Coronavirus news conference

Dr. Robert Greenberg, Baylor Scott & White-Central Texas Division’s chief medical officer of emergency services, speaks from a podium during a coronavirus news conference as interpreter Joshua Evans, right, translates into sign language. Bell County Judge David Blackburn stands to side with arms crossed as other county officials are social distanced during the online news conference.

Bell County is beginning to see the reported number of COVID-19 cases flatten, but residents will need to continue to follow the local stay-at-home order until April 30, the county’s top elected official said Friday.

Bell County Judge David Blackburn updated the county’s stay-at-home order to bring it in line with Gov. Greg Abbott’s essential-services-and-activities-only mandate that went into effect Thursday. Both orders last until the end of the month.

“I think the measures that have been implemented so far are achieving what is intended. We have seen a flattening of the curve in Bell County. Our hospitals ... are not over capacity. Our morbidity rate is low,” Blackburn said during an online news conference from the Bell County Courthouse in downtown Belton. “Our challenge now is to continue to do what we’ve been doing, so please do that and be safe.”

This was the fifth update to Bell County’s disaster declaration, which includes the stay-at-home order.

The tally of known coronavirus infections remained at 51, according to Bell County Public Health District data released noon Friday. The entity did not report any new cases — a data point Blackburn highlighted.

So far, 12 people have recovered. A Temple woman who was in her 80s is the only COVID-19-related death in Bell County.

Abbott’s order, issued Tuesday, tells Texans to stay home except for grocery store trips and work at essential businesses.

“If you’re not engaged in an essential service or activity, then you need to be at home for the purpose of slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said.

More than a dozen sectors — including health care, energy, food and critical manufacturing — are considered essential in the state’s guidance, The Texas Tribune reported. Religious services also are considered essential in the new state order.

Businesses can submit a request to the state to be added to the list of essential services.

“The overriding intent behind the governor’s order and my order is to implement the recommendations of our health authorities, with respect to mitigating the spread of the virus and aggressively and actively social distancing,” Blackburn said. “That has been and continues to be the prime directive.”

Temple Chick-fil-A employee

Steve Joy, owner of the Temple Chick-fil-A restaurants, confirmed Friday that one of his employees at his South 31st Street location was tested for COVID-19.

“Because of high priorities at the testing centers, our symptomatic employee has still not received test results,” Joy said. “Even though this employee is no longer sick and the doctor is confident this case is not the COVID-19 virus, this team member will remain quarantined to complete a 14-day period. All other employees returning to work have been cleared by the Bell County Health (District).”

The Chick-fil-A, 3303 S. 31st St., will reopen today.

“We easily made the decision to close the entire operation on South 31st St. immediately and not wait for test results,” Joy said. “Furthermore, I have committed to paying my employees their full salary for work missed.”

Health district employee sanctions

Amanda Robison-Chadwell, the Bell County Public Health District director, elaborated on the sanctions her entity placed on an employee after they uploaded a document listing local coronavirus patients’ last names on Thursday.

“That employee is no longer allowed to publish anything on the website — that permission has been revoked,” she told the Telegram. “They are undergoing full HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) retraining — which is lengthy — so I’m sure that will be somewhat painful, but that’s kind of part of the process. The individual has also received a written write-up, and a notification has been made to the state, as well.”

The list was online for around two minutes, Robison-Chadwell said.

The Telegram was the first to notify local officials about the mistake.

The health district contacted all of the individuals on the document about their private information being published online.

Temple gets grant funds

The city of Temple on Thursday received a $368,691 federal grant that can be used on coronavirus-related efforts. Spokesman Cody Weems said Temple is waiting for instructions from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"The city has reached out to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for guidance on how these funds can and should be delivered to the community,” Assistant City Manager Erin Smith said. “Once we receive direction, we will identify needs within the community and will allocate funding in a way that best serves those who have been affected by COVID-19."

Blackburn plans to continue to follow recommendations from federal, state and local health officials to make decisions.

“I would continue to urge everyone to heed the recommendations — beginning with the recommendation that you stay home, to the extent that you can, and practicing social distancing when you have to go out,” Bell County’s chief executive officer said. “If you’re over 65 and, or, you have underlying health conditions, I urge you to pay particular attention to the recommendations in the document and practice them.”

“Finally, I urge you to wash your hands — thoroughly and often.”