Priscilla Salinas lost another family member Tuesday to COVID-19.
“We’ve had eight altogether in my family that have passed away,” she said. “It’s been hard.”
Having been diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in June, Salinas is in a higher risk category if she contracts the virus, she said Friday while getting her second dose of COVID-19 vaccine at H-E-B in Lake Jackson. She plans to get her booster shot when possible, she said.
“I’m going to ask my doctor when I go if I can get the booster,” she said. “Being high risk, I’m going to see if I can get mine sooner than eight months.”
While Salinas is aware of the concerns the vaccines are not all fully FDA-approved, she would urge everybody to get vaccinated.
“I’m telling you with my experience throughout my family, I feel like everyone needs to get these injections,” Salinas said. “There’s too much with COVID and the delta variant going around.”
With the addition of 283 cases Friday, 45,571 Brazoria County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 11, 2020.
The majority of Friday’s new cases are among people under the age of 50, including 28 among children, 19 among adolescents, 20 among those in their 20s, 27 among those in their 30s and 22 among those in their 40s, according to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services indicates 63.87 percent of county residents 12 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, and 54.59 percent are fully vaccinated. Statewide, 66.34 percent have received one dose, with 55.09 percent fully vaccinated.
Among those who are 65 and older in Brazoria County, 85.84 percent have received one dose and 78.23 percent are fully vaccinated. Statewide, 85.03 percent of people 65 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 76.15 fully vaccinated.
As of Friday, the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council is reporting new COVID-19 hospital admissions in Brazoria County have dropped this week from 25 on Aug. 14 to Friday’s reported 11. The count got as low as six on Thursday.
However, the council’s executive hospital summary also reports 35.69 percent of 297 patients tested positive in the past seven days. The summary concludes that the hospital capacity is at 331.
The percentages ranged from Monday’s low point at 35.44 percent to as high as Thursday’s 41.48 percent, according to the summary.
The are 25 COVID-positive residents being treated in Brazoria County ICU units, along with 81 in general isolation.
While the council’s data is collected daily and reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the website notes its data is only as valid as the number of hospitals reporting and the accuracy of the data they share.
Multiple parents would like to see mask mandates put in place, particularly to protect children too young to be vaccinated.
“I do think there should be a mask mandate because the variant is about 1,000 more prevalent and our kids are exposed more and most of these kids are not vaccinated,” Angleton ISD parent Heather Rickaway said. “These kids are pretty resilient and they do pretty OK, but if they catch it, bringing it home and to the elderly is what you worry about, and it’s what I worry about.”
She and her family are vaccinated, with her seventh- and ninth-graders having just received their second doses, she said.
Although the Texas Education Agency updated its guidance late Thursday to require districts notify teachers, staff and students’ families of positive COVID-19 cases in classrooms and afterschool programs, TEA also maintains it will not issue guidance on mask requirements or enforce mask orders until legal challenges related to Gov. Greg Abbott’s order banning such mandates are resolved.
Previously, TEA only recommended notification of parents of potential close contacts, but many of the school districts in Southern Brazoria County were a step ahead already.
“We’ve had no major developments regarding our students, but we will be adjusting our plan slightly after the latest guidance from TEA,” Sweeny ISD Superintendent Tory Hill said. “The major changes for us are we are going to follow the guidance as related to testing staff members who have had close contact with individuals who have positive cases at least every other day until the 10-day threshold has been met.
“Other than that, we have already been doing the other guidance from TEA,” he said.
According to Sweeny ISD’s COVID-19 dashboard on its website, there are 17 cases among the 1,754 students in the district. Five staff members were also listed as active cases.
Other districts around Southern Brazoria County are largely leaving their guidance for staff and students unchanged from what they decided before the new school year started.
“As of now, we’re not changing anything at this time,” Columbia-Brazoria ISD Assistant Superintendent Chris Miller said. “We’re always under constant review for possible changes based on data of what’s going on in our schools and our community but at this time, we’re keeping masks as optional.”
C-BISD has been updating its COVID-19 dashboard daily as its way to keep parents informed on the status of cases within the district. As of Friday, C-BISD reported 25 active cases — nine staff and 16 students.
“We have a lot of parents who have been doing a good job of calling us and reporting close contacts, reporting positive (tests),” Miller said. “Some of those positives haven’t been on campus yet; they are reported to us because they are students at our district. We report those to be as transparent as possible and so parents can have as much information as they need to make good, informed decisions about what is best for the education of their children.”
Viola Weaton is choosing to homeschool her fifth-grade granddaughter because of COVID-19 concerns, and because of what local private and public schools don’t offer, she said.
“With the private schools they don’t offer very much down here, and in public schools they are mandated on all the extracurriculars and not on the education,” she said. “I intend for her to be equipped with all that she needs when she graduates.”
Weaton’s household fared better when there were mask mandates, she said.
“Wearing a mask is sensible,” Weaton said. “She’s too young to be vaccinated right now. We believe in the vaccination.”
Because there was a mask mandate in place for the 2020-21 school year, Angleton ISD mom Rachael Ayala believes everything went well then, she said.
“I feel like at our school, as far as I know there wasn’t any huge outbreak,” she said. “The school didn’t close back down; they did a really good job. They called you if your child had been exposed. I feel like it was handled very well.”
She’d like to see a mask mandate this year as well.
“As a parent it would make me more comfortable knowing that everyone was masked,” Ayala said. “I know it’s hard to differentiate between unvaccinated and vaccinated, nor do you want to ask people, so a blanket everyone wears a mask, I think, works better.”
Ayala herself is fully vaccinated, though she’s gone back and forth about getting booster shots when possible, she said. She probably would vaccinate her son if he was eligible, she said.
“But the delta variant feels very aggressive,” she said. “I will probably do the boosters.”
Brazosport ISD has also been diligently updating its COVID-19 dashboard to notify parents of the number of cases in the school. As of Friday afternoon, 69 cases were reported out of the 12,983 total staff and students across all 19 schools and non-campus staff.
“We had an excellent first three days of school,” Superintendent Danny Massey said. “The change in TEA guidelines didn’t really change what we are doing.”
None of the districts have plans to change their mask requirements, with all stating it is completely optional for students and staff to wear masks.
Aimee Howell, mom of an Angleton High School junior, isn’t in favor of a mask mandate.
“I feel like as a parent if I want my child to wear a mask, I will tell my child to wear a mask,” she said. “We could all tell our kids to wear a mask but when they get to school who knows if they will actually wear it?”
VACCINES AND BOOSTERS
Having just received their second doses, Rickaway’s children will not be eligible to receive vaccine booster shots, but she will be eligible in a month “and it looks like we’ll probably be doing that,” she said.
Community Health Network’s clinics have seen increases in vaccinations, but also in positive testing rates throughout the past two weeks, Chief Administrative Officer Penny Pabst said.
“For the last month, our positivity rate has been really high, between 27 to 30 percent, and our testing has gone higher,” she said.
Clinics are still without the Pfizer vaccine but are requesting it, Pabst said. Pfizer is the only approved vaccine for children as young as 12.
CHN will also administer booster shots “as they can to give to everyone,” Pabst said.
“I know right now the CDC guidelines are saying to immunize those immunosuppressed,” Pabst said. “The White House is saying everyone will be eligible if you are fully vaccinated.”
The Brazoria County Health Department is only providing COVID-19 booster doses to those who are immunocompromised, county spokeswoman Sharon Trower said.
St. Luke’s Health-Brazosport will take a similar approach, External Communications Director Vanessa Astros said.
“As far as booster shots, St. Luke’s Health-Brazosport Hospital will soon begin the process of administering third doses to our immunocompromised patients in our cancer center, as well as those immunocompromised patients who are hospitalized at our hospital,” Astros said via email.
UTMB Health Angleton Danbury representatives Tonya Visor and Beth Reimschissel did not respond to emails and calls requesting comment.