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Christus Good Shepherd named COVID-19 vaccine hub; weekend clinics scheduled

Christus Good Shepherd Health System, Gregg County and the City of Longview are creating a “sustainable vaccine program” after the health care system on Monday announced it has been named a COVID-19 vaccine hub by the state.

Through the program, the state will send thousands of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Christus Good Shepherd each week, which the hospital will then administer to qualifying individuals. Those interested in receiving the vaccine must schedule an appointment to attend an upcoming vaccine clinic.

Christus announced Monday that it was launching the My Shot Now campaign with weekend clinics scheduled through Feb. 21. More clinics are anticipated to follow over the coming weeks and months.

“We’ve heard from the public. They’ve waited patiently. They want their shot now, and this is their time,” Christus Good Shepherd Health System CEO Todd Hancock said. “This marks a very important milestone as we move forward and this is going to be the mechanism by how we return to normalcy, not only here locally but regionally, statewide and nationally.”

The announcement of Christus Good Shepherd as a vaccine hub marks the first such hub in Gregg County. There are 78 other vaccine hubs in the state. The nearest to Longview are in Smith County, where there are two hubs.

Beginning Saturday, Christus Good Shepherd and Christus Trinity Clinic staff along with first responders from Longview and Gregg County will begin a weekend clinic to administer the COVID-19 vaccines to those who fall into Phase 1A or 1B of the state’s vaccination program. Qualifying individuals include health care workers, those older than 65 and those with chronic health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, cancer and others.

The vaccine clinics, which will be held at the Longview Exhibit Center at the Longview Convention Complex, are free to attend but pre-registration is required. Registration can be made online at vaccinate.christushealth.org or by calling (877) 335-5746.

By 5 p.m. Monday, all available appointments for this weekend’s clinic had been filled. The soonest available appointments were Feb. 14 and Feb. 21.

Hancock said through the sustainable program, Christus Good Shepherd plans to administer 3,000 to 4,000 COVID-19 vaccines each week to first-time recipients. By the third or fourth week of the program, Christus’ vaccine allocation from the state will double so that the hospital can begin to administer second doses. Christus is being supplied with the Pfizer vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccine is given as two shots; an initial injection and then a follow-up shot administered 21 days later.

For those who attend, Hancock said they must arrive at the Exhibit Center at their designated time. The whole process is designed to take no more than 30 minutes, with each individual having to wait at the Exhibit Center for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccination to make sure the person does not have any immediate side effects.

Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said Monday he is proud of the “sustainable program” that the county, city and health care system are creating in partnership with the state.

When Gregg County leaders first approached representatives in Austin about the possibility of a vaccine program here, Stoudt said a key component for Gregg County’s leaders was that this be a sustainable program. He noted the county wanted to offer more than a one-time clinic.

“We wanted a sustainable program that we would be able to give shots out month after month after month. That is the intent of this program that makes it so much different than what’s been done in the past,” he said.

State Rep. Jay Dean said he was proud of the collaboration that helped bring the program to Gregg County.

“Having an aggressive effort to provide vaccines to our residents is critical to moving our community forward and saving lives,” Dean said.

Longview Mayor Andy Mack said he believes the weekly vaccine program is what the community needs “to turn the tide and help us get back to normal.”

“There is a normal still out there, we just have to get back to it,” Mack said.

Mack said he is proud of those in the community who have taken precautions to help curb the spread of the virus.

Mark Anderson, chief medical officer for Christus Health System, said those precautions will still be necessary, even as the county begins its vaccine program. He encouraged the community to continue taking all of the precautions that have been in place for the past 10 months — social distancing, washing hands and wearing a face mask.

For the inaugural weekend, Hancock said first responders in partnership with Christus staff will administer the vaccines. Going forward, Hancock said, nursing students and health care providers from other facilities will be invited to help administer vaccines.

Those who reserve an appointment at an upcoming Christus vaccine clinic are asked to follow the following guidelines when attending the clinic:

• Arrive no more than 15 minutes early and remain in your vehicle until 5 minutes before your appointment time.

• Only those being vaccinated may attend the clinic, except for those who need assistance. Those who cannot come alone to their appointment may bring one essential visitor.

• Wear loose fitting clothes, for ease in accessing the shoulder to administer the vaccine.

• Masks are required. Please bring a face mask.


Local
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COVID-19 in EAST Texas
COVID-19 hospitalization rate for Longview/Tyler region above 15% for 42nd day
  • Updated

The latest state data show COVID-19 patients have taken up more than 15% of hospital capacity in a region that includes Longview and Tyler for 42 straight days, but it also was the lowest rate since Dec. 21.

COVID-19 patients on Sunday, the latest day for which data was available, accounted for 16.53% of hospital capacity in the Trauma Service Region G that stretches across a 19-county region in Northeast Texas and includes Gregg, Upshur, Rusk, Harrison, Panola and Smith counties. According to Texas Department of State Health Services, the rate is the lowest since Dec. 21 when it registered to 16.50%.

The rate hit a high Jan. 9 at 25.43% and has been below 17% for the past three most recent days for which data is available. The rate on Saturday was 16.89%, and it was 16.86% Friday.

Seven consecutive days of hospitalization rates above 15% for the Trauma Service Area on Dec. 20 set in motion renewed restrictions at businesses and restaurants in the region, per an executive order issued in October by Gov. Greg Abbott.

The counties that make up the trauma service area are Gregg, Anderson, Camp, Cherokee, Franklin, Freestone, Harrison, Henderson, Houston, Marion, Panola, Rains, Rusk, Shelby, Smith, Trinity, Upshur, Van Zandt and Wood.

Seven consecutive days in which the COVID-19 hospitalization rate is less than 15% of total hospital capacity in the region are required to lift the mandate.

The state reported 39 ICU beds were available in hospitals throughout Trauma Service Area G, which is an increase of eight from 31 reported the previous day.

On Monday, the Northeast Texas Public Health District, known as NET Health, had not updated by deadline new daily COVID-19 case counts for Gregg and the other six for which it provides disease surveillance.

The Texas Department of State Health Services on Monday reported 49 new cases of coronavirus in Harrison County residents since Friday and no additional deaths.

The county has had 2,010 cases and 76 fatalities from the virus, according to state data.

In an update on Facebook, Harrison County Judge Chad Sims said Monday the county has had 286 new cases in the past seven days.

“Please be cautious, help stop the spread and remember these families in your prayers,” Sims said.

The state reported 12 new cases of the coronavirus in Rusk County since Friday and no additional deaths. The county has had 1,819 positive cases, according to the state, and 73 COVID-19 deaths.

Upshur County’s daily coronavirus cases increased by 11 for a total of 1,075, and the county’s deaths from the virus increased by one to 43.

Statewide

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Texas continues to fall from record highs as the state nears the end of what has been its deadliest month of the pandemic.

State health officials Monday reported fewer than 13,000 people were being treated for the virus in Texas hospitals, marking the seventh consecutive day of declining patient loads.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the area was “starting to see some metrics go in the right direction” as the average number of daily new cases fell by 800.

More than 34,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Texas, the second-most in the nation behind California. More than 5,000 new cases were reported statewide Monday.

Nationwide, coronavirus deaths and cases per day in the U.S. dropped markedly over the past couple of weeks but are still running at alarmingly high levels. The U.S. is recording just under 3,100 deaths a day on average, down from more than 3,350 less than two weeks ago.


Trump impeachment goes to Senate, testing his sway over GOP
  • Updated

WASHINGTON — Democrats marched the impeachment case against Donald Trump to the Senate Monday night for the start of his historic trial, but Republican senators were easing off their criticism of the former president and shunning calls to convict him over the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol.

It’s an early sign of Trump’s enduring sway over the party.

The House prosecutors delivered the sole impeachment charge of “incitement of insurrection,” making the ceremonial walk across the Capitol to the Senate. But Republican denunciations of Trump have cooled since the Jan. 6 riot. Instead Republicans are presenting a tangle of legal arguments against the legitimacy of the trial and questions whether Trump’s repeated demands to overturn Joe Biden’s election really amounted to incitement.

What seemed for some Democrats like an open-shut case that played out for the world on live television, as Trump encouraged a rally mob to “fight like hell” for his presidency, is running into a Republican Party that feels very differently. Not only are there legal concerns, but senators are wary of crossing the former president and his legions of followers who are their voters. Security remains tight at the Capitol.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said if Congress starts holding impeachment trials of former officials, what’s next: “Could we go back and try President Obama?”

Besides, he suggested, Trump has already been held to account. “One way in our system you get punished is losing an election.”

Arguments in the Senate trial will begin the week of Feb. 8, and the case against Trump, the first former president to face impeachment trial, will test a political party still sorting itself out for the post-Trump era. Republican senators are balancing the demands of deep-pocketed donors who are distancing themselves from Trump and voters who demand loyalty to him. One Republican, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, announced Monday he would not seek reelection in 2022 citing the polarized political atmosphere.

For Democrats the tone, tenor and length of the upcoming trial, so early in Biden’s presidency, poses its own challenge, forcing them to strike a balance between their vow to hold Trump accountable and their eagerness to deliver on the new administration’s priorities following their sweep of control of the House, Senate and White House.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Republicans appear more eager to argue over trial process than the substance of the impeachment case against Trump, perhaps to avoid casting judgment on the former president’s “role in fomenting the despicable attack” on the Capitol.

He said there’s only one question “senators of both parties will have to answer before God and their own conscience: Is former President Trump guilty of inciting an insurrection against the United States?”

Failing to conduct the trial would amount to a “get-out-jail-free card” for other officials accused of wrongdoing on their way out the door, Schumer said.

On Monday, it was learned that Chief Justice John Roberts is not expected to preside at the trial, as he did during Trump’s first impeachment, potentially affecting the gravitas of the proceedings. The shift is said to be in keeping with protocol because Trump is no longer in office.

Instead, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D- Vt., who serves in the largely ceremonial role of Senate president pro-tempore, is set to preside.

Leaders in both parties agreed to a short delay in the proceedings that serves their political and practical interests, even as National Guard troops remain at the Capitol amid security threats on lawmakers ahead of the trial.

The start date gives Trump’s new legal team time to prepare its case, while also providing more than a month’s distance from the passions of the bloody riot. For the Democratic-led Senate, the intervening weeks provide prime time to confirm some of Biden’s key Cabinet nominees.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., questioned how his colleagues who were in the Capitol that day could see the insurrection as anything other than a “stunning violation” of the nation’s history of peaceful transfers of power.

“It is a critical moment in American history,” Coons said Sunday in an interview.

An early vote to dismiss the trial probably would not succeed, given that Democrats now control the Senate. Still, the mounting Republican opposition to the proceedings indicates that many GOP senators would eventually vote to acquit Trump. Democrats would need the support of 17 Republicans — a high bar — to convict him.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said he doesn’t believe the Senate has the constitutional authority to convict Trump after he has left office.

“I think a lot of Americans are going to think it’s strange that the Senate is spending its time trying to convict and remove from office a man who left office a week ago,” Cotton said.

Democrats reject that argument, pointing to an 1876 impeachment of a secretary of war who had already resigned and to opinions by many legal scholars. Democrats also say that a reckoning of the first invasion of the Capitol since the War of 1812, perpetrated by rioters egged on by a president as Electoral College votes were being tallied, is necessary to ensure such a siege never happens again.

A few GOP senators have agreed with Democrats, though not close to the number that will be needed to convict Trump.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he believes “what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offense.” Romney said, “If not, what is?”

But Romney, the lone Republican to vote to convict Trump when the Senate acquitted the then-president in last year’s trial, appears to be an outlier.


Education
Spring Hill ISD calls special meeting to discuss resignation of superintendent
  • Updated

Mark White

The Spring Hill ISD school board has called a special meeting to discuss the resignation of Superintendent Wayne Guidry at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in the administration building.

The meeting will include public comments, but discussion on accepting Guidry’s resignation and naming an interim superintendent will be in closed session.

The board will take action on the matters in open session.

Board President Mark White said he could not discuss personnel matters ahead of the meeting.

Guidry was named superintendent in March 2019. In January 2020, the board raised Guidry’s salary from $150,000 to $157,500 and extended his contract to June 30, 2023.

In the selection process, Guidry was one of six finalists culled from 65 resumes. Around the time of Guidry’s hiring, White said it was “obvious he is the new man to lead our district.”

This year’s evaluation did not result in any salary or contract changes, and White declined to discuss why.

Since Guidry’s arrival, the district has seen many changes.

In December 2019, the district filled an assistant superintendent of college and career readiness position with Adrian Knight. Guidry said the position is to help create courses that will fill job needs in East Texas.

A month later in January, the district planned and added new career and technology education classes that began this school year.

This year, Guidry was able to get board approval to have weeks shortened to four and a half days with half-days on Fridays. Guidry said the schedule allows teachers more time to prepare for the next week’s lessons on Friday and creates better learning.

The decision in September came as many school districts were balancing remote and in-person learning for students due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Spring Hill ISD trustees in December voted to suspend remote learning beginning with the current semester, except for those students with medical exemptions, who need to be quarantined or who are diagnosed with COVID-19.

Prior to being named Spring Hill ISD superintendent, Guidry spent two years leading Hubbard ISD in Hill County, about halfway between Corsicana and Waco.


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