Port Arthur Health Department confirms first cases of omicron variant in county

Published 9:18 am Wednesday, December 29, 2021

At least two cases of omicron have been verified by the Port Arthur Health Department.

One is a Groves man between the ages of 65-70, and the second is a Port Arthur man between 40-44.

The news came Tuesday just hours before the agency hosted a health symposium to help educate parents on the facts and myths surrounding vaccinating children as young as 5.

Health Director Judith Smith said she believes a majority of the current cases being verified in Mid and South County are of the omicron variant, but that rapid tests prevent many cases from being tested through an independent lab.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, omicron produces less-severe symptoms than delta, but spreads faster.

On Tuesday, the local health department reported 75 new cases from Dec. 17-22.

Neighboring Beaumont, however, reported 207 new cases Monday and 265 Tuesday.

Jefferson County is just above 50 percent when it comes to fully vaccinated individuals ages 5 and older, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. But a majority of those are in ages 65 and older.

“When they lowered that age group, we see that age group but not a whole lot,” Smith said. “So I know there’s a concern for the younger ones. In November the FDA and CDC lowered the age group to 5-11. During those clinical trials, they found that not only did that age group respond very good with their immune response, but they also actually had fewer adverse reactions.”

During the symposium, COVID vaccines were offered to those who wanted it. And with a partnership between Port Arthur LNG and the Port Arthur Independent School District, children received $50 gift cards with their vaccines.

Jesus Roman, 11, said he wasn’t afraid while a nurse prepped his arm for his first shot. And even though he squeezed his eyes tightly during the process and held his mother’s hand, he was all smiles once it was over. The Lakeview Elementary School student gave a thumbs up once his bandage was in place.

He was one of 55 children vaccinated at the event.

Smith said the dosage given to children younger than 12 is less than that given to 12 and older. Boosters are not currently available to those 11 and younger.

During the symposium, flu shots were also available.

Smith said the department gives them for free to children who are uninsured or underinsured, and adults who are uninsured.

Those are offered at the City Health Department at 449 Austin Avenue, while COVID vaccines remain at the TAMS vaccination clinic, 3501 Cultural Center Drive. The COVID clinic is open to any Jefferson County resident.