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More than 30,000 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Central Texas, more than 450 have died

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Central Texas rose to more than 30,000...
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Central Texas rose to more than 30,000 Wednesday, the regional death toll rose to more than 450, and even with the promise of a vaccine, face masks and social distancing will remain a reality through the end of next year, a local physician says. (AP photo/file)(John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)
Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 1:52 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 18, 2020 at 6:19 PM CST
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(KWTX) – The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Central Texas rose by 418 Wednesday to 30,371, the regional death toll rose to more than 450, and even with the promise of vaccinations against the virus being available as early as late January or early February, face masks and social distancing will be necessary through the end of 2021, Dr. Jackson Griggs, CEO of Waco’s Heart of Texas Community Health Center said during a virtual news conference Wednesday.

At an average of 61 new cases a day per 100,000 population, McLennan County is over the “tipping point,” Griggs said, and the spread of the virus shows no indication of slowing down.

McLennan County has nearly 12,800 confirmed cases of the virus, double the number it reported on Aug. 31.

In fact, since Aug. 1, just before schools reopened, the total number of cases in Central Texas has nearly tripled and the death toll has increased fourfold.

Almost 6,000 additional cases of the virus have been confirmed in Central Texas since Halloween, and almost 70 more area residents diagnosed with the virus have died.

Most pressing now is the threat of a post-Thanksgiving surge in the virus as pandemic-weary Central Texans opt to ignore guidance from health experts and travel or take part in holiday gatherings.

“Ahead of Thanksgiving I wanted to issue another reminder to be as safe as possible,” Bell County Health District Director Dr. Amanda Robison-Chadwell said Wednesday.

“Those with conditions that make them high risk or those over the age of 60 should be extra cautious and not gather for the holidays. Those who have contact with high risk people should also not gather for the holidays in an effort to protect them,” she said.

Additional deaths were reported Wednesday in Bosque, Freestone, Lampasas, Limestone and McLennan counties.

The Central Texas death toll may now be as high as 466, but according to state data Wednesday at least 453 area residents diagnosed with the virus have now died including 111 Bell County residents, two more than the local count of 109; 15 Bosque County residents; 14 Coryell County residents, one more than the local count of 13; 13 Falls County residents; nine Freestone County residents; seven Hamilton County residents; 16 Hill County residents; 10 Lampasas County residents; 14 Leon County residents; 17 Limestone County residents; 168 McLennan County residents, six fewer than the local count of 174; nine Milam County residents; four Mills County residents; 35 Navarro County residents, seven fewer than the local count of 42; six Robertson County residents, two more than the local count of four, and five San Saba County residents.

The statewide death toll increased by 187 Wednesday to 19,883, and the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 8,870 additional cases of the virus, 8,489 of them new, raising the statewide total to 1,048,383.

Of the total, 141,891 cases were active Wednesday and 889,099 patients have recovered.

At least 7,958 patients were in hospitals around the state Wednesday, an increase of more than 100 over Tuesday, and in the two Trauma Service Areas that include most of Central Texas, at least 137 patients were hospitalized, slightly fewer than on Tuesday.

More than 5,400 additional medical personnel have been sent to overworked hospitals around the state, the most since the pandemic began in March.

The Lab Test Report Date clinical positivity rate rose to 12.7% Wednesday from 12.6% Tuesday.

And for the first time since the outbreak started in Texas, the virus is present in all 254 of the state’s counties after three cases were reported Tuesday in Loving County, which was apparently the last COVID-free county in the U.S.

BELL COUNTY

The Bell County Public Health District reported 89 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, increasing the county’s total to 7,714.

Of the total, 985 cases were active Wednesday, 6,729 patients have recovered, and 109 have died.

State data, which includes Fort Hood personnel who live on post showed 7,733 confirmed cases and 111 deaths.

The health district’s director, Dr. Amanda Robison-Chadwell, is urging residents ahead of Thanksgiving “to be as safe as possible” and mindful of friends and relatives at higher risk of contracting the virus because of age or preexisting conditions.

“The best idea is to only celebrate in person with those that live in the same household. If you choose to take the risk of including others please consider that risk carefully because there isn’t only a risk to those you celebrate with, but to those that they will come into contact with afterward,” she said.

The city of Temple is closing some facilities to walk-in traffic beginning Friday through Jan. 18 including the Municipal Building/City Hall; Human Resources; Temple Public Library; Historic Post Office; Parks and Recreation Administration Building; Public Works Service Center; Hillcrest Cemetery, and the Utility Business Office/Municipal Court. Services at the facilities will be available online, by phone, by appointment at curbside or via drive-thru.

Academy Middle School is suspending on-campus instruction on Thursday and Friday because of student and faculty absences related to COVID-19. Only two on campus have tested positive for the virus, but 16% of the school’s students and 28% of its staff were out Wednesday because of close contact. Extracurricular activities, practices and competitions have been canceled until students return to campus on Nov. 30.

The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor dashboard Wednesday showed 13 active cases of the virus and a total of 165 since Aug. 1.

Texas A&M University-Central Texas Wednesday showed one active student case and a total of 10 involving students and four involving staff since March.

The Killeen ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed a total of 178 cases involving students and 204 involving staff since March 16 and 38 involving students and 40 involving staff in the past seven days. The district Wednesday reported one case involving a student at Alice Douse Elementary; one involving an employee at Cedar Valley Elementary; two involving employees at Fowler Elementary; one involving a student at Haynes Elementary; one case involving an employee at Ira Cross Elementary; two involving students at Mountain View Elementary, five involving employees at Oveta Culp Hobby Elementary; one involving an employee at Peebles Elementary; one involving an employee at Pershing Park Elementary; two involving employees at Reeces Creek Elementary; one case involving a student at Richard E. Cavazos Elementary; one involving a student and one involving an employee at Skipcha Elementary; one involving a student and one involving an employee at Sugar Loaf Elementary; one involving an employee at Timber Ridge Elementary; two involving employees at Trimmier Elementary; two involving students and one involving an employee at Venable Village Elementary; two involving students at West Ward Elementary; two involving employees at Willow Springs Elementary; two involving employees at Charles Patterson Middle School; one involving a student at Liberty Hill Middle School; one case involving a student at Live Oak Ridge Middle School; one involving a student at Nolan Middle School; one involving an employee at Palo Alto Middle School; one involving a student at Smith Middle School; one involving a student and one involving an employee at Union Grove Middle School; eight cases involving students and two involving employees at Ellison High School; two involving employees at Gateway High School; four involving students and one involving an employee at Harker Heights High School; six involving students at Killeen High School; one involving a student and two involving employees at the KISD Career Center; three involving students and five involving employees at Shoemaker High School, and five involving employees at non-campus facilities.

The Temple ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed 10 cases at Temple High School; three at Bonham Middle School; one at Lamar Middle School; one at Travis Middle School; one at Cater Elementary; two at Kennedy-Powell Elementary, and two at an auxiliary facility.

The Belton ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed two cases at the Early Childhood School; two at Lakewood Elementary; two at Miller Heights Elementary; one at Pirtrle Elementary; one case at Tarver Elementary; one at Belton Middle School; one at Lake Belton Middle School; one at North Belton Middle School; one at South Belton Middle School; three cases at Belton High School; two at Belton New Tech High School; two at Lake Belton High School, and three at non-campus facilities.

Because of the surge in COVID-19 cases, Temple’s joint Thanksgiving meal for the homeless has been canceled, organizers announced Tuesday.

The three faith-based agencies that sponsor the annual dinner, the Salvation Army of Bell County, Feed My Sheep and St. Vincent de Paul, will serve their clients separately.

“It is very disappointing, because we wanted to make this day special, to have members of the community serve the homeless restaurant style with a hot meal, live music, gifts, the works,” said Lt. David Beckham, Bell County commander of The Salvation Army.

“By working together, we had planned to make this a bigger event than any of us could have done separately.

Feed My Sheep will provide a meal in to-go containers from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day; the Salvation Army will serve a Thanksgiving meal at 1 p.m. on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving. Clients staying at the McLane Center for Hope will eating in their dining room. Community members will be served in to-go containers distributed outside on the sidewalk nearest the kitchen.

The health district has created a guide for safe holiday practices that’s available online.

BELL COUNTY COVID-19 DEATHS

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

MCLENNAN COUNTY

The Waco-McLennan County Health District reported four more deaths from the virus Wednesday, a 67-year-old woman, a 64-year-old woman, a 55-year-old man and an 85-year old man, increasing the virus’ toll in the county to 174, according to local data.

State data Wednesday based on death certificates and county of residence showed 168 deaths.

The health district also reported 189 additional cases of the virus, 133 from ongoing surge testing, increasing the county’s total to 12,761.

“We don’t have any evidence that the growth is slowing down,” Dr. Jackson Griggs, CEO of the Heart of Texas Community Health Center said during a virtual news conference Wednesday.

Of the total, 1,296 cases were active Wednesday and 11,291 patients have recovered.

Eighty patients were hospitalized Wednesday, 13 of them on ventilators.

Fifty nine of the 80 are McLennan County residents.

The new cases include one involving a resident younger than a year old; 12 involving residents ranging in age from 1 to 10; 24 involving residents ranging in age from 11 to 17; 25 involving residents ranging in age from 18 to 25, eight involving residents who range in age from 26 to 29; 31 involving residents in their 30s; 38 involving residents in their 40s; 20 involving residents in their 50s; 15 involving residents in their 60s, and 12 involving residents in their 70s.

“We are reaching a stage where just about everyone knows someone who has had COVID-19,” Dr. Mark Elieson of Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center said Wednesday.

“If we can prevent this, let’s work together. Let’s be wise.”

Free COVID-19 test sites are in operation in the Waco area after the federal government provided 40,000 test kits to McLennan County as part of the effort to stem the spread of the virus. Additional details are available online.

The health district has contracted with Aardvark Mobile Health to provide mobile COVID-19 tests, using a small truck that can accommodate two testing lines with the capacity to administer as many as 500 tests daily. Additional details are available online.

For those experiencing disabling feelings of loss, change and sadness, short-term counseling is available through the Texans Recovering Together Crisis Counseling Program. A counselor can be requested using an online form or by calling 1-866-576-1101.

Baylor University is offering free voluntary rapid testing for the virus next Monday through Wednesday for students, faculty and staff ahead of the Thanksgiving holidays.

Connally Elementary School temporarily suspended on-campus instruction for the rest of the week after a person on campus tested positive for COVID-19. On-campus instruction will resume on Nov. 30 after Thanksgiving break.

Bruceville-Eddy High School closed and transitioned to remote learning from Monday through Wednesday and for a half day on Thursday because of an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Fifth through 12th grade students at Waco’s Rapoport Academy also shifted temporarily to remote instruction. Students will return to campus on Nov. 30 after the Thanksgiving holiday. Both of Rapoport’s elementary campuses are continuing normal operations.

Baylor University’s online dashboard showed 155 active cases Wednesday, 130 involving students, 12 involving staff, six involving faculty and seven involving contractors. Over the past seven days, 77 case have been confirmed for a clinical positivity rate of 6.1% Since Aug. 1, 1,425 cases have been confirmed.

The McLennan Community College dashboard showed 24 active cases Wednesday, 16 involving students, and a total of 175 in the past three weeks, 150 involving students and 25 involving employees.

The Waco ISD dashboard Wednesday showed a cumulative total of 97 students, 107 staff members and eight classified as “other” have tested positive for the virus since Sept. 28. The district Tuesday reported one active case at Dean Highland Elementary; one at Hillcrest PDS; one active case at Kendrick Elementary; four at Lake Air Montessori; one at Mountainview Elementary; one at Provident Heights Elementary; one at South Waco Elementary; two at West Avenue Elementary; one at Brazos High; one at Cesar Chavez Middle School; three at Tennyson Middle School; three at University High School and eight at Waco High School.

Families of Lake Air Montessori School students were notified Tuesday the school is shifting to remote instruction through the rest of the week after officials learned that two more people who were on campus tested positive for COVID-19. More than 20 employees and 100 in-person students are quarantined. Families of Brazos High School and Tennyson Middle School were notified Monday that the schools were shifting to remote instruction for the remainder of the week. Families were notified on Sunday that Waco’s J.H. Hines Elementary School and Cesar Chavez Middle School in Waco were shifting to remote instruction Monday after an increase in COVID-19 cases. Waco High School, meanwhile, has extended remote instruction through this week. On-campus instruction has also been temporarily suspended at G.W. Carver Middle School until Nov. 30.

The Midway ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed 27 active cases at Midway High School, 20 of them involving students and seven involving staff. The district also reported two cases involving students and one involving an employee at Castleman Creek Elementary; one involving a student and one involving an employee at Hewitt Elementary; three cases involving students and two involving employees at South Bosque Elementary; one involving a student at Spring Valley Elementary; three involving students and two involving employees at Woodway Elementary; one involving a student at River Valley Elementary; two involving students at Woodgate Elementary; eight involving students and two involving employees at Woodway Middle School, and one involving an employee at a non-campus facility.

The Mart ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed two active cases at Mart Elementary and one at Mart High School. Twenty six elementary school students and staff and two high school students and staff are quarantined. Fourteen cases have been confirmed since Aug. 19.

The McGregor ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed one active case at McGregor Primary; four at McGregor Elementary; two at Isbill Junior High and four at McGregor High School. H.G. Isbill Junior High School and McGregor High School will be closed through the remainder of the week and students will transition to remote learning, Superintendent James Lenamon told parents in a letter on Monday.

The Lorena ISD dashboard Wednesday showed three cases involving students at Lorena Elementary and two involving students at Lorena High School.

MCLENNAN COUNTY COVID-19 DEATHS

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

CORYELL COUNTY

Coryell County was still reporting 1,017 total cases Wednesday.

Of the total, 223 cases were active and 781 patients have recovered.

State data, which include Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates in the county, showed 2,208 cases Wednesday, an increase of nine, and 14 deaths.

The Gatesville ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed 19 cases involving students and six involving employees at Gatesville High School; eight involving junior high students and one involving a junior high employee; three involving intermediate students and three involving employees; three involving primary students and four involving employees, and one involving an administration building employee.

The Copperas Cove ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed 20 active cases at Copperas Cove High School, three of them involving employees and 17 involving students; one involving an employee at Crossroads High School; one involving a student and one involving an employee at Cove Junior High; one involving a student and two involving employees at S.C. Lee Junior High; two involving employees at Fairview Jewell Elementary; one involving a student and one involving an employee at Hettie Halstead Elementary; one involving a student at House Creek Elementary; one involving a student and one involving an employee at Martin Walker Elementary; and one involving a student at Williams-Ledger Elementary, and one involving an employee at the District Service and Training Center.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Wednesday showed 13 cases involving inmates and 29 cases involving employees at the Christina Melton Crain Unit in Gatesville where 270 inmates were on medical restriction and 15 were isolated; six cases involving employees at the Hilltop Unit in Gatesville where 41 inmates were restricted; four cases involving inmates and four involving employees at the Alfred D. Hughes Unit in Gatesville where 218 inmates were medically restricted and four were medically isolated; seven cases involving employees at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville where 19 inmates were medically restricted; one case involving an employee at the Dr. Lane Murray Unit in Gatesville where seven inmates were on restriction, and three cases involving employees at the Linda Woodman State Jail in Gatesville where 43 inmates were restricted and two were isolated.

State data show 14 deaths in the county, but according to local data the virus has claimed 13 lives in the county including a Copperas Cove man in his 70s who died on April 9 at Advent Hospital in Killeen, to which he was admitted on April 2; a Copperas Cove man in his 60s who was diagnosed with the virus on April 5; a Copperas Cove man whose death was reported on July 8, and a Gatesville man in his 60s whose death was reported on July 12.

The Refuge Mobile Food Pantry will distribute free food from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday at 916 West Highway 190 in Copperas Cove.

The Cove House Free Clinic at 806 West Avenue D, Suite H, is offering free COVID-19 testing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays. Appointments are required and may be made by calling (254) 289-9865.

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

FALLS COUNTY

Falls County reported 727 confirmed cases Wednesday, an increase of six.

Of the total, 676 patients have recovered.

State data showed 13 deaths.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Wednesday reported 31 cases involving employees at the William Hobby Unit in Marlin where 79 inmates were medically restricted, and three cases involving inmates and eight involving employees at the Marlin Transfer Unit where 96 inmates were medically restricted and three were medically isolated.

LIMESTONE COUNTY

Limestone County reported 741 total cases Wednesday, an increase of 33.

Of the total, 666 patients have recovered.

Mexia High School students have shifted to remote learning through Friday after three students tested positive for the virus and “numerous staff and student quarantines due to close contact,” Superintendent Dr. Lyle DuBus said in a letter to parents.

On-campus instruction resumes on Nov. 30 after Thanksgiving break.

The virus has claimed a 17th life in the county.

The first resident to die was a Mexia woman in her late 50s to early 60s with underlying health conditions who died on March 31 at Parkview Regional Hospital in Mexia after she was diagnosed with COVID-19.

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

NAVARRO COUNTY

Navarro County Tuesday reported its 42nd death from the virus Wednesday.

State data, based on death certificates and county of residence, showed 35 deaths.

The county Wednesday reported 1,669 confirmed cases, an increase of 30, and 710 probable cases, for a total of 2,379.

Of the total, 258 cases were active, 2,079 patients have recovered and nine were hospitalized Wednesday.

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

OTHER COUNTIES

According to the latest figures Wednesday Bosque County was reporting 495 cases, an increase of 12, and 400 recoveries. State data based on death certificates and county of residence showed a 15th death in the county.

Freestone County reported a total of 489 cases Wednesday. Of the total 457 patients have recovered. A ninth resident has died, according to state data. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Wednesday reported three cases involving employees at the William Boyd Unit in Teague where 79 inmates were medically restricted.

Hamilton County reported 264 cases Wednesday, an increase of six.. Of the total 197 patients have recovered. State data showed seven deaths in the county.

Hill County reported a total of 1,010 cases Wednesday, an increase of nine, and 842 recoveries. Sixteen residents have died. The Hill College dashboard showed two active cases Wednesday at the school’s Hillsboro campus. The Hillsboro ISD reported three cases involving students at Hillsboro Elementary; three cases involving students at Hillsboro Intermediate; six cases involving students and one involving an employee at Hillsboro Junior High and 14 involving students and two involving employees at Hillsboro High School.

Lampasas County reported 346 cases Wednesday, and 310 recoveries. A 10th resident diagnosed with the virus has died.

Leon County reported 419 cases Wednesday and 351 recoveries. State data showed 14 deaths.

Milam County reported 605 confirmed cases Wednesday. Of the total, 21 cases were active, 575 patients have recovered and four were hospitalized. Nine residents have died, according to local and state data.

Mills County reported 115 cases and 76 recoveries Wednesday. State data showed four deaths. The county’s first death from the virus was reported on Oct. 21.

Robertson County was still reporting 512 total cases Wednesday. Of the total, 67 cases were active, seven patients were hospitalized, and 441 patients have recovered. The county is reporting four deaths from the virus. State data showed six deaths.

San Saba County reported 277 cases Wednesday, an increase of seven, and 212 recoveries. Five residents have died. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice reported one case involving an inmate and five cases involving employees at the San Saba Transfer Unit where 161 inmates were medically restricted and five were isolated.

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

COVID-19 INFORMATION, LINKS AND RESOURCES

(Robyn Geske contributed to this story)

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