Central Texas COVID-19 death toll nears 1,500; state toll approaches 44,000
(KWTX) - The statewide COVID-19 death toll rose by 315 Thursday as it climbed toward 44,000 and the Central Texas toll was nearing 1,500 even as the number of newly confirmed cases in the region continued to decline.
The virus has claimed the lives of 10 more Central Texas residents, according to data released Thursday.
As many as 1,509 area residents diagnosed with the COVID-19 have died, but according to Texas Department of State Health Services data, the regional death toll Thursday was 1,482 including 362 Bell County residents, 17 fewer than the local count of 379; 31 Bosque County residents; 78 Coryell County residents; 29 Falls County residents; 46 Freestone County residents; 25 Hamilton County residents; 98 Hill County residents; 30 Lampasas County residents; 39 Leon County residents; 63 Limestone County residents; 441 McLennan County residents, nine more than the local count of 432; 40 Milam County residents; 20 Mills County residents; 123 Navarro County residents, 10 fewer than the local count of 133; 38 Robertson County residents, and 19 San Saba County residents.
The statewide death toll Thursday was 43,878.
The total number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in Central Texas increased by 133 Thursday to 73,651.
DSHS reported 5,043 additional cases Thursday, 3,493 of the new, increasing the statewide total to 2,309,124.
Of the total, 152,267 cases were active Thursday, 2,458,818 patients have recovered, and 5,263 were hospitalized 245 fewer than on Wednesday.
In Trauma Service Area L, which includes Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam and Mills counties, at least 75 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 were hospitalized Thursday, down from 85 on Wednesday, accounting for about 8% all hospitalizations and filling about 6.7% of available beds.
At least 42 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Thursday in Trauma Service Area M, which includes McLennan, Bosque, Falls, Hill and Limestone counties, accounting for about 9% of all hospitalizations and filling about 6.5% of available beds.
Hospitalization rates in both TSAs have dropped below the level that triggered bar closures, capacity reductions and halted elective surgeries under orders Gov. Greg Abbott issued on Sept. 17 and Oct. 7.
The statewide Lab Test Date positivity rate Thursday was 8.29% down from 8.65% Wednesday.
A positivity rate of 5% or less generally indicates the virus is contained, experts say.
Gov. Greg Abbott issued a new executive order Tuesday lifting most of the restrictions included in earlier orders including the statewide mask mandate and restrictions on business capacity.
“Under this updated guidance, a public school system’s current practices on masks may continue unchanged,” the TEA said Wednesday.
“Local school boards have full authority to determine their local mask policy.”
The order applies to counties in Trauma Service Areas where COVID-19 hospitalizations represent 15% or less of hospital capacity, but it does not allow county judges to impose jail time for failure to follow COVID-19 orders or imposing penalties for failure to wear a face mask.
Another 2,100 Central Texas residents have received a first dose of vaccine and another 2,100 are fully vaccinated.
As of Thursday, 96,578 or about 13% of the residents 16 or older in the 16 counties KWTX is tracking have received a first dose and 54,247 or just more than 7% are fully vaccinated.
Statewide, 3,911,642 or about 16% of residents 16 and older have received a first dose and 2,177,635 or about 8.8% of residents 16 and older are fully vaccinated.
Data Thursday from the state vaccination dashboard showed in Bell County, 27,747 residents, or just more than 10% of those 16 and older, have received the first dose and 18,044 or about 6.6% of those 16 and older, are fully vaccinated.
In McLennan County, 31,795 residents, or 15.8% of those 16 and older, have received one dose and 16,908 or 8.4% of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated.
In Bosque County, 16.6% of those 16 and older have received one dose and almost 10% are fully vaccinated; in Coryell County, 9.4% have received one and 6% are fully vaccinated; in Falls County, 14.5% have received one and 7.6% are fully vaccinated; in Freestone County, 9.5% have received one dose and 4.6% are fully vaccinated; in Hamilton County, 18.7% have received one dose and 9.7% are fully vaccinated; in Hill County, 13.5% have received one dose and 7.5% are fully vaccinated; in Lampasas County, 10.7% have received one dose and 5.6% are fully vaccinated; in Leon County, 11.5% have received one dose and about 5% are fully vaccinated; in Limestone County, 13% have received one dose and 5.3% are fully vaccinated; in Milam County 14.6% have received one dose and just more than 8% are fully vaccinated; in Mills County, 18% have received one dose and just more than 10% are fully vaccinated; in Navarro County 21.3% have received one dose and 10% are fully vaccinated; in Robertson County, 15.4% have received one and 6% are fully vaccinated, and in San Saba County, 6.7% have received one and 2.3% are fully vaccinated.
School teachers and childcare workers in Texas are now eligible for vaccination against COVID-19, the Department of State Health Services announced Wednesday after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services directed states to expand eligibility. The directive says “those who work in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, as well as Head Start and Early Head Start programs (including teachers, staff, and bus drivers) and those who work as or for licensed child care providers, including center-based and family care providers,” are now eligible for the vaccine in addition to older adults and those with pre-existing conditions that put them at higher risk from the virus.
The state was expecting 24,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine this week and another 200,000 doses next week.
The state was due to receive 626,280 initial doses of Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines this week and 17,730 doses were designated for hub sites and other providers in Central Texas.
The six hub sites in Central Texas were due to receive a total of 14,760 doses.
DSHS data show the Bell County Public Health District, was due to receive 7,020 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week; the Coryell Health Medical Clinic in Gatesville 1,170 doses of the Pfizer vaccine; Falls Community Hospital and Clinic in Marlin 1,170 doses of Pfizer vaccine; Ascension Providence Health Center in Waco 2,340 doses of Pfizer vaccine; the Waco-McLennan County Health District 1,500 doses of Moderna vaccine, and the Corsicana-Navarro County Public Health District 1,500 doses of Moderna vaccine.
The state also ordered 429,600 second doses.
Freestone, Hill and Robertson counties are among 26 selected for the first week of the state’s Save Our Seniors initiative to ensure more seniors are vaccinated throughout the state, Gov Greg Abbott announced Monday.
The state allocated as many as 8,000 vaccine doses for the first week of the program, which targets residents who are 75 years of age or older or homebound.
Texas Division of Emergency Management and Texas Military Department personnel will work with local officials either to set up central drive-thru vaccine clinics or to administer vaccinations directly to homebound seniors.
The Bell County Public Health District reported the deaths of two more residents diagnosed with the virus Thursday, a Bell County man in his 70s and a Killeen man in his 80s, raising the county’s death toll to 379, according to local data.
State data showed 362 deaths, an increase of two.
The health district reported 60 additional cases of the virus Thursday, raising the county’s total to 20,671.
Of the total, 379 cases were active Thursday and 19,744 residents have recovered.
The county’s incidence rate increased Thursday to 151.0 per 100,000 residents.
State data, which includes Fort Hood personnel who live on post, showed 20,717 total cases Thursday, an increase of 49.
The Central Texas Food Bank will distribute free food from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday at Temple College at 2600 South 1st St. in Temple.
COVID-19 testing continues from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays throughout March at Bell County Fire & Rescue at 84 North Main St. in Nolanville.
Temple’s city hall, human resources office, historic post office, Parks and Recreation office, service center, and the Hillcrest Cemetery office, all of which were closed in November as COVID-19 cases surged, began to reopen Monday. Temple’s public library will remain closed to walk-in traffic through March 15. Municipal Court and the Utility Business Office remain closed to walk-in traffic, as well.
The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor dashboard Thursday showed 14 active cases and a total of 328 since Aug. 1, 2020.
Texas A&M University-Central Texas Thursday showed three active cases, one involving a student, and a total of 39 since March 2020, 28 of them involving students.
The Killeen ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed eight cases involving students and six cases involving staff members in the past seven days and 1,567 confirmed cases since March 16, 2020, 756 involving students and 811 involving staff.
The Killeen ISD is offering free COVID-19 screening to students and employees from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on regular school days 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 Temple ISD’s online dashboard showed two cases Thursday at Thornton Elementary.
The Belton ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed nine cases across eight campuses.
The Waco-McLennan County Health District reported 18 additional deaths from the virus Thursday, 16 of them backlogged from 2020, including an 82-year-old woman, a 71-year-old woman, a 93-year-old woman, a 79-year-old man, a 98-year-old woman, a 79-year-old man, a 62-year-old man, a 61-year-old man, a 67-year-old man; a 64-year-old man, a 68-year-old woman, a 32-year-old man, a 78-year-old man, an 87-year-old woman, a 77-year-old woman, a 95-year-old man, an 88-year-old woman, and a 58-year-old woman.
The deaths increased the virus’ toll in the county to 432.
State data showed 441.
The health district also reported 54 additional cases of the virus Thursday, increasing the county’s total to 25,291.
Of the total, 208 cases were active Thursday, 24,651 residents have recovered and 43 were hospitalized, 16 of them on ventilators.
Thirty one of the 43 are McLennan County residents.
The Central Texas Food Bank will distribute free food from 10 a.m. to noon on March 25 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. 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 405 active cases Thursday, 402 involving students, the highest number since early September 2020. Since Aug. 1, 2020, a total of 3,342 cases have been confirmed. In the past seven days, 118 tests have come back positive. Baylor is requiring weekly COVID-19 testing of students, faculty and staff. The university has decided to restrict school-sponsored international travel through the end of June. A decision on travel in July in August will be made by April 1.
The McLennan Community College dashboard Thursday showed five active cases, four of them involving students, and a cumulative total of 344 cases, 264 involving students.
The Waco ISD dashboard showed two active cases Thursday at Lake Air Montessori, and 264 involving students, 280 involving staff and 15 involving those described as “other” since Sept. 8, 2020.
The Midway ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed eight cases across four campuses.
The Lorena ISD dashboard Thursday showed no active cases.
The Mart ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed six cases at Mart Elementary School.
The McGregor ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed no active cases.
Coryell County had 6,604 confirmed and 241 probable cases Thursday.
State data showed 6,206 patients have recovered and a 78th resident has died.
The Copperas Cove ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed 12 active cases across five campuses.
The Gatesville ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed a case involving a student at Gatesville High School and one involving a student at Gatesville Elementary.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Thursday reported six cases involving employees at the Christina Melton Crain Unit; one case involving an inmate and four involving employees at the Hilltop Unit where one inmate was isolated; one case involving an inmate and 13 cases involving employees at the Alfred D. Hughes Unit where one inmate was isolated; one case involving an inmate and four cases involving employees at the Mountain View Unit where 31 inmates were medically restricted and one was isolated; 21 cases involving inmates and 17 involving employees at the Dr. Lane Murray Unit where 698 inmates were restricted and 21 were isolated, and three cases involving employees at the Linda Woodman State Jail where 204 inmates were medically restricted.
“Planning has already been underway to resume visitation at all TDCJ units soon,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday on its website.
“It will take some time to implement new procedures, but (they) will likely include the use of rapid testing and pre-scheduling of visits. It is likely that in-person visitation days will be expanded, and video visitation instituted during the pandemic will continue.”
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.
Falls County had 1,835 confirmed and 179 probable cases Thursday.
State data showed 1,860 patients have recovered.
The virus has claimed the lives of 29 residents, state data showed.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Thursday reported one case involving an inmate and three involving employees at the William Hobby Unit in Marlin where 123 inmates were medically restricted and one was isolated, and two cases involving employees at the Marlin Transfer Unit.
Limestone County had 2,079 confirmed and 572 probable cases Thursday.
At least 2,316 patients have recovered and 63 have died.
Navarro County had 3,390 confirmed and 2,205 probable cases Thursday.
Of the total, 5,322 patients have recovered.
State data showed 123 deaths.
Local data showed 133 deaths.
Bosque County had 1,309 confirmed and 291 probable cases of the virus Thursday. Of the total, 1,432 patients have recovered and 31 have died, according to state data.
Freestone County had 1,039 confirmed and 720 probable cases of the virus Thursday. At least 1,570 patients have recovered and a 46th has died according to state data. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Thursday reported six cases involving employees at the William Boyd Unit in Teague. The City of Teague is receiving an allocation of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine and plans to begin vaccinations this week. Appointments are required and may be made online.
Hamilton County had 694 confirmed and 50 probable cases of the virus Thursday. At least 684 patients have recovered and 25 have died, according to state data.
Hill County had 3,656 confirmed cases and 661 probable cases Thursday. At least 3,835 patients have recovered and two more have died, raising the virus’ toll to 98, according to state data. The Hill College dashboard showed no active cases Thursday on the Hill County campus. The Hillsboro ISD dashboard showed two cases Thursday involving employees at Hillsboro Intermediate School and one involving an employee at Hillsboro Junior High.
Lampasas County had 1,739 confirmed and 322 probable cases Thursday. At least 1,804 patients have recovered, and 30 residents have died.
Leon County had 1,213 confirmed and 329 probable cases Thursday. At least 1,360 patients have recovered, and a 39th resident has died, according to state data.
Milam County had 1,343 confirmed and 1,025 probable cases Thursday. At least 2,331 patients have recovered and 40 have died, according to state data. Four patients were hospitalized Thursday.
Mills County had 577 confirmed and 57 probable cases of the virus Thursday. At least 551 patients have recovered and 20 have died, according to state data.
Robertson County had 1,615 confirmed cases Thursday and 404 probable cases. At least 1,784 patients have recovered and 38 have died, according to state data.
San Saba County had 550 confirmed cases Thursday and 251 probable cases. At least 751 patients have recovered and 19 have died, according to state data. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Thursday reported three cases involving employees at the San Saba Transfer Unit.
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