It's been 1 year since Texas activated a COVID-19 operations center. What have we learned?

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Thursday marks one year since Texas opened its State Medical Operations Center in an effort to help with preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

ABC13's Tom Abrahams talked to the Department of State Health Services' Chris Van Deusen, who explained the center is the core group charged with responding to a public health crisis.

That means coordinating with local governments and state agencies, and supporting hospitals and other health care facilities.

Deusen said that the team has learned a lot since triggering its COVID-19 response, really even before the state saw cases.

"We have seen firsthand the potential of a virus like this to spread around the globe and really have such a dramatic effect on human life and individuals' lives," Deusen told ABC13.

"We have done pandemic planning and exercises, but you know, until you're really experiencing it, you can't appreciate what it's really going to be like," he continued.

Deusen also talked about the state's vaccination efforts, saying that getting a vaccine isn't tied to a particular county or area. He added he'd encourage people to sign up to go to a site close to them to avoid having to travel long distances.

"We're certainly making every effort we can to distribute vaccine widely across the state. I think we're up to 232 counties now," Deusen said.

Texas has 254 counties, with Harris County being the largest. It has a population of more than 4.7 million people, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Deusen urges Texans to be patient when it comes to getting the vaccine.

"Just reassure people that the vaccine is going to keep coming. We get more vaccine every week. Looks like it's going to be 400,000 plus doses next week, first doses coming into Texas. We'll continue to get more vaccine every week, and we'll get it out providers, so that people can find it," he said.

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