Coronavirus

Temple Independent School District logged its first two lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday.  

There was one active case at Temple High School, with another active case at Cater Elementary, Superintendent Bobby Ott told the Telegram.  

“The folks that tested positive obviously left the campus,” Ott said. “One of them actually wasn’t on campus today. It was from yesterday when they had symptoms.”

He emphasized how the district’s enhanced cleaning protocols are already lined up for the two campuses. 

“They’ll start cleaning this evening and go through the weekend,” Ott said. “We worked with the Bell County Public Health District and sent out the notifications to families and staff at each of those campuses.”

Despite Temple ISD recording its first two cases of the school year, Ott is proud of the students and staff for the diligence they have displayed in mitigating the spread of the virus during the first two weeks of classes.

“I think any time a school district can go an extended amount of time without having any lab-confirmed cases, I think it is a success,” he said. “All school districts are doing their very best to provide educational continuity and safety with respect to minimizing transmission and risk.”

These cases come as the Bell County Public Health District identified 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday with active cases falling to 269 — five fewer than Thursday. 

Bell County sits at 5,200 lab-confirmed cases to date, and at least 46,174 cumulative tests have been administered.

Coronavirus-related deaths remained at 77 with individuals 60 years and older accounting for a bulk of the fatalities. Those aged 70 and older are responsible for 74 percent of the deaths.

Although Belton Independent School District did not identify any new cases, there are still five combined active cases from North Belton Middle School and South Belton Middle School — 0.2 percent of Belton ISD’s student population.

Student cases in Killeen ISD reached double-digits Friday after the district’s morning update. There have been 10 confirmed student cases and 55 employee infections in Killeen ISD, since tracking began March 16.

Salado ISD has not reported any new cases of COVID-19 since a student in the 11th grade was diagnosed Wednesday.

Visitors for long-term living facilities

Bell County’s newest cases came a day after Gov. Greg Abbott issued executive orders on Thursday for the expansion of occupancy levels for certain services in Texas. His announcement included updated visitation guidance for qualified nursing homes and other long-term care facilities — effective Thursday, Sept. 24. 

“Under the new rules, residents will be allowed to designate up to two essential family caregivers who will be provided necessary training to allow them to safely go inside a facility for a scheduled visit, including in the resident’s room, to help ensure their loved one’s physical, social, and emotional needs are being met,” a Thursday news release from the governor’s office said. “Designated caregivers will not be required to maintain physical distancing, but only one caregiver can visit a resident at a time.”

Each facility is required to train designated caregivers on a variety of “infection control measures,” as it is required during scheduled visits. 

“The caregiver must test negative for COVID-19 within the previous 14 days before the initial visit,” the statement said.

However, general visitors will still be allowed to schedule restricted no-contact visits. 

“These updated emergency rules will allow approved facilities to schedule outdoor no-contact visits, open window visits, or indoor visitation with the use of plexiglass safety barriers to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the statement said.

Annie McCall, facility director at Park Place Manor in Belton, said Abbott’s announcement did not provide enough clarity for long-term care facilities.

“But I have a letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid that gives us really clear guidelines as far as indoor and outdoor visitation nursing facilities need to adhere to,” she told the Telegram. “We will be adhering to those specific mandated guidelines to ensure our residents’ and staff’s health.”

McCall said Park Place Manor does not expect to offer scheduled visits until two to three weeks after the Sept. 24 effective date.  

“That will give us plenty of time in our home to prepare for families to come and visit,” McCall said. “We’re doing staff testing on Monday and our resident testing on Tuesday, and we are praying for all negative tests.”

McCall stressed how her facility, like others, will need to check visitors’ temperatures to help prevent new cases at facilities. 

“We don’t need (visitors) to have an issue and then cause us to regress, when we are trying to progress,” she said.

Abbott urged Texans to continue to follow medical expert’s guidance regarding masks, physical distancing and sanitation. 

“By maintaining health and safety standards that are proven to mitigate COVID-19, we can continue to slow the spread while opening up the Texas economy,” he said.