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Only 9 months after the COVID-19 pandemic began, the end is in sight, and that is especially relieving for the state of Texas which has been one of the hardest hit states in the U.S. As of Thursday, Dec. 17, Texas had reported more than 1.55 million cases of COVID-19 and leads the U.S. in COVID deaths at 25,336. But now Texas can finally fight back with a real COVID vaccine.

Over a million Texans should expect to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by year's end. That’s what Governor Greg Abbott said in a press conference on Thursday, Dec. 17. But Abbott also said it likely won't be until March 2021 that the vaccine is so readily available that anyone can get it whenever they want.

Until then, Texas will be abiding by a distribution plan for the vaccine, starting with healthcare workers, then the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. Abbott says even teachers should be among the first to be vaccinated.

On Tuesday, Dec. 15 and Wednesday, Dec. 16, Lubbock hospitals received their first doses of the COVID vaccine, with more doses scheduled for shipment in the coming weeks. Abbott says that by the end of Friday, Dec. 18, more than 224,000 doses of the vaccine will have been delivered to 110 providers in 34 counties.

During his press conference, Governor Abbott also addressed calls for additional shutdown orders for the state of Texas, reiterating his position that a new shutdown would only hurt the Texas economy even more and would do nearly nothing to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Lubbock County reported 476 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, Dec. 17, and 10 additional fatalities, bringing the death count to just under 500.

The COVID hospitalization percentage for Lubbock County did drop, however, for the 4th consecutive day. On Sunday, Dec. 13, Lubbock reported a 28% hospitalization rate but on Thursday, Dec. 17, that had fallen as low as 21%.

Amarillo has also experienced 4 consecutive days of a decreased COVID hospitalization rate. On Sunday, it was 30% but fell to 26% on Thursday. The City of Galveston is now reporting the highest percentage in Texas, going from 20% on Tuesday, Dec. 15, to 39% on Thursday, Dec. 17.