Heroes live among us, and because of them, many Brazos County residents have been able to survive the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The list of heroes is long and we may never know all their names, but each of them deserve the thanks and gratitude of the people of Brazos County and, indeed, all the counties in the Brazos Valley.
Two individuals are deserving of special praise: Dr. Seth Sullivan and former Brazos County Chief Deputy Jim Stewart.
Sullivan is an infectious disease specialist at Baylor Scott & White Health in College Station and is the perfect person to be spokesman for Brazos County’s efforts to combat COVID-19. When all of us were anxious about the virus and its potentially deadly consequences, Dr. Sullivan was a voice of calm and reassurance and accurate information. On top of his busy practice at Baylor Scott & White, he devoted countless hours to the battle against COVID-19.
When it was hard to know who to believe on the national and state levels, amid wild speculation and rumor, we knew we could trust Dr. Sullivan and what he said.
He was ably supported by Mayor Karl Mooney of College Station, Mayor Andrew Nelson of Bryan and County Judge Duane Peters, as well as the entire staff of the Brazos County Health Department.
Stewart retired with the new year after a long career with the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office. His plans were to move out of state and enjoy the good life in retirement. But his work for the people of Brazos County wasn’t quite done yet and he was tapped as the vaccine task force chief of the Brazos County vaccine hub.
Again, it was a fine choice. Like Sullivan, Stewart is a man of calmness and great inner strength. He was unflappable as the county geared up to vaccinate the eligible among its more than 200,000 residents.
When many of us were desperately trying to get the vaccine, Stewart assured us that everyone who wanted the vaccine would be able to, but we had to remain patient. Each week, more and more of us received the first — and eventually the second — dose.
Of course, as good as Stewart is, it took a small army of volunteers to administer those shots at the vaccine hub and to handle the paperwork required to document those vaccinations. Many of those volunteers were nurses and other medical personnel, but a lot more were nonmedical folks who just wanted to help where they could. Some of those volunteers worked almost every day the hub was open. Officials said some 3,000 volunteers worked at the vaccine hub since it opened in January.
The hub provided more than 100,000 vaccinations before it shut down Thursday, but as Sullivan said, more work is needed. As good as the hub — and local pharmacies that also offered the vaccine — was, only 39.8% of eligible residents 12 and older have received both doses.
That is behind the state total of 43.65% and national total of 49.3%. About 8%of Americans have received their first dose, but have not gotten the second that is required with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
That’s not good enough. Somehow, the effort to protect Americans from the virus was transformed to one of anti-government sentiment and misplaced claims of individual freedom. To be sure, the government cannot force anyone to be vaccinated, but it is to everyone’s advantage to do so. By getting vaccinated, people are protecting themselves, but also their loved ones, co-workers and everyone they come into contact with. Many of those who refuse to be vaccinated also are the people who refuse to wear a mask when around others or to social distance.
The more than 33 million Americans who contracted COVID-19 and the families of the almost 600,000 Americans who died from the disease are counting on the rest of us to do their part in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
Sullivan gave the vaccine hub a well-deserved grade of A, but, he said, “The hub did a great job of getting us started, but the rest of us, I’m going to have a C, because a C is average.”
Numerous pharmacies continue to administer the vaccine and, Stewart said, if needed the Brazos County vaccine hub could reopen.
Thank you to the medical community who worked so hard to help those with the virus get better and to all the volunteers who labored for so many weeks to vaccinate those of us who didn’t see a government conspiracy but rather wanted to protect themself and their fellow county residents.