Numbers of positive Johnson County COVID-19 cases have increased slightly in recent weeks, Johnson County Emergency Management Director Jamie Moore reported but said past that, the data is difficult to decipher.
As of Thursday, Johnson County has 3,549 cumulative positive cases or which about 225 remain active, Moore said.
Moore delivered an update on the pandemic during Monday’s meeting of the Johnson County Commissioners Court.
“We continue to watch those numbers to look for trends,” Moore said. “For quite a while we remained below 200 active cases per day. Now we’ve jumped above that for the past almost three weeks. Not significantly above it, but still above it.
“We’ll continue to cull through the data, which we do on a daily basis, and look for any signs of significant change within our community.”
The problem, Moore said, is figuring out how best to interpret state data.
“It’s hard to determine how far back that uptick really goes when we’re looking at the data,” Moore said. “When we see increases over a week’s time we have to figure out when that actually occurred. Is it current time, or is it from a few weeks back?
“It’s hard to know how to look through that hourglass because there are still enough questions about the state’s reporting that it’s hard to determine. Best example, I tested positive on Oct. 15. This is Nov. 9 and I’m still not in the state’s data.
“When we have things like that where the data should be there and it’s not, and we have quite a bit of that, it’s hard to have a lot of faith in trying to predict where those spikes occurred because the data continues to have issues for whatever reasons.
“I never heard from anybody in the state and we’ve seen that repeated from others multiple times from people who have said the same thing, that they never heard back from anyone.”
State health officials have begun planning with local officials for the possible arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine, Moore said.
Pharmaceutical company Pfizer on Monday announced that its trial vaccine for COVID-19 has been 90 percent effective and has shown to have no serious safety concerns.
Pfizer plans to ask the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization later this month to release the vaccine. By year’s end, the company plans to manufacture enough doses to immunize 15 to 20 million people.
Eleven other companies also have vaccines in late-stage trials, the New York Times reported on Monday.
The vaccine, if approved, will require two immunizations administered about 28 days apart.
“Our office goal is determining where we fit in,” Moore said. “How can we help facilitate the process and assist the state if needed?”
Should Pfizer, or another drug maker, receive approval, arrival of vaccinations may still take several weeks.
“They could roll out next month if approved,” Moore said. “But, from what I’m hearing, don’t expect them to ramp up until January.”
Moore answered yes when asked by County Judge Roger Harmon whether people would need to get vaccinated yearly.
“Likely,” Moore said. “The current thought is that 90 percent of people who get COVID-19 will have some sort of immunity to it and then 10 percent who have none after getting COVID. Of that 90 percent, the thinking is they’ll get between three and nine months [immunity]. But there are a lot of things still unknown. But, the thinking now is this will be similar to the flu, where annually you have to go get a flu shot.”
Commissioner Rick Bailey credits President Donald Trump for the possible breakthrough of a long-awaited vaccine.
“You have to give credit where credit is due,” Bailey said. “There’s so much going on right now and I’m not trying to be controversial here but our thanks go out to President Trump. Because I’m going to tell you, he has led the charge to get this vaccine from day one. And he has talked about Pfizer from day one as having the ability to pull it off. And that’s not going to get recognized. Everything is going to get pushed down, pushed aside. But I think it’s very noble of our president.”
County Public Works Manager Randy Wheeler told commissioners that bids for the Burleson Sub Courthouse renovation are due today and that numbers should be available for commissioners by Friday. Commissioners last year approved renovation of the overcrowded sub courthouse, which is one of the county’s busiest buildings. Plans call for making use of the building’s empty upstairs area in addition to other upgrades.
Bailey added that paving of the county’s downtown Cleburne parking lot should begin today. The lot, formerly the site of a drive-thru bank, will offer free parking.
Requests for qualifications on renovation of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office will soon go out, Wheeler said. Plans call for renovating a current storage area into offices and other needed amenities.
Commissioners authorized Wheeler to gather cost information on relocation of storage containers and a fence. Drainage issues plaque the area where those items sit causing water to pool and hampering access to juvenile services offices located in that part of the building.
“Basically, we’re wanting to move that stuff out, which will also make that area of the building look nicer, so we can get in there and address the drainage issue and fix those problems,” Bailey said.