacity of restaurants from 75 to 50 percent if COVID-19 illness hospitalizations exceeded 15 percent.
The State reported TSA K exceeded 15 percent three of the past seven days, subsiding to just under 15 percent on Friday, Nov. 20. Officials were exuberant Friday after the afternoon’s hospitalizations had subsided more, anticipating a two-day streak of less-than-15-percent reporting back from the State.
Tom Green County Judge Steve Floyd said his understanding is that State authorities look at the 7-day moving average to remain below 15 percent to determine if the State will order Local Health Authority Dr. James Vretis to shutdown bars, reduce capacity at restaurants, and disallow public gatherings greater than 10 people. Today’s drop below 15 percent may not reset the clock but it is a positive sign. Meanwhile, all officials urged San Angeloans to continue to follow CDC guidelines — wear a mask when in close proximity of others, separate by at least 6 feet, wash hands, and etc.
What is also helping TSA K to drop below 15 percent is the increase in State-provided traveling nurses that has ballooned the number of hospital beds. Vretis said Shannon Medical Center has dedicated the entire sixth floor to COVID-19 patients and expanded the beds available there. Across TSA K, available beds increased from approximately 570 to 640 this week. Then the mayor sadly noted that the hospitalizations’ raw number has remained relatively static for the past two days because there have been 8 deaths.
Reporting from the McNease Convention Center in San Angelo were Joe Hyde and Manny Diaz.