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Victoria County officials update COVID-19 vaccine plans as they await state distribution
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Local officials have finalized a plan for a mass vaccination site in Victoria if and when the state allocates enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to distribute to hundreds of people within a short span of time.

If the Victoria County Public Health Department, either of the major hospitals in Victoria, or the fire department receive a large allocation of vaccine doses in the coming weeks, a mass vaccination site would likely be the most effective way to distribute the shots, said David Gonzales, director of the Victoria County Public Health Department.

Such a vaccination clinic would only be necessary if a local provider needed to quickly distribute hundreds of doses, and may not be necessary depending on how the state health department distributes doses of the vaccine.

“We really just want to be prepared for any scenario that the state throws at us because their allocations really haven’t been predictable to this point,” Gonzales said.

If the state continues to allocate doses in relatively small amounts to different providers, distribution will be similarly piecemeal.

If a clinic were planned to distribute the vaccine, it would likely be staffed by employees from the health department, both local hospitals, the Victoria Fire Department, and other regional providers distributing the vaccine, Gonzales said.

Local health and emergency officials have also decided to resurrect Victoria’s COVID-19 hotline specifically to answer vaccine-related questions. The hotline will go live at 10 a.m. Thursday and will be open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on weekdays, Gonzales said. The hotline will only be able to answer basic questions about the vaccine and will not act as a vaccine waitlist.

Throughout the Crossroads and especially in Victoria County, residents have been confused by the state’s vaccine distribution plan, which has allowed more Texans to be eligible for the vaccine than there are shots available to distribute to them. Clinics, doctor’s offices and pharmacies have been unable to tell their patients when they can give them the vaccine, as the state thus has only announced vaccine distribution on a week-by-week basis.

“It’s hard to know to what scale and how to schedule everything if we have no idea what we’re getting,” Gonzales said. “That’s the frustrating part.”

In Victoria County, vaccine doses have been shipped to both major hospital systems, the health department, fire department, local pharmacies and private medical offices. In the first five weeks of the vaccine rollout, providers generally have not received advance notice about when or how much vaccine they will receive.

“As soon we get information that we’re getting more vaccine, we’re going to be pushing that out,” Gonzales said. “We just need patience right now. We understand the frustrations. We are frustrated alongside with you that we’re not getting the vaccine as quickly or in the amounts that we feel that we should be.”

Any vaccines distributed by the health department, whether in a mass clinic or in a smaller setting, will be appointment-based, Gonzales said. The health department does not plan on opening a waitlist for vaccines because managing one would be too time-intensive for the department’s staff, which is focused on distributing vaccines and COVID-19 case management, he said.

To help keep the public informed about vaccine availability, officials are considering using the emergency notification system used during Hurricane Harvey to notify residents when more vaccine doses are available, who is eligible for them and how residents can sign up, Gonzales said. Emergency management officials will likely make a final decision about using the emergency notification system sometime this week.

In Texas, only about half of the vaccine doses shipped out have actually been given to residents, according to the state health department.

Law Enforcement
Current and former Edna police chiefs became friends over decades of service

EDNA — The reins of Edna’s police department were exchanged between long-time friends New Year’s Day in a ceremony filled with emotions.

“It means the world to me to have served this town,” said Clinton Wooldridge, who served in the department for 36 years — 18 of which as police chief.

“You will always have a place here,” said incoming Police Chief Rick Boone, who worked in the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office for 26 years prior.

Although Wooldridge and Boone chose different career paths in law enforcement, the two shared a similar mission — to serve the community with integrity.

“We are lucky to have these two here,” Mayor Lance Smiga said at a retirement party for Wooldridge on New Year’s Day.

The 57-year-old Wooldridge first came to the Flag City after graduating from Victoria College Police Academy in June 1984. After graduating, he was offered a position at the department, where he would spend the entirety of his career.

“I stayed for the community,” Wooldridge said. “It didn’t hurt that I had kids and got married, but the community really took me in.”

Boone, 47, took a position at Jackson County’s jail in 1994 before moving up to a deputy position within three years. He would go on to fill the chief deputy role and serve as a city councilman.

During that time, Boone and Wooldridge worked together often and frequently collaborated on open cases, event coverage and

“You always hear horror stories of municipal police departments and sheriff’s offices not working together ... I’d say 80-85% of those relationships are strained,” Boone said. “(Wooldridge) and I communicated very well. Our agencies worked like a well-oiled machine.”

“It was critical we worked well with the (sheriff’s office) because of our small size,” Wooldridge said. “We have the same goal, so being able to pool together our resources was part of the job.”

The two notably crossed paths during the discovery and subsequent investigation of a triple homicide in Edna in 2005, which, Wooldridge said, was a team effort between all of the local agencies.

“I didn’t help with the investigation, but I was called to the scene that day,” Boone said, who was a deputy at the time. “I know that case was a huge burden on Chief Wooldridge. It was really the first time the community had seen anything like that.”

The investigation into the botched robbery and subsequent court proceedings resulted in the shooter, LeJames Norman, being sentenced to death by a jury in 2008, according to an Advocate article.

“There were many sleepless nights,” Wooldridge said. “The most important thing to me was consoling the families. It was such a horrible thing.”

In 2020, the chief stood with protesters peacefully protesting George Floyd’s death.

“I felt their hurt and I understood their anger,” Wooldridge said, adding it was the first protest he had seen during his tenure at the department. “A chief needs to be part of the community during tough times like that — especially in these small towns.”

For Boone, this event showcased a police chief who was one with the community and had an understanding of community policing.

“Our job just can’t be writing tickets, arresting people and fighting bad guys,” Boone said. “He understood that.”

The duo plan to remain friends as Wooldridge moves into the next phase of his life.

“I am not sure he’d want it, but he will always get my ear if he needs it,” Boone said with a chuckle.

Although New Year’s Day marked an end for Wooldridge’s service, the former chief deputy hopes to serve with a similar attitude toward the residents of Edna.

“His compassionate nature is something I have picked up from him,” Boone said of his predecessor. “I will keep it going.”

Send us your questions about the vaccine
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The Advocate wants to help answer your questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. Whether you’re wondering about safety, side effects or how long you’ll have to wait, we’ll take your questions straight to doctors and vaccine experts. To submit, send us a message on Facebook or email us at deliverydesk@vicad.com. Questions? Reach out to reporter Ciara McCarthy at cmccarthy@vicad.com or 361-580-6597 or Mark Rosenberg at mrosenberg@vicad.com or 361-574-1264.

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Victoria council, school board candidate filing starts Wednesday
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Candidates can file for four seats on the Victoria City Council and two seats on the school board starting Wednesday.

Districts 1, 2, 3 and 4 on city council are up for election. Those seats are held by Rafael “Ricky” De La Garza III, Josephine Soliz, Jeff Bauknight and Jan Scott, respectively.

City council members serve three-year terms.

Applications for a place on the ballot can be found on the city’s website and must be filed by 5 p.m. Feb. 12. They can be submitted at the city secretary’s office, 105 W. Juan Linn St. in Victoria.

On the school board, Districts 2 and 4 are up for election. Board members also serve three-year terms.

Estella De Los Santos represents District 2 and plans to run for reelection. She has served on the board since 2004.

Ross Mankser represents District 4. He announced earlier he does not plan to run for reelection. He has served on the board since 2009.

Applications are available on the Victoria school district’s website and can be submitted at the district’s administration building, 102 Profit Drive.

The general election is May 1.

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Late-night house fire in Alamo Beach injures resident

One person was taken to the hospital after a house burned in Alamo Beach Tuesday morning, authorities said.

Vietnam veteran Greg Cervantes, 70, was transported to a Citizens Medical Center and then Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio with significant burn injuries to his left leg, said Delia Kolar, his 45-year-old daughter. She said he will undergo skin graft surgery Wednesday.

His wife Dolores Cervantes, 66, was not injured in the fire, the daughter said.

At 1:15 a.m., Port Lavaca and Magnolia Beach firefighters were dispatched to 78 LaJoie Ave. in Alamo Beach, said Capt. Boyd Staloch, Port Lavaca Fire Department. Alamo Beach is an unincorporated Calhoun County community about 4 miles southeast of Port Lavaca.

All of the occupants had exited the home by the time responders arrived, he said, and the fire could be seen inside of the home through bedroom windows.

Responders extinguished the fire within 20 minutes, Staloch said.

Although the cause of the fire is under review at this time, he said, investigators think the fire originated from the master bedroom.

Staloch also said the fire was contained in the bedroom and caused significant damage. The surrounding rooms sustained significant heat damage.

According to property records, the property is owned by Gregorio Cervantes and valued at $67,463.

Check back for updates.