Comal County’s COVID-19 death toll surpassed the 500 mark on Tuesday, with health officials reporting an additional five deaths.
Comal County health officials confirmed the deaths of a Canyon Lake man in his 80s on Jan. 29 at home, a New Braunfels woman in her 70s on Jan. 17 at a San Antonio hospital, a Canyon Lake woman in her 70s on Jan. 22 at a local hospital, a New Braunfels woman in her 90s on Jan. 24 at home and a Canyon Lake man in his 70s on Jan. 25 at a San Marcos hospital.
The newly reported fatalities brought the death toll to 501 since the pandemic arrived here in March 2020.
The county’s first coronavirus death was New Braunfels resident T.J. Mendez, who died on March 26, 2020, at an Austin hospital.
The county reported the 100th death on Sept. 3, 2020, the 200th on Jan. 15, 2021, the 300th on March 15, 2021, and the 400th on Sept. 14, 2021.
As of Monday, 78,160 people who tested positive for the virus have died in Texas.
Hospitals in Comal County reported caring for 60 patients, up six from the previous day and down nine from a week ago, with 18 in intensive care and six on ventilators.
About 71% of those patients were unvaccinated, according to county officials.
Not all patients hospitalized in Comal County are necessarily county residents.
The regional hospitalization rate, which covers the 22-county area that includes both Comal and Guadalupe counties, stood at 19.2%, increasing slightly from the previous day’s rate of 19.1%.
On Sunday, state data indicated there were at least 12,121 patients in Texas hospitals with confirmed coronavirus infections, a decrease of 880 patients compared to a week ago.
COVID-19 patients occupy 19.6% of total hospital beds statewide.
County health officials added 317 new COVID-19 cases to its count on Tuesday, bringing the total number in the county to 27,724.
On Sunday, state officials reported 26,529 new cases, bringing the seven-day average to 35,169, a decrease of 19,505 cases compared with the seven-day average a week ago.
As of Sunday, 28.8% of COVID-19 tests reported in Texas in the last week are positive.
U.S. gives full approval to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine
U.S. health regulators on Monday granted full approval to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, a shot that’s already been given to tens of millions of Americans since its emergency authorization over a year ago.
The action by the Food and Drug Administration means the agency has completed the same rigorous, time-consuming review of Moderna’s shot as dozens of other long-established vaccines.
The decision was bolstered by real-world evidence from the more than 200 million doses administered in the U.S. since the FDA cleared the shot in December 2020. The FDA granted full approval of Pfizer’s vaccine last August.
Public health advocates initially hoped the regulatory distinction would boost public confidence in the shots. But there was no discernible bump in vaccinations after the Pfizer approval, which was heavily promoted by President Joe Biden and other federal officials. Still, regulators said Monday they hoped the extra endorsement would encourage more people to get vaccinated.
More than 211 million Americans, or 63% of the total population, are fully vaccinated. About 86 million people have gotten a booster dose. Vaccinations peaked last spring at more than 3 million per day and now average less than 750,000 per day. The pace of vaccinations briefly spiked following news of the omicron variant in December but has since slowed again. The FDA reviewed months of additional follow-up data submitted by Moderna to confirm the vaccine’s effectiveness against COVID-19. The FDA also analyzed and kept watch for serious side effects that have proved to be very rare. The vaccine includes a warning about a rare type of heart inflammation that mostly occurs in young men following the second dose. Most cases are mild and resolve quickly.
Additionally, FDA reviewed the company’s manufacturing process and facilities.
“The public can be assured that this vaccine was approved in keeping with the FDA’s rigorous scientific standards,” said Dr. Peter Marks, FDA’s top vaccine regulator, in a statement.
With full approval, Moderna will now market the vaccine under the brand name, Spikevax. It is the first FDA-approved product for the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company.
In the U.S., Moderna is used only by adults, for initial vaccination and as a half-dose booster. The company said last fall that FDA had delayed deciding whether to clear the shots for 12- to 17-year-olds as it examined the heart inflammation risk.
Johnson & Johnson has not yet applied for full approval of its COVID-19 vaccine.
Also Monday, Novavax Inc. formally requested FDA authorization of a different type of COVID-19 vaccine in hopes of becoming the fourth U.S. option.
Vaccines and testing
According to state data, 62.94% of Comal County residents ages 5 and older are fully vaccinated. The statewide fully vaccinated rate is 62.73%.
In neighboring Guadalupe County, which includes part of the city of New Braunfels, the fully vaccinated rate stood at 56.56%.
About 41.5 million doses have been administered statewide, including booster shots. So far, 5.9 million Texans have received booster shots.
The county’s health department administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for those 18 and older and Pfizer vaccine for anyone five years and older by appointment. The health department is also offering COVID-19 booster vaccines to residents by appointment. Appointments can be made by calling 830-221-1150.
To find other locations where vaccines are available for both adults and children, the CDC has set up a national vaccine finder to search by zip code at www.vaccines.gov.
COVID-19 testing conducted by Curative continues in the parking lot of New Braunfels City Hall at 550 Landa St.
Residents should check availability and book appointments online at https://curative.com/.
Curative offers a modified version of the PCR test, allowing those being tested to administer their own swabs.
Tests are available at no cost to patients and are open to the public, regardless of which city or county a person resides.
Residents needing a COVID-19 test can also call their primary care physician or visit a local pharmacy, such as Walgreens or CVS.
For testing locations across the area, visit the Texas Division of Emergency Management website at meds.tdem.texas.gov.
The Associated Press and Texas Tribune contributed to this story.