COVID-19 and Vaccination Updates
Dr. Emilio Carranco, Chief Medical Officer and Director, Student Health Center | February 11, 2021
Dear Texas State Faculty, Staff and Students:
As we approach the end of the first month of classes, I want to update everyone on the COVID-19 situation and the status of state and university vaccination plans.
Current COVID-19 Situation
COVID-19 cases and positivity rates have been trending downward in Texas for the past five weeks with the positivity rate decreasing from 20.98% on January 3rd to 11.75% on February 9th. Texas State is experiencing a similar downward trend with the COVID-19 positivity rate decreasing from 4.7% during the first week of classes to 3.3% this past week. Texas State COVID-19 positivity rates continue to be well below those of surrounding communities and the state of Texas. To monitor the COVID-19 situation on campus, check the Texas State COVID-19 Dashboard.
COVID-19 variants such as the U.K. and South Africa mutations have been discovered in Texas. The U.K. variant has been reported in several areas of the state, including Travis and Hays Counties. COVID-19 variants are more transmissible and may cause more serious illness. Medical experts are concerned that these variants may cause a surge in COVID-19 cases in the coming months.
COVID-19 testing remains a very important tool in our efforts to prevent the spread of infection. Persons infected with COVID-19 may be asymptomatic and spreading the infection without knowing it. Testing regularly for COVID-19 during the spring semester will help keep our campuses safe and protect those we care about. The university is also continuing its proactive, random testing of faculty, staff and students during the spring semester. When you receive a notice to get a COVID-19 test, please complete the test that week. The testing data helps to inform university decisions. For information about COVID-19 testing on our campuses, check TXST COVID-19 Testing.
Importance of Reporting in Bobcat Trace
Faculty, staff and students testing positive for COVID-19, or notified they are a close contact to a positive case, should report to Bobcat Trace as quickly as possible. Reporting to Bobcat Trace initiates contact tracing. After investigating a case, contact tracers will determine the need for isolation or quarantine and contact those impacted. Contact tracing allows us to break the chain of transmission.
Vaccination provides us with the best chance to bring this pandemic to an end. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has established COVID-19 Vaccination Hub Providers for mass vaccination of those who meet the priority group eligibility criteria. Vaccination registration portals are being developed by some vaccine providers. For a list of local registration portals, click Vaccine Registration Portals. Texas State has a mass vaccination plan and is prepared to administer vaccine if DSHS provides vaccine.
Vaccine supply is limited at this time but should be expanding in the coming weeks. Pfizer and Moderna will likely be joined by a third approved vaccine by Johnson & Johnson later this month and two additional vaccines later this spring. After millions of administered doses of Pfizer and Moderna, their safety profile remains very good with initial studies indicating that 0.2% or less of those vaccinated reported serious adverse events. Most of those vaccinated experienced mild to moderate symptoms such as arm pain, headache, fatigue, body aches or fever.
With the recent warm weather, it is not unusual that some are already thinking about spring break. While COVID-19 positivity rates have been declining, it is likely that transmission levels will be in the moderate to high range across Texas and the United States in March. Travel may increase your risk of getting COVID-19 and the CDC recommends at least a seven-day self-quarantine after domestic or international travel with COVID-19 testing 3-5 days after return. Any persons considering travel during spring break should carefully consider the risks and need for quarantine.
Prevention Measures Still Needed
Current vaccines appear to be less effective against COVID-19 variants but still provide protection against serious illness. It is unknown whether vaccination will prevent spread of infection. It is also possible that someone infected with one COVID-19 virus might be reinfected with a different COVID-19 virus. For these reasons, it will be essential to keep practicing the prevention measures that work—wearing face coverings, physical distancing, hand hygiene and avoiding social gatherings. According to the CDC, a face mask should have multiple layers and fit snugly on the face. Wearing a mask fitter, double-masking or using KN95 masks will enhance protection.
While we continue to face challenges with COVID-19, I am hopeful that vaccination and prevention measures will bring this pandemic to an end. Let’s keep doing what has worked and remain committed to keeping ourselves and those we care about safe.
Dr. Emilio Carranco
Chief Medical Officer
Director, Student Health Center