The number of coronavirus infections in Bell County ticked up by a single case Wednesday, according to officials.
The Bell County Public Health District reported Wednesday afternoon that there are now at least 19 coronavirus cases here. The newest infection was a Temple woman in her 30s.
Community spread is occurring in Bell County, Health District Director Amanda Robinson-Chadwell previously said.
Paul Romer, the city of Belton spokesman who is coordinating coronavirus public information for the county, told the Telegram that three Bell County residents are hospitalized while one has been discharged.
Temple continues to be the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in Bell County. The city has at least 14 cases — accounting for nearly 74 percent of the county’s infections. They include two women in their 20s; three women in their 30s; one woman in her 40s; two women and a man in their 50s; three men and one woman in their 60s; and a woman in her 80s.
Killeen, the county’s largest city, has at least two cases: a woman and man in their 40s. Belton has a single infection, a man in his 20s.
Unincorporated and rural Bell County has at least two known instances of the coronavirus: a man in his 70s and a man in his 30s. The health district is categorizing small towns, such as Salado and Rogers, as Bell County cases.
Texas has at least 974 cases and at least 12 deaths, according to numbers released Wednesday by the Department of State Health Services.
All of Bell County’s neighbors have reported at least one coronavirus case — except for Lampasas County, according to the state. McLennan County has at least 28; Williamson County has at least 19 cases; Milam County has at least two; and Falls, Coryell and Burnet counties all have at least one infection each.
Bird Creek Burger Co. in downtown Temple and its sister restaurant, Treno Pizzeria, closed Wednesday after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, owner Jacob Bates said in a statement.
“The employee in question had only worked for three hours on Monday, March 23, and had not worked at (Bird Creek Burger Co.) for nine days prior to Monday,” Bates said, stressing all employees have been following guidelines issued by the health district. “We have ascertained that the employee in question had very limited potential contact with customers.”
Tanglefoot Restaurants, the company that operates both eateries, provided all available customer information to the Bell County Public Health District.
Bates made the decision to halt operations at the burger restaurant, 6 S. Main St., and pizza pop-up truck.
“Although the Bell County Health (District’s) protocol does not require the closure of (Bird Creek Burger Co.) and Treno, with COVID-19 being community spread in Bell County, we believe it is in everyone’s best interest to close our operations until April 1, at a minimum,” Bates said. “This will allow our team an opportunity to practice safe isolation procedures and ensure that our community is only served the highest quality food with an emphasis on health and safety.”
Along with the Bird Creek employee, Bell County has two other notable coronavirus cases: a Fort Hood soldier and a Texas Department of Public Safety employee who worked in the agency’s Belton office.
The city of Belton announced Wednesday it would close all of its offices to the public, Romer said. The city is encouraging residents to do their business online or by phone.
The Belton Council Tuesday night unanimously agreed to suspend any fees associated with paying utilities online. Belton will not charge the fee through at least Sept. 30.
Bell County started operating its COVID-19 phone bank Wednesday. Romer said its goal is to help residents with their questions about the virus.
The hotline will be 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.
Bell County continues to be under a shelter-in-place order. County Judge David Blackburn on Monday ordered residents to stay home except for trips to the grocery store, exercise and work at essential businesses.
The order is in effect until 11:59 p.m. April 3 — unless Blackburn or the Commissioners Court extends it. Breaking the order could result in a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 180 days in jail.
Residents must work together and stay home to end the growing pandemic, Blackburn previously said.
“While you as an individual may not feel threatened or endangered by the virus, please think about your family, your neighbors and your friends that are threatened and are endangered by the virus,” he said.