COVID-19 coverage graphic

Public health officials on Tuesday announced there have been 193 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in Gregg County since Friday as hospitalizations from the virus in the region remained above 15% for the 29th straight day.

The Northeast Texas Public Health District, known as NET Health, reported the newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 bring Gregg County’s cumulative count to 4,618. The county’s confirmed deaths from the virus remained at 84, and recoveries also were unchanged at 3,213.

The numbers do not include 3,254 probable cases, 1,616 probable recoveries and 64 probable deaths.

A case is considered probable when a person receives a positive result from a rapid test that is not then laboratory confirmed.

On Tuesday, there were 1,321 confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in the county.

Active cases in Gregg County Jail inmates on Tuesday decreased from five to 11.

The latest state data show the number of COVID-19 patients accounted for fewer of the total number of hospital beds in a region that includes Longview and Tyler, but the rate remained above 15% for the 29th straight day.

COVID-19 patients accounted for 21.4% 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 number is down from 24.33% the previous day, the highest COVID-19 capacity seen in the region.

Seven consecutive days of hospitalization rates 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 37 ICU beds were available in hospitals throughout Trauma Service Area G.

In Smith County, NET Health reported 485 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 since Friday and no additional deaths. The county has had 8,243 confirmed cases, 5,901 recoveries and 153 fatalities.

On Tuesday, there were 316 patients with probable or confirmed COVID-19 being treated at Tyler hospitals, an increase of 18 from Friday.

The Texas Department of State Health Services on Tuesday reported 99 new cases of coronavirus in Harrison County residents since Friday and one additional death.

The county has had 1,693 cases and 68 fatalities from the virus, according to state data.

The state reported 69 new cases of the coronavirus in Rusk County since Friday and two additional deaths. The county has had 1,661 positive cases, according to the state, and 58 COVID-19 deaths.

Upshur County’s coronavirus cases increased by 52 for a total of 890, and the county’s deaths from the virus increased by five to 38.

Statewide

The Austin area opened a field hospital in a convention center Tuesday as cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus continue to soar.

For now, the facility has 25 beds and can expand if needed.

“This alternate care site in Central Texas will reduce the burden on local hospitals and help ensure that Texans diagnosed with COVID-19 receive the care they need,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement.

Dr. Mark Escott, the interim Austin-Travis County health director, said last week that the convention center could be pressed into service as a field hospital as cases surge from gatherings for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Other parts of Texas, including the Rio Grande Valley, opened make-shift hospitals last year as COVID-19 bore down.

Now Texas is working to rapidly ramp up vaccinations. Cities throughout the state are using new mass hubs for people to get shots, but the effort is still limited by the supply of medicine coming from the federal government.

Texas has seen a surge in newly confirmed coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. More than 13,000 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized statewide Monday, state health officials reported, and nearly 30,000 people in the state have died since the pandemic started.

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Follow Scott on Twitter @sabrunner.