Coronavirus

Bell County officials said Saturday that an eighth reported case of COVID-19 was the second locally transmitted infection.

The case involves a woman, between the ages of 40 and 50, who is a resident of a Temple assisted care facility, the Bell County Health District reported Saturday. The woman had underlying health conditions and was hospitalized. Her condition was not disclosed.

Health officials immediately began coronavirus testing of residents and staff at the facility. The exact number of those being tested was not immediately available.

The name of the facility was not disclosed “for the privacy of the facility and its patients,” said Paul Romer, spokesman for the city of Belton and county coordinator of coronavirus public information.

Romer said it was unclear how the woman contracted COVID-19 so the case was designated as a community spread.

“All residents and staff at the facility are undergoing testing,” the Health District said in its release. “Residents will remain in place and staff has been asked to self isolate at home pending test results.”

The assisted living facility was making interim plans to continue to provide service if staff members test positive for the disease.

“I can say that the Health District, the medical provider and the facility are working together on contact tracing and the testing of individuals,” Romer said.

Community spread

County officials announced Friday the seventh reported case was the first that was transmitted locally.

Meanwhile, McLennan County officials saw their cases rise to 16 Saturday after three additional cases were reported.

Milam County identified its first known case of the coronavirus on Friday. Milam County Public Health Director Robert Kirkpatrick said officials will not release additional information about local coronavirus cases because of the county’s sparse population.

Amanda Robinson-Chadwell, the Bell County Public Health District director, told reporters Friday the first community spread case was travel-related.

“This person did acquire (COVID-19) from contact with a travel-related case, but because that person did not themselves travel, this is considered community acquire,” she said.

There are at least five coronavirus cases in Temple: a woman in her 20s; a woman between 40 and 50; and two men and one woman, all of whom are in their 60s.

Other known local cases include a Belton man in his 30s; a Killeen woman in her 50s; and a man in his 50s who lives in unincorporated Bell County.

At least 325 Texans have tested positive for the coronavirus and five people have died, The Texas Tribune reported.

Local virus testing

Bell County officials said Friday the number of coronavirus tests is unknown.The health district director said local hospitals are keeping track, and the inventory is constantly in flux.

“The hospitals do not send us any kind of inventory track,” Robinson-Chadwell said.

The Texas Department of State Health Services is keeping track of the number of tests on a statewide basis, she said.

Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Temple declined to detail its inventory of coronavirus tests to the Telegram.

“While we are not able to provide exact numbers, we are committed to helping our community navigate the uncertainty of this virus, making screening available to all and making testing more efficient and accessible to those who meet the criteria,” Scott & White spokeswoman Tiya Searcy previously told the Telegram.

Texas Department of State Health Services data shows at least 5,277 people have been tested in Texas, with 1,168 being done by public labs and 4,109 in private labs. The state agency does not break that data down by county.

The Bell County Public Health District is tracking COVID-19 positive individuals’ contacts to trace the spread of the virus, Robinson-Chadwell said. That information, though, will be communicated directly to people who have come in contact with an infected person and to facilities they may have visited.

A disaster declaration from Bell County Judge David Blackburn was tweaked Friday.

The biggest change is the banning of gatherings with more than 10 people in a single room or other confined or enclosed space. That includes auditoriums; indoor or outdoor stadiums; tents; arenas; event centers; music venues; meeting halls; conference centers; large cafeterias; or any other confined indoor or outdoor space.

The directive defines a confined or enclosed space as any area that has a barrier, such as a fence, or other barriers on more than one side of the area.

It does not apply to transit areas, such as bus stations; office spaces; public or private schools; childcare facilities; residences or any type of shelter; grocery stores and other retail establishments; and hospitals and other medical facilities.

Two other tweaks included prohibiting massage parlors to operate and the closure of schools until April 3.

The Commissioners Court on Monday will consider approving the Bell County state of disaster.

Action Plan

Bell County remains at Stage 3 of its COVID-19 Action Plan. All Stage 1 and 2 guidelines apply in Stage 3.

Stage 2 guidelines require residents to actively practice social distancing by staying six feet away from each other, and avoiding physical contact with people at work and at social gatherings.

Stage 1 rules are staying home if you are sick; avoiding contact with sick people; avoid touching your face with unclean hands; cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throw it away; clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces; don’t travel to areas with active community spread of COVID-19; and wash your hands with soap and water regularly and use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content when you cannot wash your hands.

Staff writer Jacob Sanchez contributed to this report.