“Please go get vaccinated.”
That was the plea Monday as leaders from Temple, Belton, Bell County and other local cities released an open letter to residents regarding the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on local facilities and health care workers.
“Our hospitals have been full and working at capacity,” the letter said. “The hospitals have had to stop elective surgeries and other non-critical care appointments.”
“Our health care workers are exhausted.”
The letter was signed by County Judge David Blackburn, Temple Mayor Tim Davis, Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra, Belton Mayor Wayne Carpenter and Harker Heights Mayor Spencer Smith.
The leaders pointed out that the current situation — with people in need of a hospital bed due to a stroke or car accident unable to get one — is completely preventable.
Officials said the county’s largest health provider — Baylor Scott & White — shows 93 percent of those hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated. The unvaccinated also account for 97 percent of COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 96 percent of those in the ICU.
The letter points out that this data isn’t from the state or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but rather from local hospitals staffed by resident’s families and neighbors.
“What this data demonstrates isn’t debatable and can’t be denied,” the letter said. “If you get vaccinated, your chances of going to the hospital because of COVID-19 are significantly, substantially reduced. And, you don’t take up a bed that your family member or friend or neighbor might need for a stroke, heart attack or an unforeseen accident.”
The letter also urged residents to maintain social distancing.
“Vaccinated or not, please follow the advice of your physician about how to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” the letter said. “Our local health care providers continue to recommend you wear your face covering. They also continue to recommend that you continue to be vigilant in your personal hygiene practices, like frequently washing your hands.”
“These simple recommendations can go a long way toward protecting those who aren’t vaccinated and in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.”
The county saw a slight decrease in active cases of COVID-19 Monday, according to the Bell County Public Health District dashboard.
The dashboard shows a decrease of 45 cases since Friday for a total of 1,832 active reported cases. This now means that the incidence rate in the county is at 504.8 cases per 100,000 people.
Officials did not report any new deaths from the virus, which remain at 576.
Since the pandemic’s start, the county has seen 30,283 cases of the virus and 27,875 recoveries.
Regional hospitalization rates also fell Monday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services dashboard.
Trauma Service Area L — which includes Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam and Mills counties — now has 16.95 percent of its hospital beds taken up by COVID-19 patients.
Temple Independent School District showed 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on its seven-day dashboard Monday, along with 10 probable cases on its tracker.
The confirmed cases include four at both Temple High School and Jefferson Elementary, two at Lamar Middle School, and one each at Meridith-Dunbar Early Childhood Academy, Bonham Middle School, Cater Elementary, Garcia Elementary, Scott Elementary and Western Hills Elementary.
Belton ISD had a total of 170 probable and confirmed cases of the virus on its dashboard, accounting for 0.77 percent of the student and staff population in the district.
This included 42 confirmed cases and 128 probable cases among the district’s 18 campuses.
Salado ISD superintendent Michael Novotny said the district now had 40 active cases of the virus. These active cases include eight students and four employees at Thomas Arnold Elementary, 12 students at Salado Middle School, 10 students and three employees at Salado High School and three employees not assigned to a campus.
Killeen ISD reported 266 active COVID-19 cases — 0.54 percent of its population — that included 207 students and 59 staff members.
To answer some frequently asked questions on the vaccines, Bell County partnered up with Temple Independent School District to create an 11-minute video on the topic recently.
In the video, health district outreach educator Nina Cobb answers various questions about the vaccines and their safety for those who might not know. The public health district and TISD plan to send out the video as needed to families.
Those who want to get vaccinated are able to do so at local pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens, H-E-B and Walmart. Visit https://www.vaccines.gov to learn more.