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Refrigerated trailer could serve as temporary morgue as area COVID-19 death toll rises

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of another 13 area residents and the state is sending a...
COVID-19 has claimed the lives of another 13 area residents and the state is sending a refrigerated trailer like this one to the epicenter of the Central Texas outbreak to serve as a temporary morgue. (File)(wsaw)
Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 1:42 PM CST
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(KWTX) - COVID-19 has claimed the lives of another 13 area residents and the state is sending a refrigerated trailer to McLennan County, the epicenter of the Central Texas outbreak, to serve as a temporary morgue, Waco Mayor Dillon Meek announced during a virtual news conference Wednesday.

The announcement Wednesday afternoon came as local health officials reported the deaths of five more McLennan County residents diagnosed with the virus.

The virus has claimed nearly 50 lives in the county in the past month, but Meek says he’s hopeful.

“I do believe this is still a time for hope,” he said.

“More positive news continues to come out regarding vaccines... the office of emergency management continues to develop plans for vaccines.”

In fact Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines is due in Texas in less than two weeks.

The initial allotment of more than 1.4 million doses from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should begin arriving in the state during the week of Dec. 14, Abbott said, and will be distributed to qualifying providers to be administered on the basis of vaccine distribution principles developed by the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel.

Another 340 cases of the virus were confirmed Wednesday in Central Texas, increasing the total to 34,739.

Six more deaths were reported Wednesday in Bell County and additional deaths were also reported in Bosque and Hill counties.

The virus’ toll in Central Texas may now be as high as 534, but according to state data Tuesday at least 516 area residents diagnosed with the virus have now died including 121 Bell County residents; 16 Bosque County residents; 17 Coryell County residents, two more than the local count of 15; 15 Falls County residents; 13 Freestone County residents; eight Hamilton County residents; 20 Hill County residents; 11 Lampasas County residents; 16 Leon County residents; 18 Limestone County residents; 192 McLennan County residents, 11 fewer than the local count of 203; nine Milam County residents; four Mills County residents; 38 Navarro County residents, seven fewer than the local count of 45; eight Robertson County residents, two more than the local count of six, and eight San Saba County residents.

The statewide death toll rose by 207 Wednesday to 21,756 as the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 16,424 additional cases of the virus, 14,758 of them new, increasing the state’s total to 1,200,674.

Of the total 188,917 cases were active Wednesday, 993,151 patients have recovered, and at least 9,109 were hospitalized, an increase of more than 60.

In the two Trauma Service Areas that include most of Central Texas, at least 220 patients were in hospitals Wednesday, four fewer than on Tuesday.

County judges in Bosque, Falls, Hill, Limestone and McLennan counties were advised by letter on Sunday that hospitalizations in Trauma Service Area M, to which the counties are assigned, have risen above 15% of total hospitalizations, which triggers capacity reductions per orders Gov. Greg Abbott issued on Sept. 17 and Oct. 7.

The spike in Texas hospitalizations is “unsustainable,” according to a Nov. 22 report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force obtained by the Center for Public Integrity that says the state “continues to be in a full resurgence and mitigation efforts must intensify.”

The report calls for “proactive and focused testing for both the identification of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals.”

More than 10.9 million tests have been administered statewide, and the Lab Test Report Date clinical positivity rate rose to 12.99% from 11.72% Tuesday.

BELL COUNTY

The Bell County Public Health District reported six additional deaths from the virus Wednesday, two Temple men in their 80s, a Harker Heights woman in her 80s, a Belton man in his 60s, a Bell County woman in her 60s and a Bell County man in his 60s, increasing the virus’ toll in the county to 121, according to local data.

The health district also reported 64 additional confirmed cases of the virus Wednesday, raising the county’s total to 8,816.

Of the total 1,114 cases were active Wednesday and 7,702 patients have recovered.

State data, which include Fort Hood personnel living on post, showed 8,858 confirmed cases and 121 deaths.

We saw another drop in our incidence rate to 307.0 per 100,000 people,” health district Director Dr. Amanda Robison-Chadwell said Wednesday.

“It is good to see a drop ahead of what is expected to be an increase between the 7th and 10th though we certainly hope to be surprised with a continued down trend,” she said.

Killeen officials Wednesday canceled the city’s 58th annual Christmas Parade scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 12 because pf the pandemic, but Mayor Jose Segarra will light the 50-foot silhouette Killeen Christmas Tree at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Killeen Community Center. The public is invited to drive in, park and watch from personal vehicles. Holiday Under the Stars is from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Lions Club Park Hike & Bike Trail.

Temple, meanwhile will kick off the holiday season with the city’s 74th annual Christmas Parade at 6:30 p.m. next Monday, but this year residents will drive along the parade route to view stationary parade entries. The route begins at West Central Avenue and South 11th Street and winds through Santa Fe Plaza to South Ninth Street. Police will line up residents beginning at 6:15 p.m. on South 11th. Residents must remain in vehicles at all times.

The City of Killeen has dedicated CARES Act funds to provide assistance to residents impacted by the pandemic with city utility payments. Information is available online.

The Central Texas Food Bank will distribute food from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Dec. 19 at Temple College at 2600 South 1st St. in Temple.

The City of Temple has closed some facilities to walk-in traffic 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.

The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor dashboard Wednesday still showed nine active cases of the virus and a total of 178 since Aug. 1.

Texas A&M University-Central Texas Wednesday showed two active cases, one involving a student and one involving a staff member, and a total of 13 student cases and five employee cases since March.

The Killeen ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed 239 cases involving students and 277 involving employees since March 16 and 37 student cases and 47 staff cases in the past seven days. The district Wednesday reported one active case involving an employee at Cedar Valley Elementary and cases involving an employee at Fowler Elementary; two students and an employee at Harker Heights Elementary; two students at Haynes Elementary; a student at Iduma Elementary; an employee at Ira Cross Elementary; an employee at Maude Moore Wood Elementary; a student and an employee at Montague Village Elementary; two employees at Nolanville Elementary; a student and an employee at Oveta Culp Hobby Elementary; an employee at Reeces Creek Elementary; two students at Saegert Elementary; three employees and four students at Skipcha Elementary; four employees at Trimmier Elementary; an employee at West Ward Elementary; an employee at Willow Springs Elementary; a student and an employee at Eastern Hills Middle School; two students and an employee at Liberty Hill Middle School; an employee at Live Oak Ridge Middle School; an employee at Manor Middle School; two students and two employees at Palo Alto Middle School; a student at Rancier Middle School; two students and an employee at Smith Middle School; a student and three employees at Union Grove Middle School; five students and an employee at Ellison High School; two students and two employees at Harker Heights High School; an employee at Killeen High School; a student and an employee at the KISD Career Center; five students and three employees at Shoemaker High School, and 11 employees at non-campus facilities.

The Killeen ISD will offer free COVID-19 screening to students and employees from 7 a.m. to 11 .m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on regular school days starting on Thursday at the former Nolan Middle School building at 505 Jasper Dr. in Killeen, using the 2nd Street entrance. Screening is by appointment and students younger than 18 require signed waivers from parents or guardians. The state-funded testing uses BinaxNOW nasal swab tests, which provide results in 15 minutes. Information is available online.

The district will continue to serve free breakfasts and lunches to all of its students through the end of the school year after the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided additional funding to extend the program beyond Dec. 18. Children through the age of 18 may receive free meals on regular school days until May 27 at all KSID campuses. Information is available online.

The Temple ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed five cases at Temple High School; one at Bonham Middle School; one case at Cater Elementary; one case at Kennedy-Powell Elementary, and one case at Raye-Allen Elementary.

The Belton ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed one case at Pirtle Elementary; one at Sparta Elementary; one at Belton Middle School; two at Lake Belton Middle School; one at North Belton Middle School; four at Belton High School; three at Lake Belton High School, and two at non-campus facilities.

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 Wednesday reported five more deaths from the virus, a 93-year-old man, a 67-year-old man, a 97-year-old man, an 88-year-old woman and a 70-year-old man, raising the virus’ toll in the county to 203.

State data showed 192 deaths.

Another 141 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the county, 41 through ongoing surge testing, increasing the total to 14,672.

Of the total 803 cases are active and a record 104 patients are hospitalized, 19 of them on ventilators.

Sixty nine of the 104 are McLennan County residents.

The new cases involve one resident younger than 1; seven who range in age from 1 to 10; eight who range in age from 11 to 17; 33 who range in age from 18 to 25; seven who range in age from 26 to 29; 18 residents in their 30s; 14 in their 40s; 25 in their 50s; 17 in their 60s; seven in their 70s, and four who are 80 or older.

Officials Wednesday reported 17 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, two cases in the McLennan County Jail, and 142 active cases in schools in the county.

Since the start of the pandemic, 15 churches in the county have been identified as potential sources of a spread of the virus, health officials said during a virtual news conference Wednesday.

COVID-19 patients represented 26% of all hospitalizations Wednesday in the state Trauma Service Area that includes McLennan County and they occupied 18.5% of available hospital beds.

That exceeds the 15% limit, triggering capacity reductions and restricting elective surgeries under orders Gov. Greg Abbott issued on Sept. 17 and Oct. 7.

Elective surgeries continue at Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center, at least for now, but not at Ascension Providence.

“We have actually decided to stop elective surgeries at Ascension Providence. We have many COVID patients and we continue to take care of heart patients and other emergencies,” Dr. Richard Haskett said.

“We are having to remain cautious because of the number patients we are seeing.”

He cautioned residents, however that they play a role in keeping hospitals open.

“You have a role in this as far as wearing masks and staying safe. It must remain collaborative for that to continue,” he said.

McLennan County Judge Scott Felton who issued order earlier this week that restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, manufacturing facilities, gyms, exercise facilities and classes, museums and libraries in the county are required to return to maximum 50 percent occupancy levels, said Wednesday the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is in charge of enforcing restaurant and bar restrictions.

“They have a pretty tall task ahead of them,” he said.

“They can take their licenses away and handle complaints, which is a pretty big deal.”

Waco’s annual holiday celebration, Waco Wonderland, moves online this year because of the pandemic and includes a virtual tree lighting ceremony and fireworks show Friday evening.

Features will air through Sunday on the Waco Wonderland Facebook page and Waco City Cable Channel.

The Central Texas Food Bank will distribute food from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday at Waco ISD Stadium at 1401 South New Road.

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’s online dashboard showed 81 active cases Wednesday, 65 involving students, 13 involving staff and three involving faculty. Over the past seven days, 26 cases have been confirmed for a clinical positivity rate of 2%. Since Aug 1, 1,582 cases have been confirmed. Fall semester on-campus instruction has mostly ended. Most on-campus instruction has ended. Spring classes begin on Jan. 19.

The McLennan Community College dashboard showed seven active cases Wednesday, five involving students. Over the past three weeks, 206 cases have been confirmed, 175 involving students and 31 staff.

The Waco ISD dashboard Wednesday showed 113 cumulative cases involving students, 120 involving staff and eight involving personnel designated as “other.” The district Wednesday reported one active case at Crestview Elementary; one at Dean Highland Elementary; one at J.H. Hines Elementary; two at Lake Air Montessori; two at Tennyson Middle School, and three at University High School.

The Midway ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed one active case involving a student and three involving staff at Castleman Creek Elementary; one involving a student at Hewitt Elementary; one involving a student and one involving a staff member at South Bosque Elementary; one involving a staff member at Speegleville Elementary; one involving a student at Spring Valley Elementary; one involving a student and one involving a staff member at Woodway Elementary; two involving students and one involving a staff member at River Valley Intermediate; two involving students and one involving an employee at Woodgate Intermediate; six involving students and six involving staff at Midway Middle School; six involving students and four involving staff at Midway High School, and one involving an employee at a non-campus facility.

The Lorena ISD dashboard Wednesday showed one case involving a student and one involving an employee at Lorena Primary; one involving a student and three involving employees at Lorena Middle; six involving students and two involving employees at Lorena High, and one involving a staff member at an on-campus facility.

The Mart ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed two active cases at Mart High School.

The McGregor ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed two active cases at McGregor Primary; two active cases at McGregor Elementary; one active case at Isbill Junior High, and two active cases at McGregor High School.

MCLENNAN COUNTY COVID-19 DEATHS

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

CORYELL COUNTY

Coryell County Wednesday reported 1,347 total cases, an increase of 28 from the county’s previous report.

Of the total, 411 cases were active and 921 patients have recovered.

State data, which include Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates, showed 2,565 total confirmed cases, 2,140 recoveries, and 17 deaths.

The Gatesville ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed 33 active cases at Gatesville High School, 27 involving students; 11 cases at the junior high, eight involving students; nine cases at the intermediate school, seven involving students; four cases at the elementary school, three involving students; 13 cases at the primary school, five involving students, and three cases involving administration staff.

The Copperas Cove ISD’s online dashboard Wednesday showed three cases involving students and five involving staff at Copperas Cove High School; one involving an employee at Crossroads High School; one involving a student and one involving an employee at Copperas Cove Junior High; three involving students and one involving an employee at S.C., Lee Junior High; one involving an employee at Clements Parsons Elementary; one involving an employee at Fairview Jewell Elementary; one involving an employee at House Creek Elementary; one involving a student at Martin Walker Elementary; four involving employees at Mae Stevens Early Learning Academy, and two involving non-campus employees.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Wednesday showed 72 cases involving inmates and 26 cases involving employees at the Christina Melton Crain Unit in Gatesville where 450 inmates were on medical restriction and 74 were isolated; three cases involving employees at the Hilltop Unit in Gatesville; three cases involving inmates and 12 involving employees at the Alfred D. Hughes Unit in Gatesville where 154 inmates were medically restricted and two were medically isolated; six cases involving employees at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville where one inmate was isolated; one case involving an inmate and four involving employees at the Dr. Lane Murray Unit in Gatesville where 100 inmates were restricted and one was isolated, and three cases involving inmates and five involving employees at the Linda Woodman State Jail in Gatesville where 22 inmates were restricted and four were isolated.

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 820 confirmed cases Wednesday, an increase of seven.

Of the total, 700 patients have recovered.

Fifteen residents diagnosed with the virus have died, according to state data.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Wednesday reported 34 cases involving employees at the William Hobby Unit in Marlin where 79 inmates were medically restricted and one was isolated, and 42 cases involving inmates and eight involving employees at the Marlin Transfer Unit where 365 inmates were medically restricted and 42 were medically isolated.

LIMESTONE COUNTY

Limestone County reported 800 confirmed cases Wednesday, an increase of six.

Of the total, 687 patients have recovered.

The virus has claimed 18 lives in the county, according to state data.

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 reported 1,897 confirmed cases of the virus Wednesday, an increase of 20, and 872 probable cases for a total of 2,769.

Of that number, 234 cases were active, 13 patients were hospitalized and 2,490 have recovered.

The virus has claimed 45 lives in the county, according to local data.

State data showed 38 deaths.

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

OTHER COUNTIES

According to the latest figures Wednesday Bosque County was reporting 542 cases, an increase of 11, and 466 recoveries. State data based on death certificates and county of residence showed a 16th death.

Freestone County reported a total of 522 cases Wednesday. Of the total 471 patients have recovered. Thirteen residents have died, according to state data. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Wednesday reported three cases involving employees at the William Boyd Unit in Teague.

Hamilton County reported 301 cases Wednesday. Of the total 240 patients have recovered. State data showed eight deaths.

Hill County reported a total of 1,235 cases Wednesday and 953 recoveries. A 20th resident has died, according to state data. The Hill College dashboard Wednesday showed three active cases involving staff at the school’s Hillsboro campus. The Hillsboro ISD Wednesday reported three student cases and one employee case at the elementary school; four student cases and two employee cases at the intermediate school; six student cases and two employee cases at the junior high, and 14 student and four staff cases at the high school.

Lampasas County reported 403 cases Wednesday and 327 recoveries. Eleven residents have died. On-campus instruction at Lampasas High School has been suspended until Dec. 7. Remote learning started on Nov. 27 after 22 active cases involving students and staff were confirmed on campus.

Leon County reported 451 cases Wednesday and 392 recoveries. State data showed 16 deaths.

Milam County reported 673 confirmed cases Wednesday. Of the total, 43 cases were active, two patients were hospitalized and 621 have recovered. Nine residents have died.

Mills County reported 153 cases Wednesday and 104 recoveries. State data showed four deaths. The county’s first death from the virus was reported on Oct. 21.

Robertson County was reporting 535 confirmed cases Wednesday. Of the total, 62 cases were active and 467 patients have recovered. Six residents have died, according to local data. State data showed eight deaths. The Bremond ISD has switched to remote instruction for the remainder of the week after more than 120 students and staff were out sick Monday. And the suspension of on-campus instruction could last longer than that. “I fully expect our numbers to continue to rise so there is a good chance that we will be remote until after the Christmas break, but we will not make that call until Friday,” the post said. “We want you to be prepared. We do not have enough subs to cover classes or enough bus drivers to run routes. This is NOT what we want to do but feel like it is best for the health of our staff and students,” the post said.

San Saba County reported 312 cases Wednesday and 245 recoveries. Eight residents have now died, state data showed. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice reported five cases involving inmates and seven involving employees Wednesday at the San Saba Transfer Unit where 22 inmates were medically restricted and four were isolated.

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

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