Coronavirus

Bell County’s top public health official did not hold back in her assessment of the county’s COVID-19 trajectory on Tuesday as another resident died and an additional 41 cases were confirmed.

“Community spread of this magnitude means that we must assume that anyone around us may have COVID-19. Please behave accordingly,” Amanda Robison-Chadwell, the Bell County Public Health District director, said, stressing residents need to stay 6 feet apart. “If social distancing is not possible please wear a mask, wash your hands, do not touch your face with unwashed hands and exercise caution as it pertains to gatherings.”

A woman in her 50s who had underlying health conditions was Bell County’s latest death, Robison-Chadwell said. The woman died Monday and marked the county’s 11th coronavirus-related death.

Tuesday’s 41 new infections tied the record high of 41 that was reported on June 12, according to health district data.

Robison-Chadwell said residents need to continue to be vigilant and follow health recommendations to mitigate the spread of the virus as the pandemic reaches new heights locally and in Texas. The state broke a record high Tuesday with 5,489 new cases, the Texas Tribune reported.

As cases continue to climb locally, Bell County officials are expected to make an announcement about face coverings during an online news conference at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Officials from across the county have been considering implementing a mandate for businesses to require their customers and staff to wear a mask.

“I am in active discussions with local officials and stakeholders and anticipate a decision within the next few days,” Bell County Judge David Blackburn said Monday.

Hospitalizations up

Not only did the overall coronavirus total increase, so did the number of hospitalizations — which are reported as cumulative figures — and the county’s test positivity rate.

The number of Bell County people ever hospitalized with coronavirus increased by two Tuesday to 86. The number who have ever been admitted into an intensive care unit remained at 38.

Bell County’s trauma service area — which includes Milam, Coryell, Lampasas, Mills and Hamilton counties — has 234 available hospital beds and 13 open ICU beds, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Bell County currently has a test positivity rate of 3.52 percent. That is a .17 percent increase since the 3.35 percent figure reported on Monday.

The county’s overall case total increased by 50 on Tuesday. Nine cases were previously undisclosed on the county’s COVID-19 dashboard because of a now-resolved technical issue, Robison-Chadwell said.

“To ensure that the dashboard data is as accurate as possible, the additional nine cases were added to the total for the day that they were detected,” she said. “As a result, some earlier dates as far back as late May show a one to two case increase. None of these previous cases resulted in complications or hospitalizations.”

Younger residents

Almost 85 percent of Bell County’s infections are among residents who are under 60.

Health district data shows that 694 residents under 60 have tested positive compared to the 125 residents older than 60 who have been infected.

By far, Bell County residents in their 20s are the largest age group to test positive for COVID-19. As of Tuesday, 184 residents in their 20s have tested positive. The next largest group is those in their 30s, with 145 infections, followed by residents in their 40s, with 129 cases.

Belton joined Killeen and Temple as the third Bell County city to hit triple digits in its number of infections. The county seat has at least 100 cases. Killeen, the county’s largest city, has 318 while Temple has 277.

All but one of Bell County’s deaths have been in Temple. Those include the newly reported death on Tuesday; a two men and a woman in their 60s; a two women in their 70s; two men and a woman in their 80s; and a Temple woman in her 90s. The other death was a Killeen man in his 50s.

Seven of the county’s deaths stem from a COVID-19 outbreak at Weston Inn Nursing & Rehabilitation. At least 26 residents and 23 employees have tested positive at the facility, 2505 S. 37th St., according to Caraday Healthcare, the San Marcos-based company that manages the Weston Inn.