Kaufman County is shooting upwards with the numbers of new COVID-19 cases. “Unfortunately, we are only very slowly trending up with our number of individuals vaccinated,” said Dr. Ben Brashear.

Active Cases

The latest active case count per the DSHS website on Dec. 30 was 758 in Kaufman County, which is a sharp increase from around 250 as of 10 to fourteen days previous to Dec. 30.

Statewide, cases are surging back up again; there are now over 7,000 COVID negative/positive hospital inpatients in Texas, including 279 pediatric cases. The numbers had been as low as 2,600 in November.  

Vaccinations

The percentage of Kaufman County population that is fully vaccinated is steady at about 56%. 

What is driving the increase in cases?

There is a newer variant, called Omicron, that is the likely culprit for this recent upward trend. Using lab data from CDC, it is safely estimated that around half to maybe three-fourths of all cases are Omicron cases. Most small offices and retail locations don’t do the lab testing to determine the type, so it’s not possible to know the exact numbers for the area.  

What’s the deal with Omicron?

“It hasn’t been long enough to know for sure, but most of the reliable places I follow believe that Omicron spreads much faster and more efficiently than the other variants,” said Dr. Brashear. Most studies from previously hard-hit areas (South Africa, UK, Denmark, NYC, etc.) are showing it may cause a lower percentage of very sick patients overall … however, this idea can be misleading.  If a variant is only 25% as dangerous, but it spreads at five to six times (or more) the rate of the previous variants, then that “less dangerous” variant can actually be the cause of more episodes of severe illness overall in the population.  

Are the vaccines effective against Omicron?

Dr. Brashear says that vaccines are effective against Omicron. The details are confusing, since there appears to be much less protection against person-to-person transmission. But that is only one important measurement of a vaccine’s effectiveness.  “The good news is that there are other endpoints that we measure to determine how good a vaccine is to use, such as protection against severe illness and death,” said Dr. Brashear. “There is solid evidence worldwide that the current mRNA vaccines (plus booster) or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (plus booster) do in fact protect against severe disease and death at a very high rate even with Omicron.”

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