Coronavirus

Three more cases of COVID-19 — all involving Killeen residents — moved the Bell County count up to 28, health officials reported Saturday.

The Bell County Health District recorded the new cases on its website Saturday. The Killeen cases involve two women, one in her 30s and one in her 60s, and a man in his 30s.

There are at least nine infections in Killeen, although Temple continues to be the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in Bell County.

Temple, the county’s second most populous city, has at least 14 cases.

The cases include two women in their 20s; three women in their 30s; a woman in her 40s; two women and a man in their 50s; three men and a woman in their 60s; and a woman in her 80s, who died Thursday.

Killeen, Bell County’s largest city, cases include a woman in her 20s; two men and a woman in their 40s; a woman in her 50s; and a man in his 60s.

Belton, the county seat, has at least two COVID-19 cases: a man in his 20s who was the first recorded coronavirus infection on March 15 and a woman younger than 20.

Amanda Robinson-Chadwell, the Bell County Public Health District director, said the first infected man has recovered. The health district plans to report recoveries in their daily reports.

Most cases have been travel-related, although Robinson Chadwell said community spread has occurred in Bell County.

There are still at least two known COVID-19 cases in rural Bell County: a man in his 70s and a man in his 30s. The health district categorizes small towns, such as Heidenheimer and Little River-Academy, as Bell County cases.

Shelter-in-place directive

Bell County Judge David Blackburn revised his shelter-in-place order Friday to allow churches to congregate and classified gun stores as essential businesses.

Residents are expected to stay home except for trips to the grocery store, exercise and work at essential businesses. Breaking the order could result in a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 180 days in jail. The amended order is in place until 11:59 a.m. on April 6.

The amended order was issued after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in an opinion that city and county officials cannot prohibit the sales of guns during an emergency declaration.

“In previous directives, churches were prohibited from gathering in groups of more than 10,” Blackburn said Friday. “After reviewing the prohibition further, after visiting with the governor’s office and trying to stay in line and in concert with the directives that are coming from the state, I have removed that prohibition from the directive.”

Blackburn strongly advised churches to continue streaming worship services online.

Residents are complying with the stay-at-home order, Blackburn told the Telegram. No citations have been issued yet and local law enforcement agencies are educating people about the order, he said.

The Bell County Commissioners Court will consider recent amendments to the disaster declaration during a meeting Monday.

CORONAVIRUS HOTLINE

Bell County residents who have COVID-19-related questions can call a county-operated hotline open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 254-933-5203 to access it. Calls received after hours and on weekends will be forwarded to 211.