Local officials offered positive reports and offered insight into the vaccination effort locally Friday morning during a virtual COVID-19 Update.
Kerrville Fire Department Chief Eric Maloney began the update by detailing trend of active cases and the status on local vaccinations.
As he has reported in the past, Maloney said Kerr County COVID-19 cases peaked in December and January, with the average ranging from 339 to 357 cases monthly and hospitalizations due to the coronavirus averaging 23 to 26 daily.
Those number began to decrease in February and March, Maloney said, leading to the April average of 31 cases and four hospitalizations daily in April.
“That is a very manageable number (hospitalizations) comparatively,” Maloney said. “At one point, we were as high as 35.”
Maloney recounted the local options for COVID-19 testing, listing facilities as follows:
• Peterson Urgent Care, 1740 Junction Highway, 258-7669, for symptomatic patients only;
• Peterson Medical Associates, 1331 Bandera Hwy., 896-4200, ext. 1. Call for an appointment;
• Franklin Clinic, 723 Hill Country Dr, Suite C, schedule using online calendar;
• BinaxNow, an over-the-counter Antigen Test available at local stores.
Maloney cited the Department of State Health Services to detail the numbers of Kerr County citizens who have received any of the three available COVID-19 vaccines, which are Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
According to Maloney, 28,243 vaccine doses have been administered to local residents.
The result of those administered vaccinations reveals 48 percent of Kerr County residents over the age of 65 are now fully vaccinated and 29 percent of all other eligible residents are also fully vaccinated, Maloney said.
“Some have already received their first dose and are waiting on their second,” Maloney said. “But that is still the numbers that we are currently seeing.”
Maloney then highlighted local availability of vaccines and said that Peterson Health had conducted one of their last mass vaccination clinics.
“Peterson Health did one of their last mass vaccine clinics for the fist dose on April 27,” Maloney said. “They still have the second dose clinic scheduled for May 21, but currently that was the last large one that we were supporting for the community.”
However, Maloney said, availability at other local sites is increasing.
“Local sites, though, we are seeing a lot of availability at about 1,000 dose per week,” Maloney said.
He said both H-E-B stores, CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Family Practice, Medical Arts Pharmacy and the Kerrville VA are locations where residents who have not yet been vaccinated can go to receive one.
“Peterson Health is going to continue to monitor the community and they will set up an additional clinic if necessary,” Maloney said.
“Where does the future take us now?,” Maloney said. “We are in a good place as a community. It has been a long 13 months that we have continued to monitor COVID and respond for our community.”
Going forward, Maloney said the City of Kerrville, Kerr County and Peterson Health will continue to work together, conducting surveillance and monitoring the status of the pandemic locally, regionally, statewide and nationally.
“We will continue to receive reports and continue to respond as appropriate for our community to better serve us,” Maloney said.
He then urged citizens to educate themselves about the vaccine by utilizing the Texas Department of State Health Services website at www.dshs.texas.gov.
“This website has good information on all three vaccines and has links to the CDC and FDA,” Maloney said. “Remember, our priority is to protect our community and your loved ones.”
Kerr County Emergency Management Coordinator Dub Thomas announced the events previously conducted for mass COVID-19 testing will cease for the time being, but be reinstated if needed.
“The demand has really dropped to where it is not economical for them to come out for five days and test folks,” Thomas said. “There is testing options available locally and you should be able to get a test without any problem.”
Thomas said the coordinated effort to administer vaccines locally to senior citizens as part of Governor Greg Abbott’s “Save the Seniors” program is now completed.
“We vaccinated a little over 200 that were home-bound and could not get out to get their vaccinations,” Thomas said.
He said the vaccinations to the home-bound seniors was coordinated with the Texas Military Department.
“They would send two or three teams and those teams would actually go out to the folks homes and vaccinate them,” Thomas said.
He commended Brenda Thompson and Waverly Jones at the Dietert Center for helping coordinate the “Save the Seniors” vaccination effort.
“They did an outstanding job and it went very smoothly,” Thomas said.
With regard to vaccinations for all other citizens, Thomas announced a planned mass vaccination clinic May 3-7 at the First United Methodist Church, an operation that is being coordinated with the Texas Military Department.
“It (the clinic) will be Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or until we run out of vaccines,” Thomas said. “It will be the Moderna vaccine. It’s going to be first-come, first-serve. There’s no registration. You just need to show up.”
Thomas said he expected the process and lines to run quickly.
“This is advertised in five or six different counties to include Kerr, Real, Kimble, Bandera, Gillespie and Kendall,” Thomas said. “We are trying to get as many people in and make this one last final first vaccination push. So we are going to vaccinate for five days or until the demand is gone and then we will schedule for the second vaccination dose probably 28 days later.”
Kerrville Convention & Visitors Bureau
Julie Davis, President & CEO of the Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau provided words of hope and data to reflect positive numbers with regard to tourism in Kerr County.
“We began improving months ago, but with the broader rollout of vaccines this spring and consumer confidence has just grown tremendously,” Davis said. “That coupled with pinned up demand and our increased marketing efforts targeted for the Spring has led to sold-out weekends in our hotels in March and in April.”
Davis said the tax revenue generated from hotel stays in April is up over 15 percent compared to 2019.
“If this trend continues, we will not only improve from our losses in 2020, but we are on track to beat our 2019 collections, too,” Davis said.
Davis said visitor traffic to the CVB has increased as well with more than 560 being helped in March and the CVB Vistors Center is back to being open seven days a week.
“So it is a little more like business as usual around here,” Davis said.
She said that while the visitors center has reopened, safety protocols are in place, including the wearing of masks by staff.
“We are working to keep this positive trend and our economy moving in the right direction and we feel more confident with each passing month in 2021,” Davis said.
In closing, Davis urged all residents to continue to support local businesses.
“Next week is Travel & Tourism Week in Texas, so go out and be a tourist in your own hometown,” Davis said. “Whether its dinner or a movie, maybe a wine tasting, some shopping or even attending an event … It’s vital as Kerr County residents that we support our community first.”