BELL COUNTY, Texas — The CDC reported the first laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 in the U.S. three years ago on Friday. Even with all that time and life going back to "normal," health experts remind us that COVID-19 is still a threat to the community.
"I think we will have to continue to deal with this as our immunity gets better and vaccine technology continues to get better," Director and Chair of the Department of Nursing for Texas A&M-Central Texas, Amy Mersiovsky, said.
The coronavirus is constantly changing, but we have made progress with the development of the new vaccine, she said.
"We actually have a newer version of the vaccine that is bivalent," Mersiovsky said. "It actually covers the older versions of COVID-19 plus the newer versions of COVID. While some of us still may get sick from the infection, we may not get as sick as we would have expected to with the original versions."
Advancements throughout the last three years have also made an impact on the number of cases we are seeing today.
Shawn Kelley, Manager, Facilities, Safety, and Support Services with Texas A&M University-Central Texas, says the campus will utilize their advancements for a long time.
"We installed touchless door openers on all of our accessible doors, so you just wave your hand and you can walk in the building," Kelley said. "Our restrooms are 100% touchless, the toilets, the sinks, the soap dispensers, the paper towel dispensers and even the doors. You don't have to touch anything to use one of our restrooms."
As of Jan. 20 this year Bell County is at a medium level, according to the CDC website. Health experts attribute this to people not taking the virus as seriously as when it first started.
"It looks like we are getting a few more cases," Mersiovsky said. "One thing we haven't done as well as we could have is vaccinations. We did really good at first, and then people have not received their boosters. It's really been hard to tell what's been going on since we've had that at home tests as well, which are super handy. They let people know if they have the infection, but then they may not get reported."
Bell County has downgraded from last week's level of high. There has been a decline in hospitalization and no current cases were reported from the Long Term Care Facilities, according to the Bell County Public Health District.
Health experts say to make sure to use healthy practices, and if you are not feeling well, stay home.
Amy Yeager with the Bell County Public Health District said the following:
“This is a key time for our residents to refresh their COVID preventive practices to help deter a spike as the new, highly transmissible COVID-19 variant comes to Texas," Yeager said.
Keager said these practices include:
- Avoiding crowded indoor spaces
- Wearing a high-quality mask, especially when it is difficult to social distance in crowded indoor settings and when using public transportation e.g., buses or planes
- Staying home when sick
- Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
- Get tested if you have symptoms that might be COVID-19
"Vaccination also continues to be critically important," Yeager said. "...For persons who have not been vaccinated, it is not too late, and vaccine is widely available at local pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics, including the Bell County Public Health District."
Yeager adds that boosters are highly recommended.
To find a location on where you can get a vaccine or tested near you, go to www.vaccines.gov.