East Texas health leaders say COVID-19 numbers trending down, but fight isn’t over

NET Health CEO: “We’re in the fourth quarter of a football game”
Updated: Mar. 9, 2021 at 6:56 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - As Texas prepares to lift COVID-19 restrictions, East Texas health officials say cases and hospitalizations are trending down, but they say personal responsibility is the key to keeping it that way.

“Things are looking a lot better,” said George Roberts, CEO of the Northeast Texas Public Health District.

While providing an update at Tuesday’s Smith County Commissioners Court meeting, Roberts said COVID-19 is speeding at minimal levels in the seven East Texas counties they cover.

“The seven day rolling rate of spread was down to 8.22,” he said. “That’s 8.22 per 100,000 in the population so that’s very good.”

And while Roberts says cases and hospitalizations are trending down, he also says now is not the time to stop with what’s working.

“We’re the fourth quarter of a football game right now, and the game is won or lost in the fourth quarter.”

And as the state prepares to lift restrictions, Roberts pointed out that while Gov. Greg Abbott is eliminating his mask mandate, his new order still recommends people wear masks.

“He encouraged people to continue wearing a mask,” Roberts said about Abbott. “So even in this time, keep wearing that mask until we can get through this thing together.”

Smith County Health Authority Dr. Paul McGaha says mitigation measures will be especially important as variants of the virus become the majority of cases in the weeks to come. He says limited sampling makes it difficult to know if the variants are already in East Texas, but they’re assuming it’s already here.

“We don’t know with 100% certainty if it’s here, but if it’s not, it will be in the coming weeks.”

Ongoing research shows available vaccines do offer various levels of protections against the emerging variants.

This week, state officials are expected to announced who’s in the next group eligible for the vaccine. Dr. McGaha is on a state expert panel that helps guide vaccine-related decisions.

“I can predict it will be more age-related or discipline or, or occupation related. I think we can wait and see about that with finality,” he said.

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