Wharton County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Andy Kirkland sat down with The County Gin to provide weather and pandemic updates.
Q. With the amount of rain we have received thus far, what impact will this have on the current burn ban and will this area experience flooding?
A. County weekend rainfall totals per the Lower Colorado River Authority Hydromet were as follows: East Bernard received 8.37 inches; Wharton received 4.14 inches; El Campo received 3.71 inches; Glen Flora received 3.45 inches; and Lane City received 3.43 inches.
Heavy rainfall in the San Bernard River watershed will cause street flooding at CR 215 near Hungerford and in the El Lobo area.
We were very, very dry and with the rain we have received, we are already out of the burn ban. Saturday’s Keetch-Byran Drought Index (KBDI) value for Wharton County dropped 240 points, from 543 to 303. The burn ban was rescinded at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 28.
Q. Is the area predicted to experience freezing temperatures?
A. A light freeze is forecast for our area on Monday, Nov. 30. The day forecast is sunny, with a high near 53º, breezy, with a north wind 10-to-20 mph having gusts as high as 30 mph. Monday night will be mostly clear with a low around 31º and with a north wind 5-to-10 mph.
Q. On Monday, Nov. 21, you mentioned to the Wharton County Commissioners Court a possible COVID spike, is there a prediction that you would like to share following the holiday break?
A. When I was talking about the COVID spike, I thought part of that would be coming from Halloween. I think people did really well at Halloween; I know a lot of people that were distributing candy, had the candy out where the kids could grab it and there wasn’t a lot of big groups. So, hopefully we won’t have that spike.
However, the case numbers are jumping kind of ugly right now. As high as the numbers are jumping, I’m not seeing the same thing in the hospitalizations as before at the local level. I can look at all the counties within the Southeast Texas rack, even though (the cases) are going up, we are not being threatened with running out of beds right now. So, hopefully, that isn’t going to be happening two weeks after Thanksgiving.
We will just have to wait and see. I hope that people are taking this serious to avoid the possibility of spreading COVID to others and are taking precautions.
Q. At the same meeting you mentioned discussion of COVID-19 vaccine distribution. In your discussions, how soon would you guess the COVID vaccine will become available for Wharton County?
A. We are looking at how we are going to get vaccines distributed. Certain companies have been able to go ahead and apply to the state to where they want to be distributors. I know H-E-B pharmacy, CVS and Walmart around here have applied; I know El Campo Memorial has applied. They’re just at the application stage right now.
They are also working on prioritizing who is going to receive (the vaccine) first. We have a total of 330 million people in America and I don’t know who all is going to want to receive this vaccine. Some will want to wait to see how the vaccine works before taking it.
All this is just trying to be planned out now. We had plans in place for pandemics, but the plans that we had, the pandemic had a cure. We’ve haven’t been through one where your are introducing a vaccine.
Out of the six introduced vaccines, five of the vaccines require two shots that are separated by 3-to-4 weeks.
The record keeping on this is going to be something because how in the world each will be tracked, I don’t know. They would have to track every dose for everyone’s safety, which could cause some to claim a conspiracy.
We were approached by the state to see if we wanted to be distributors. We declined because the only qualified people we have to administer the shots would be EMS. That would be more than taxing for them.
Q. Do you know what costs would be incurred by those wishing to receive the vaccination?
A. My understanding is that because of the amount of money the federal government has invested in the vaccine, the vaccine will be free. Now, because of the record keeping that will be involved, a number of those facilitating the vaccine distribution will be able to attach an administrative charge. If you have insurance, your insurance should cover that, but nobody would be turned away because they couldn’t afford that vaccine.
They are making the rules as we speak. There’s a select group that the governor put together that are the one’s that are organizing this process.
The County Gin will continue to closely follow the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process and will report information as it becomes available.