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Mask-wearing guidance eased, but change affects fewer than 30% of Central Texas residents

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee adjusts her face mask while screening...
A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee adjusts her face mask while screening passengers entering through a checkpoint at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Airports are one of the places where the CDC says masks should still be worn. (AP/file)(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 6:46 PM CDT
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(KWTX) - Those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can stop wearing masks indoors in most places under new guidance the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued Thursday, but the change applies to fewer than 30% of Central Texas residents 16 and older.

“We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walkensky said Thursday.

The new guidance still calls for the use of masks in crowded indoors settings including buses, airplanes, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters, but it could mean fewer restrictions in workplaces and schools.

Statewide, nearly 52% of residents 16 and older have received one dose of vaccine and just more than 40% are fully vaccinated, Department of State Health Services data showed Thursday.

The percentages are significantly lower in Central Texas, where just more than 36% of eligible residents have received one dose and 28% are fully vaccinated.

In Bell County, almost 32% of residents 16 and older have received one dose and 24% are fully vaccinated.

In McLennan County, almost 43% of eligible residents have received one dose, and almost 34% are fully vaccinated.

In Bosque County Thursday, according to data from the State Vaccination Dashboard, almost 35% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated. Almost 19% of eligible Coryell County residents are fully vaccinated as are more than 25% of eligible Falls County residents; 22% of eligible Freestone County residents; almost 39% of eligible Hamilton County residents; almost 30% of eligible Hill County residents; 28% of eligible Lampasas County residents; almost 30% of eligible Leon County residents; 25% of eligible Limestone County residents; almost 33% of eligible Milam County residents; almost 33% of eligible Mills County residents; almost 35% of eligible Navarro County residents; 32% of eligible Robertson County residents, and almost 22% of eligible San Saba County residents.

The Department of State Health Services has notified vaccine providers across the state that they should begin to use the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to vaccinate adolescents from 12- to 15-years-of-age after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the use for people in that age group and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended it, as well.

“DSHS believes that promptly vaccinating the adolescents in this age group is another valuable tool that will help end the COVID-19 pandemic and have a direct and positive effect on schools being open for classroom learning,” said Imelda Garcia, DSHS associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services and chair of the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel.

Parental consent is required for vaccination of children 12-15.

Consent may be oral or written and a parent or guardian does not need to be present when a child is vaccinated, unless required by the provider.

NEW CASES, ADDITIONAL DEATHS

Fifty-nine more cases of COVID-19 were reported Thursday in Central Texas.

Neither state nor local data showed any additional deaths in the region.

COVID-19 has claimed as many as 1,679 lives in Central Texas, but according to the DSHS data Wednesday, the regional death toll was 1,657 including 421 Bell County residents, 13 fewer than the local count of 434; 33 Bosque County residents; 86 Coryell County residents; 32 Falls County residents; 50 Freestone County residents; 27 Hamilton County residents; 108 Hill County residents; 33 Lampasas County residents; 43 Leon County residents; 77 Limestone County residents; 471 McLennan County residents, 15 more than the local count of 456; 48 Milam County residents, one more than the local count of 47; 21 Mills County residents; 141 Navarro County residents, nine fewer than the local count of 150; 43 Robertson County residents, and 23 San Saba County residents.

The statewide death toll rose by 55 to 49,774 Thursday.

DSHS reported 1,700 additional confirmed cases of the virus Thursday, 1,545 of them new, raising the statewide total to 2,494,065.

At least 57,765 cases were active Thursday, up from 57,017 on Wednesday, 2,782,767 residents have recovered, and 2,353 were hospitalized, down from 2,492 on Wednesday.

In Trauma Service Area L, which includes Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam, and Mills counties, at least 39 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 were hospitalized Thursday, accounting for about 4% all hospitalizations and filling about 3% of available beds.

At least 18 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Thursday in Trauma Service Area M, which includes McLennan, Bosque, Falls, Hill and Limestone counties, accounting for about 4% of all hospitalizations and filling about 3% of available beds.

The statewide Lab Test Date positivity rate was 4.27% Thursday, down from 4.49% Wednesday.

A positivity rate of 5% or less generally indicates the virus is contained, experts say.

VACCINE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

COVID-19 INFORMATION, LINKS AND RESOURCES

VACCINATIONS

The state has halted weekly allocations of COVID-19 vaccine to providers as supply exceeds demand instead will fill vaccine orders as they come in and will ship doses from the Department of State Health Services Pharmacy or will place orders daily with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, officials said Thursday.

The state has also opened a call center at 8 a.m. to connect businesses, organizations, and homebound seniors with mobile vaccination teams.

Businesses and civic organizations with 10 or more employees, members or visitors who are willing to be vaccinated may call 844-90-TEXAS and select Option 3 to schedule a visit from a state mobile vaccine team.

Homebound seniors may call 844-90-TEXAS and select Option 1 to request a mobile vaccine team to come to their homes.

A new White House initiative should make it easier to find available vaccines.

Text a zip code to GetVax (438829), or in Spanish to Vacuna (822862), and the response will list three nearby locations with vaccines in stock.

The Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler allows residents to sign up for COVID-19 shots through a list of public health departments and select preferred times of day for vaccinations. Those without internet access may call 1-833-832-7067 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.

The Waco-McLennan County Health is offering Moderna vaccinations from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Thursday in May at the Waco Convention Center. The clinic is open to residents 18 and older. Walk-ins are welcome. Appointments may be made online, or by calling (254) 750-1890. The Moderna vaccine will also be available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays through May at the Convention Center. The one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

Walgreens pharmacies in Central Texas are now offering same day COVID-19 vaccine appointments to residents 16 and older. Appointments may be made online or by calling a Walgreens phone scheduler at 1-800-Walgreens.

The City of Nolanville will host a free no-appointment-needed Moderna COVID-19 vaccination clinic from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays at Bell County Fire & Rescue at 84 North Main St. throughout May.

VACCINE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

COVID-19 INFORMATION, LINKS AND RESOURCES

BELL COUNTY

The Bell County Health District reported 16 additional case of the virus Thursday, increasing the county’s total to 22,476, according to local data.

At least 181 cases were active Thursday and 21,861 residents have recovered.

The county’s death toll remained unchanged at 434.

Thursday was the last day the health district will update its local dashboard.

“We hope not to have to resume, but should the incidence rate rise above 80 per 100,000 the plan is to resume at that point,” outdoing health district Director Dr. Amanda Robison-Chadwell said Thursday.

The county’s incidence rate Thursday was 49.9 per 100,000 residents.

State data, which includes fort Hood personnel who live on post, showed 22,566 total cases Thursday, an increase of 15, and 421 deaths.

Central Texas College is holding graduation ceremonies at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Friday at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton to award degrees to more than 370 graduates.

The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor dashboard Thursday showed two active cases and a total of 370 since Aug. 1, 2020.

Texas A&M University-Central Texas Thursday showed no active cases and a total of 42 since March 2020, 30 of them involving students.

The Killeen ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed nine cases involving students and four involving staff members in the past seven days and 1,787 confirmed cases since March 16, 2020, including 905 involving students and 882 involving staff.

The Killeen ISD continues to offer 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 no active cases Thursday.

The Belton ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed eight cases across four campuses.

VACCINE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

BELL COUNTY COVID-19 DEATHS

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

MCLENNAN COUNTY

The Waco-McLennan County Health District reported 20 additional cases Thursday, increasing the county’s total to 27,244.

At least 133 cases were active Thursday, 27,655 residents have recovered, and 18 were hospitalized, five of them on ventilators.

The virus has claimed 456 lives in the county, according to local data.

State data show 471 deaths.

The Central Texas Food Bank will distribute food from 10 a.m. to noon on May 27 at Waco ISD Stadium at 1401 South New Road.

Free COVID-19 test sites are in operation in the Waco area. Additional details are available online.

Baylor University’s online dashboard showed 19 active cases Thursday, 18 involving students and one involving a contractor. Active cases during the spring semester peaked at 449 on March 4. Since Aug. 1, 2020, a total of 3,988 cases have been confirmed. In the past seven days, seven tests have come back positive. Baylor is requiring weekly COVID-19 testing of students, faculty, and staff through the summer. The university will not require students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated against the virus this fall, but is strongly encouraging everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Effective Wednesday, the university provided revised guidance for the summer and eliminated capacity limitations on outdoor activities and made face coverings are optional outside. Indoors, any student, faculty member or staff member who is fully vaccinated may meet indoors with fully vaccinated people in groups of 15 or fewer without face coverings or social distancing and may also meet with groups of vaccinated and unvaccinated people in groups of 15 or fewer without face coverings or social distancing. Face coverings are still required in public of commons areas indoors.

The McLennan Community College dashboard Thursday showed no active cases, and a cumulative total of 364 cases, 282 of them involving students.

The Waco ISD dashboard Thursday showed four active cases and 294 total cases involving students, 301 involving staff and 18 involving those described as “other” since Sept. 8, 2020.

The Midway ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed four cases across four campuses.

The Lorena ISD dashboard showed no active cases Thursday.

The Mart ISD’s online dashboard showed no active cases Thursday.

The McGregor ISD’s online dashboard showed no active cases Thursday.

VACCINE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

MCLENNAN COUNTY COVID-19 DEATHS

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

CORYELL COUNTY

Coryell County had 6,989 confirmed cases Thursday, an increase of 11, and 275 probable cases.

At least 7,100 residents have recovered.

The virus has claimed 86 lives in the county, according to state data.

The Copperas Cove ISD’s online dashboard Thursday showed two cases across two campuses.

The Gatesville ISD’s online dashboard showed three cases across two campuses Thursday.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Thursday was still reporting four cases involving employees at the Christina Melton Crain Unit where one inmate was isolated; one case involving an employee at the Hilltop Unit; seven cases involving employees at the Alfred D. Hughes Unit where 124 inmates were isolated; no active cases at the Mountain View Unit; one case involving an inmate and one involving an employee at the Dr. Lane Murray Unit where 97 inmates were restricted and one inmate was isolated, and one case involving an inmate and two involving employees at the Linda Woodman State Jail where 24 inmates were restricted and two 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 had 1,893 confirmed and 198 probable cases Thursday.

State data showed at least 2,039 residents have recovered.

The virus has claimed the lives of 32 residents, state data showed.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Thursday was reporting no cases at the William Hobby Unit in Marlin, and one case involving an employee at the Marlin Transfer Unit.

LIMESTONE COUNTY

Limestone County had 2,151 confirmed and 640 probable cases Thursday.

At least 2,673 patients have recovered.

The virus has claimed the lives of 77 residents, state data showed.

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

NAVARRO COUNTY

Navarro County had 3,466 confirmed and 2,350 probable cases Thursday.

Of the total, at least 5,608 patients have recovered.

State data showed 141 deaths.

Local data showed 150 deaths.

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

OTHER COUNTIES

Bosque County had 1,364 confirmed and 309 probable cases of the virus Thursday. Of the total, 1,628 residents have recovered and 33 have died, according to state data.

Freestone County had 1,107 confirmed and 816 probable cases Thursday. At least 1,812 residents have recovered and 50 have died according to state data. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Thursday reported three cases involving employees at the William Boyd Unit in Teague.

Hamilton County had 713 confirmed and 58 probable cases of the virus Thursday. At least 740 residents have recovered and 27 have died, according to state data.

Hill County Thursday had 3,791 confirmed cases and 711 probable cases. At least 4,356 patients have recovered, and 108 residents 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 two cases across two campuses.

Lampasas County had 1,851 confirmed and 336 probable cases Thursday. At least 2,128 residents have recovered, and 33 residents have died, according to state data.

Leon County had 1,275 confirmed and 361 probable cases Thursday. At least 1,577 patients have recovered, and 43 residents diagnosed with the virus have died, according to state data.

Milam County had 1,445 confirmed and 1,091 probable cases Thursday. At least 2,527 patients have recovered and 48 have died.

Mills County had 594 confirmed and 63 probable cases of the virus Thursday. At least 633 patients have recovered and 21 have died, according to state data.

Robertson County had 1,723 confirmed cases Thursday and 423 probable cases. At least 2,061 patients have recovered, and 43 residents diagnosed with the virus have died, according to state data.

San Saba County had 527 confirmed cases Thursday and 256 probable cases. At least 763 patients have recovered and 23 have died, according to state data. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Thursday reported two cases involving employees at the San Saba Transfer Unit.

VACCINE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL COVID-19 DATA

COVID-19 INFORMATION, LINKS AND RESOURCES

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