Coronavirus

COVID-19 continued to worsen in Bell County Thursday as health officials identified 86 additional infections.

That jump — which marks the county’s second highest daily increase — pushed the local total to 1,374, according to the Bell County Public Health District. The county’s rate of positive COVID-19 tests was 5.22 percent — almost double than what it was in mid-June. At least 26,329 tests have been performed.

“To put the increase of cases into perspective, 74 percent of the entire case count for Bell County has occurred since June 1,” Health District Director Amanda Robison-Chadwell said. “Younger people remain the driver behind this rapid increase.”

Residents younger than 60 account for 1,124 cases — a 68-person increase since Wednesday. Young Bell County residents are nearly 82 percent of all reported infections in the county.

Bell County residents in their 20s are by far the age group most affected by the virus. At least 327 twentysomethings in the county have tested positive, according to health district data.

The Texas Department of State Health Services Thursday reported 7,915 new coronavirus cases — which is slightly lower than the record 8,076 cases reported Wednesday.

As Bell County saw a significant increase, it was paltry compared to its northern neighbor. McLennan County reported 224 new COVID-19 cases Thursday — a new record — the Waco Tribune-Herald reported.

With cases surging across the state, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide mask mandate that goes into effect at 12:01 p.m. Friday. It applies to all counties with more than 20 COVID-19 cases.

“COVID-19 is not going away,” Abbott said in a video announcing his new executive order. “In fact, it’s getting worse. Now, more than ever, action by everyone is needed until treatments are available for COVID-19.”

Abbott’s order supersedes all city and county orders — such as those issued by Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra and the Bell County Commissioners Court’s encouragement-of-masks order. The Temple City Council was set to consider a mask mandate Thursday, but those plans were scrapped once the governor announced the statewide mandate.

“The City of Temple has intentionally followed the lead of Bell County throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mayor Tim Davis said in a statement issued early Thursday afternoon. “This was done to have consistent requirements as residents move across the county as they work, shop, and dine. As the mayor of Temple, I no longer believe that is the best strategy.”