Breaking News
More () »

COVID-19 cases, and vaccine questions, flood rural Texas counties, too

"The level of concern is elevated," said Kaufman County Judge Hal Richards. "I guess I would ask for people to be patient."

DALLAS — Rural North Texas counties, some struggling with their own surge in COVID-19 cases, are asking their residents to keep practicing safe social-distancing measures and patience while waiting for the next doses of vaccine to arrive.

The Grayson County Office of Emergency Management in Sherman issued a "plea from your Texoma area hospitals" on New Year's Eve. The letter said ICU beds in the county are full, with coronavirus patients taking up 40% of them. 

They also wrote that "the virus is rampant in our community," that "our healthcare providers are being pushed to the limit, and we are not seeing any signs of COVID-19 slowing down."

The problem isn't just the number of beds, but also the number of medical staff needed to treat them.

"The number one consideration we have in our hospitals is trying to keep those beds free for the serious folks," said Grayson County Judge Bill Magers. "And the fewer people that we can have going in (hospitals) the better off we're going to be." 

Magers said that he, like other government leaders in North Texas, is waiting to hear when the next round of vaccine doses will be made available.  A limited number in Grayson County has already been distributed to front line workers.

Travel 95 miles south to Ellis County, where COVID has claimed 183 lives so far, and the county's own COVID Dashboard gives you another startling statistic. They had 30 ICU beds. As of Dec. 31, 29 were filled and 25 of them are COVID patients. 

On Sunday, Italy ISD announced it would be extending its holiday break until Jan. 11 "partly due to a rise in Covid-19 cases among our faculty and staff."

"There's no question that people are becoming more concerned with it every single day," said Hal Richards, the county judge in adjoining Kaufman County. 

He said his office is fielding daily phone calls from residents wanting to know when they can receive the vaccine. So far he said the county has received approximately 1,300 doses for a county population of more than 136,000.

"The level of concern is elevated. Pretty significantly elevated over the last few weeks," Richards said. 

"I guess I would ask for people to be patient," he said of the wait to learn when additional doses will be in the pipeline.

"It's everything. It's on everybody's mind," said Erath County Judge Alfonso Campos from his office in Stephenville. 

According to the state dashboard, Erath has recorded more than 2,000 coronavirus cases and 30 deaths.

"Oh certainly it's impacting us out here in the rural areas," Campos said. "I just didn't know that we would be inundated so much with people who want to go ahead and take the vaccine." 

He said phone calls have flooded his office too.

"Overall I think people are wanting to do what's necessary to get over this hump and see what 2021 is going to bring for us," Campos said.

This won't last forever. We'll get through this," added Kaufman County Judge Richards.

A hopeful message, and evidence of a widespread concern, in whichever Texas county you call home.