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Vaccine turnout higher but companies enlist mandates for employees | Free Share | thefacts.com

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Vaccine turnout higher but companies enlist mandates for employees | Free Share | thefacts.com

The number of Brazoria County residents 12 and older who have received at least their first shot of COVID vaccine broke 60 percent Thursday, but a surge in shots hasn’t been enough to offset a massive spike in cases.

It took almost three months for the county to go from 50 percent of eligible residents having their first dose to Thursday’s new milestone.

The increase in infections in recent weeks combined with strong recommendations from employers are pushing more people to consider vaccination, officials said. Demand is demonstrably higher than it was a month ago, Community Health Network Chief Administrative Officer Penny Pabst said.

“We have given out about 300 doses in the past two weeks, which compares to when we were giving out 65 doses a week,” Pabst said. “We had given 279 doses from July 17 through the 30th compared to the week before, where we gave out 169 vaccines from July 3 through the 16th.”

Despite the rising vaccination rates, Brazoria County is still designated as a high-risk region for COVID-19, resulting in the local petrochemical industry reintroducing mask mandates on their sites.

“BASF wants our workers and their families to be safe and healthy, and the measures we have put in place are geared toward ensuring that they are safe both inside and outside the gates,” representative Tabitha Ray said in a statement.

Staff must follow the new CDC guidance issued July 28, which includes unvaccinated workers wearing masks outside of the facilities when they cannot maintain social distancing, Ray said.

Vaccinated workers are not required to wear a mask outside but must still wear one inside the facility, Ray said.

The mask mandate applies to vehicles, which are considered indoors, Ray said.

All employees also are subject to temperature and COVID survey screening upon entry to the site regardless of vaccination status, Ray said. In addition, the site will continue with its enhanced cleaning protocols, and all employees are asked to continue to routinely wash their hands and use sanitizers provided in work areas.

Phillips 66 has similar policies and strongly encourages employees to get vaccinated, spokesman Bernardo Fallas said in a statement.

“The company continues to actively monitor CDC guidance and developments related to COVID-19 and take appropriate measures to mitigate the spread across our sites,” Fallas said in a statement.

Chevron Phillips Chemical also has brought back its mask mandates, Community Relations Liaison Wendy Irwin said, and the company will continue to watch COVID trends in the Houston and Gulf Coast areas to determine whether policy changes are called for.

“We are following the CDC guidance and have protocols in place to help prevent the spread of COVID, so we ask you to wear your mask and social distance,” Irwin said. “We have also limited our social gatherings, so we were able to roll back some of those protocols when we had a trend of lower cases. Now with the spike, we have reinstituted those protocols.”

Vaccines are not required for any employees of the companies.

Dow Chemical Community Relations Manager Gabriella Cone did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails seeking information about its current COVID policies.

Brazosport ISD Superintendent Danny Massey allows his staff and students the freedom of choice based on Gov. Greg Abbott’s order prohibiting state-affiliated entities from mandating mask-wearing or vaccinations.

Massey has not heard “a lot” of demand for vaccines amongst the student body or parents, but the district is working with UTMB Health Angleton Danbury to provide vaccines for those wanting.

“Plenty of vaccines are still available, so the amount of vaccines has not been an issue,” Massey said. “We partnered with UTMB at Brazosport High School and offered it on-site for anyone. It’s a personal decision for our students, parents and staff members. The governor mandated that we can’t mandate it.”

Massey was unaware of the clinic’s turnout Thursday.

Community Health Network clinics do not offer the Pfizer vaccine, the only approved vaccine for children as young as 12 years old. The Moderna and single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines are only approved for those 18 and older.

As a result, Pabst focused more on Brazosport College and Alvin Community College, which will host vaccine clinics during their first two weeks of school.

Private schools such as Angleton Christian School do not have to follow the state guidelines because they are unaffiliated with the state schooling system.

School representatives “recommend” staff and students wear masks but will not mandate them for the upcoming school year.

Since Monday, 1,480 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, with more than 16 percent representing people 19 or younger. Brazoria County’s rolling seven-day average of new cases is 133, according to a database maintained by the Mayo Clinic. The seven-day average for June 15-21 was 14.1 new cases each day.

Fully vaccinated residents represent 52.62 of the population, according to Texas Department of State Health Services data. Nearly 85 percent of residents aged 65 and older have also received their first shot, with 77.36 being fully vaccinated.

Nick Irene is a reporter for The Facts. Contact him at 979-237-0149.

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Vaccine turnout higher but companies enlist mandates for employees | Free Share | thefacts.com

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