One city eases restrictions as number of new COVID-19 cases, deaths declines
(KWTX) – The City of Waco Friday will begin the first phase of reopening city facilities and relaxing restrictions on city property put in place in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In the first phase of the plan Friday, city operated museums and venues will continue to operate with restrictions; conventions and meetings may allow groups up to 75% of facility capacity; outdoor events on city property will be permitted with restrictions and safety precautions; in-person city council and city commission meetings may resume, although public participation will remain virtual, but city buildings closed because of the pandemic will remain closed.
Depending on vaccination rates and low numbers of new cases and virus-related hospitalizations, under the second phase of the plan, meeting and convention occupancy could be expanded to 85% with restrictions; members of the public could attend city council and commission meetings in person with a 50% restriction on occupancy, and some city buildings would be reopened with restrictions.
Under the third phase, the city would move into “a fully open status.”
Eight-three new cases of COVID-19 were reported Thursday in Central Texas, increasing the regional total to 75,330.
The Department of State Health Services reported two more deaths from the virus Thursday, both in McLennan County.
COVID-19 has now claimed as many as 1,606 lives in Central Texas, but according to DSHS data Thursday, the regional death toll was 1,585 including 393 Bell County residents, 15 fewer than the local count of 408; 33 Bosque County residents; 83 Coryell County residents; 29 Falls County residents; 48 Freestone County residents; 26 Hamilton County residents; 104 Hill County residents; 32 Lampasas County residents; 41 Leon County residents; 71 Limestone County residents; 461 McLennan County residents, 14 more than the local count of 447; 45 Milam County residents; 21 Mills County residents; 136 Navarro County residents, six fewer than the local count of 142; 39 Robertson County residents, and 23 San Saba County residents.
The statewide death toll rose by 132 to 46,868 Thursday.
DSHS reported 2,337 additional confirmed cases of the virus Thursday, 2,167 of them new new, raising the statewide total to 2,377,275.
Of the total, 98,916 cases were active Thursday, the first time the number has dropped to less than 100,000 since late October.
At least 2,607,587 residents have recovered and 3,410 were hospitalized Thursday, about 50 fewer than on Wednesday.
In Trauma Service Area L, which includes Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam and Mills counties, at least 43 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 were hospitalized Thursday, accounting for about 5% all hospitalizations and filling about 4% of available beds.
At least 33 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Thursday in Trauma Service Area M, which includes McLennan, Bosque, Falls, Hill and Limestone counties, accounting for about 7% of all hospitalizations and filling about 5% of available beds.
The statewide Lab Test Date positivity rate Thursday was 5.68%, down from 6.04% Wednesday.
A positivity rate of 5% or less generally indicates the virus is contained, experts say.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has updated its long-term care facility visitation rules expanding visitation statewide. Fully vaccinated residents of nursing facilities are now allowed to visit in-person with family members and friends provided proper safeguards are in place including the use of face masks.
The new rules not only allow close personal contact for fully vaccinated residents, but also outdoor visitation at all facilities, even those with COVID-19 outbreaks.
As many as two essential caregivers may visit any resident, including those at or near the end of life, regardless of COVID-19 status, and all visitation is without time limits.
Nursing facilities no longer need to monitor visits or escort visitors or limit indoor visitation to areas with barriers or booths.
All adults in Texas will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines effective on March 29, the Department of State Health Services, and local health officials are preparing for a surge.
To meet it, Bell County health officials plan to open the Bell County Expo Center vaccination site next Tuesday and Wednesday. Appointments will be posted on the county’s new schedule site on Friday morning.
“With the state opening eligibility, we recognize that there is a large demand for first doses,” Bell County Judge David Blackburn said.
“Our goal is to vaccinate 1,500 each of those days.”
Officials plan to open the Expo site again in late April to administer second doses.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, working with the Texas Employee Retirement System, the Texas Teachers Retirement System, AARP, and Medicare health plans, will launch a direct outreach effort next week to ensure unvaccinated seniors in the state can get vaccinated. Week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday.
The Department of State Health Services has directed vaccine providers too allow anyone 80 or older to go to the head of the line for vaccinations, regardless of whether they have appointments.
The Central Texas Veterans Health Care System is already offering the COVID19 vaccine to veterans of all ages.
Appointments aren’t necessary, but veterans must bring their VA IDs to prove they’re enrolled in the VA health care system.
Delays are possible depending on demand, but the vaccine is being offered from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Olin E. Teague Veterans Medical Center in Temple, Doris Miller Veterans Medical Center in Waco, and at the Austin Outpatient Clinic in Austin.
DSHS plans to launch a website next week to allow residents to register for shots through some public health providers.
At least 157,474 or 21.1% of the residents 16 or older in the 16 counties KWTX is tracking have received a first dose while 86,017 or 11.5% are fully vaccinated.
Statewide 6,595,986 or 26.8% of residents 16 and older have received a first dose and 3,345,895 or 13.6% of residents 16 and older were fully vaccinated.
Data Thursday from the state vaccination dashboard showed in Bell County 47,925 residents, or 17.6% of those 16 and older had received the first dose, and 26,951 or 9.9% of those 16 and older were fully vaccinated.
In McLennan County, 48,998 residents, or 24.4% of those 16 and older have received one dose and 27,663 or 13.8% of those 16 and older were fully vaccinated.
In Bosque County, 29.9% of those 16 and older have received one dose and 13.8% are fully vaccinated; in Coryell County 13.7% have received one and 8.3% are fully vaccinated; in Falls County, 21.4% have received one and 13.7% are fully vaccinated; in Freestone County, 18.3% have received one dose and 7.5% are fully vaccinated; in Hamilton County, 34.9% have received one dose and 18.7% are fully vaccinated; in Hill County, 25.9% have received one dose and 13.2% are fully vaccinated; in Lampasas County, 18.3% have received one dose and 9.5% are fully vaccinated; in Leon County, 19.5% have received one dose and 7.8% are fully vaccinated; in Limestone County, 19.1% have received one dose and 8.2% are fully vaccinated; in Milam County 26.4% have received one dose and 12% are fully vaccinated; in Mills County, 32.7% have received one dose and 16.1% are fully vaccinated; in Navarro County 30.9% have received one dose and 18% are fully vaccinated; in Robertson County, 24.3% have received one and 12.1% are fully vaccinated, and in San Saba County, 15.6 % have received one dose and 5% are fully vaccinated.
About 900,000 first doses of vaccine are due to be shipped to providers in the state next week and the Department of State Health Services is allocating 685,470 of the doses to hub providers including the Bell County Public Health District, which is due to receive 7,020 doses of Pfizer vaccine; Coryell Health Medical Clinic in Gatesville, which is due to receive 1,170 doses of Pfizer vaccine; Falls Community Hospital and Clinic in Marlin, which is due to receive 1,170 doses of Pfizer vaccine; Ascension Providence Health Center in Waco, which is due to receive 2,340 doses of Pfizer vaccine; the Waco-McLennan County Health District, which is due to receive 1,500 doses of Moderna vaccine, and the Corsicana-Navarro County Public Health District, which is due to receive 1,500 doses of Moderna vaccine.
Another 230,000 initial doses are scheduled to be delivered to pharmacies and federally qualified health providers in the state.
The state is also ordering 674,580 doses intended as the second dose for residents first vaccinated a few weeks ago.
The Bell County Public Health District reported 29 additional cases Thursday, increasing the county’s total to 21,289.
Of the total, 259 cases were active Thursday, 20,622 residents have recovered, and 408 have died.
“We are happy to see our incidence rate decline a bit more to 71.4 per 100,000,” health district Directoir Dr. Amanda Robison-Chadwell said.
State data, which includes Fort Hood personnel who live on post, showed 21,366 total cases Thursday and 393 deaths.
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.
The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor dashboard Thursday showed five active cases and a total of 339 since Aug. 1, 2020.
Texas A&M University-Central Texas Thursday showed no active cases and a total of 40 since March 2020, 29 of them involving students.
The Killeen ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed three cases involving students and five cases involving staff members in the past seven days and 1,614 confirmed cases since March 16, 2020, 784 involving students and 830 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 three active cases across three campuses Thursday.
The Belton ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed five cases across four campuses.
The Waco-McLennan County Health District reported an additional 30 cases of the virus Thursday, raising the county’s total to 25,950.
Of the total, 179 cases were active Thursday, 25,324 residents have recovered, and 33 were hospitalized, six on ventilators.
The health district was still reporting 447 deaths Thursday, but state data showed 461, an increase of two.
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 110 active cases Thursday, 92 involving students, five involving faculty members and 13 involving staff members. Since Aug. 1, 2020, a total of 3,578 cases have been confirmed. In the past seven days, 55 tests have come back positive. Baylor is requiring weekly COVID-19 testing of students, faculty, and staff.
The McLennan Community College dashboard Thursday showed three cases, two involving students, and a cumulative total of 349 cases, 268 involving students.
The Waco ISD dashboard Thursday showed seven active and 275 cases involving students, 285 involving staff and 17 involving those described as “other” since Sept. 8, 2020. Five of the active cases were at Waco High School.
The Midway ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed three cases across two campuses.
The Lorena ISD dashboard Thursday showed one case involving a student at Lorena High School.
The Mart ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed one case at Mart High School and eight cases at Mart Elementary.
The McGregor ISD’s online dashboard showed one case at Isbill Junior High Thursday.
Coryell County had 6,712 confirmed and 252 probable cases Thursday.
State data showed 6,814 patients have recovered.
The virus has claimed 83 lives in the county, state data showed.
The Copperas Cove ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed three cases across three campuses.
The Gatesville ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed no active cases.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice reported five cases involving employees Thursday at the Christina Melton Crain Unit where 12 inmates were restricted and two were isolated; five cases involving employees at the Hilltop Unit; 14 cases involving employees at the Alfred D. Hughes Unit; six cases involving employees at the Mountain View Unit; one case involving an inmate and three involving employees at the Dr. Lane Murray Unit where two inmates were isolated, and three cases involving employees at the Linda Woodman State Jail where 29 inmates were restricted and one was 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.
Falls County had 1,861 confirmed and 182 probable cases Thursday.
State data showed 1,988 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 employee at the William Hobby Unit in Marlin and one case involving an employee at the Marlin Transfer Unit.
Limestone County had 2,089 confirmed and 586 probable cases Thursday.
At least 2,579 patients have recovered and 71 have died, state data showed.
Navarro County had 3,401 confirmed and 2,222 probable cases Wednesday.
Of the total, 5,436 patients have recovered.
State data showed 136 deaths.
Local data showed 142 deaths.
Bosque County had 1,333 confirmed and 298 probable cases of the virus Thursday. Of the total, 1,571 patients have recovered and 33 have died, according to state data.
Freestone County had 1,057 confirmed and 739 probable cases of the virus Thursday. At least 1,725 patients have recovered and 48 have died according to state data. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Thursday reported four cases involving employees at the William Boyd Unit in Teague.
Hamilton County had 703 confirmed and 51 probable cases of the virus Thursday. At least 721 patients have recovered and 26 have died, according to state data.
Hill County Thursday had 3,704 confirmed cases and 673 probable cases. At least 4,219 patients have recovered and 104 have died, according to state data. The Hill College dashboard showed no active cases Thursday on the Hill County campus. The Hillsboro ISD dashboard Thursday showed one case involving an employee at Hillsboro Elementary and one involving an employee and one involving a student at Hillsboro Intermediate.
Lampasas County had 1,765 confirmed and 328 probable cases Thursday. At least 2,032 patients have recovered, and 32 residents have died.
Leon County had 1,242 confirmed and 337 probable cases Thursday. At least 1,513 patients have recovered, and 41 residents have died, according to state data.
Milam County had 1,378 confirmed and 1,049 probable cases Thursday. At least 2,417 patients have recovered and 45 have died, according to state data. Milam County is among 25 counties chosen for the fourth week of the state’s Save Our Seniors Initiative through which state agencies will work with local officials to set up either central drive-thru vaccination sites or to administer vaccines directly to homebound seniors.
Mills County had 588 confirmed and 59 probable cases of the virus Thursday. At least 616 patients have recovered and 21 have died, according to state data.
Robertson County had 1,639 confirmed cases Thursday and 409 probable cases. At least 1,981 patients have recovered and 39 have died, according to state data.
San Saba County had 542 confirmed cases Thursday and 255 probable cases. At least 782 patients have recovered and 23 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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