Coronavirus

The Bell County Public Health District identified two additional COVID-19 cases Wednesday, increasing the local tally of known infections to 46.

The two new cases are a Belton man in his 30s and a Harker Heights man in his 50s.

The health district reported 10 people have recovered from the coronavirus. The county has reported one death, a Temple woman in her 80s.

Paul Romer, the county coronavirus public information coordinator, said Wednesday that Bell County Judge David Blackburn will likely update the local stay-at-home order later this week to match the state’s new guidance.

The Bell County order requires residents to stay home except for trips to the grocery store and to work at essential businesses. It is in effect until 11:59 a.m. April 6 — unless the county judge or Commissioners Court amends it. Breaking the order could result in a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 180 days in jail.

Temple continues to be the epicenter of the local pandemic. Bell County’s second largest city has at least 20 cases — a plurality.

They include a male younger than 20; two women in their 20s; two women in their 30s; two women in their 40s; three women and two men in their 50s; four men and a woman in their 60s; two women in their 70s; and a woman in her 80s, who died Thursday.

Killeen, the county’s largest city, now has 15 known infections. They include a male younger than 20; a woman in her 20s; a man and woman in their 30s; three men and three women in their 40s; a woman in her 50s; two women and a man in their 60s; and a man in his 70s.

Belton, the county seat, now has four known cases: a female younger than 20; a man in his 20s; a man in his 30s; and a man in his 60s.

Harker Heights has three cases: two women in their 40s and a man in his 50s.

Rural Bell County has at least four infected individuals: a man in his 30s; a man in his 50s; a man in his 70s; and a man in his 80s. The health district is categorizing infections from unincorporated areas of the county and small towns as Bell County cases.

The gender gap of local coronavirus is narrowing. Women still make up a slight majority, 52.2 percent, of Bell County infections. Men account for 47.8 percent.

Age, though, is still evenly split between people who are younger than 50 and those who are older than 50.

New pandemic model

Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin published a report this week looking at the effects and the importance of social distancing in the state’s 22 metropolitan areas. The analysis was published ahead of scientific peer review because of the ever-evolving COVID-19 crisis, the university stated in a news release.

“These results are not forecasts and do not represent the full range of uncertainty,” the report’s authors state in the document. “Rather, they are meant to serve as plausible scenarios for gauging the likely impacts of social distancing measures in Texas cities.”

One of the 22 metro areas analyzed was the Killeen-Temple metropolitan statistical area — which covers Bell, Coryell and Lampasas counties. Bell and Lampasas counties have issued stay-at-home orders while Coryell County is urging its residents to stay within their county.

Without any social distancing measures in place, the number of coronavirus cases would peak in mid-May, according to the report. The model showed more than 75,000 residents of the Killeen-Temple metro area getting COVID-19 at the peak.

Hospitalizations, though, would reach a high in June, with around 3,000 people. And, on top of that, the number of intensive care unit beds needed would be around 400.

By just closing schools, that peak would be delayed to late May. However, the area would see about the same numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and Intensive Care Unit beds.

By closing schools and reducing contact between people in the area by 50 percent, the peak in cases would be delayed to mid-July. That would lead to around 50,000 cases at that time, according to the report. Not only that, the number of hospitalizations decreases to the mid-2000s and the number of ICU beds required drops to around 300.

The report shows that downward slope and a later peak continues as contact between non-family members decreases.

A 75-percent reduction in non-household contacts could mean the area’s peak would be delayed to mid-August, with fewer than 50,000 cases. There would also be around 500 hospitalizations and the number of ICU beds required would be somewhere around the 50s.

A 90-percent reduction in contacts could result in peak sometime after Aug. 17 and cases would likely be in the low thousands, the report said. The number of hospitalizations and ICU beds required would be low, the report shows.

“The number of in-person interactions people have with one another matters,” said Lauren Ancel Meyers, a professor of integrative biology and statistics and data sciences who lead the team for the U.S. COVID-19 Pandemic Model at UT-Austin.

Area, state numbers

Williamson County reported five new cases Wednesday, bringing its tally of known coronavirus cases to 55. The county also reported its first death over the weekend.

McLennan County reported four additional COVID-19 infections. The county now has at least 48 cases, with a single death.

Coryell County has at least one case while neighboring Lampasas County had its first case on Wednesday. Coryell Health, the hospital in Gatesville, confirmed the Lampasas County case.

Burnet County has at least three cases, Milam County has two infections and Falls County has one known case.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported Tuesday 3,997 Texans have COVID-19 and 58 people have died. The state agency also reported 47,857 tests have been conducted.

jsanchez@tdtnews.com