Biden gets tough, Abbott pushes back, 560 more active COVID-19 cases reported here
(KWTX) - The Biden administration announced sweeping new vaccination rules for federal workers and contractors Thursday, but stopped short of an outright mandate, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott pushed back with a new executive order emphasizing personal responsibility, vaccination rates continued to lag, and the number of active COVD-19 cases in Central Texas rose by more than 560 to more than 3,600.
The number of active cases statewide rose to 78,939 Thursday, an increase of more than 300, as the Department of State Health Services reported another 6,459 confirmed cases of the virus, 6,347 of them new, and 35 more deaths.
The number of cases of the virus confirmed in Central Texas since the start of the pandemic rose by more than 330 Thursday to 83,512.
The increase is fueled in part by the more transmissible Delta variant of the virus, which is targeting primarily younger and unvaccinated residents, experts say.
The administration rules announced Thursday, which require any federal civilian worker who isn’t fully vaccinated to mask, submit to weekly testing, physically distance from other employees, and face restrictions on official travel, are aimed at boosting vaccination rates among federal employees and setting an example for the private sector.
“This is an American tragedy. People are dying who don’t have to die,” Biden said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced earlier this week medical or healthcare providers including “physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors who work in Veterans Health Administration facilities, visit VHA facilities or provide direct care to those VA serves” must be vaccinated by the first of October.
And some major companies including Google, Facebook, Netflix, BlackRock, Morgan Stanley, Saks Fifth Avenue, The Washington Post, Lyft, and Twitter are requiring employees to get vaccinated against the virus.
In Central Texas, Baylor Scott & White Health employees must be fully vaccinated against the virus by Oct. 1, and Ascension Health, whose facilities include the Providence Healthcare Network in Waco and Ascension Seton in Harker Heights, says its employees have until Nov. 12 to meet the vaccination requirement.
Abbott’s new executive order Thursday “emphasizes that the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates.”
“Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19. They have the individual right and responsibility to decide for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, and engage in leisure activities. Vaccines, which remain in abundant supply, are the most effective defense against the virus, and they will always remain voluntary, never forced, in the State of Texas.”
The order bars any government entity from requiring vaccination or from requiring an individual to provide documentation of vaccination status “for any COVJD-l9 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization.”
The order also bars any entity, public or private, that receives public funds through grants, contracts, loans, or other means from requiring a consumer to provide documentation of vaccination status.
The order also requires hospitals to provide daily capacity reports and any entity that is using an FDA-approved test to provide daily reports of results.
It also reiterates there are no COVID-19-related operating limits for businesses and encourages mask use in areas where the transmission rate is high, but reiterates the ban on mask mandates by counties, cities, school districts or public health authorities.
Democratic Texas State Rep. Donna Howard of Austin said Abbott’s order ties “the hands of health experts who are trying to keep Texans healthy as cases and hospitalizations increase.”
“This is particularly concerning for children, for whom vaccines aren’t available, and their families. With the fall semester just around the corner, students, families, and educators need our schools to use every tool available to keep everyone safe. Gov. Abbott has made that impossible.”
Just more than 36% of the residents who are 12 or older in the 16 Central Texas counties KWTX is monitoring are fully vaccinated against the virus.
Across the region, 3,936 additional residents were fully vaccinated in the past week, which translates to about a half percent of the total population of residents 12 and older.
Statewide, more than 52% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.
In Bell County, more than 33% of residents 12 and older have been fully vaccinated, an increase of about 1,600 in the past week.
In McLennan County, about 41.5% of residents 12 and older have been fully vaccinated, an increase of about 1,050 in the past week.
Just more than 39% of Bosque County residents were fully vaccinated Thursday; more than 31% of eligible Coryell County residents were fully vaccinated; 36% of eligible Falls County residents were fully vaccinated; almost 32% of eligible Freestone County residents were fully vaccinated; more than 41% of eligible Hamilton County residents were fully vaccinated; almost 35% of eligible Hill County residents were fully vaccinated; more than 36% of eligible Lampasas County residents were fully vaccinated; more than 33% of eligible Leon County residents were fully vaccinated; more than 32% of eligible Limestone County residents were fully vaccinated; more than 38% of eligible Milam County residents were fully vaccinated; more than 35% of eligible Mills County residents were fully vaccinated; almost 40% of eligible Navarro County residents were fully vaccinated; 38% of eligible Robertson County residents were fully vaccinated, and more than 29% of eligible San Saba County residents were fully vaccinated.
The Temple ISD is partnering with the Bell County Public Health District to provide required immunizations as well as COVID-19 vaccinations for students 12 and older on Aug. 5 in the ninth-grade cafeteria at Temple High School.
The COVID-19 vaccinations are optional.
In Lampasas County, with more than 60 active case of the virus, AdventHealth Rural Health Clinic is offering free vaccines to residents 18 and older.
Call (512) 556-3621 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to make an appointment.
An ID and proof of insurance are required and those seeking second doses should also bring vaccination cards.
The weekly vaccination clinic will continue for as long as vaccine is available.
NEW CASES, RISING HOSPITALIZATIONS
At least 5,662 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 were hospitalized statewide Thursday, almost 400 more than on Wednesday.
In Trauma Service Area L, which includes Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam, and Mills County, 159 patients diagnosed with the virus were hospitalized Thursday, filling more than 14% of available beds and accounting for about 17% of all patients hospitalized.
In Trauma Service Area M, which includes Bosque, Falls, Hill, Limestone and McLennan counties 67 patients with COVID-19 were hospitalized Thursday, filling more than 10% of available beds and accounting for about 16% of all hospitalizations.
The statewide molecular test positivity rate continued to rise Thursday.
At the start of the month, it was less than 5%, which experts say indicates the virus is controlled.
Thursday it rose to 16.09%
Another 35 Texas residents diagnosed with the virus have died, increasing the statewide death toll to 51,984.
The death toll in the Central Texas may be as high as 1,766, but according to state data Thursday, the count stood at 1,753 including 461 Bell County residents, 10 fewer that the local count of 471; 37 Bosque County residents; 89 Coryell County residents; 33 Falls County residents; 51 Freestone County residents; 29 Hamilton County residents; 111 Hill County residents; 36 Lampasas County residents; 43 Leon County residents; 81 Limestone County residents; 490 McLennan County residents, 21 more than the local count of 469; 53 Milam County residents; 21 Mills County residents; 147 Navarro County residents, three fewer than the local count of 150; 48 Robertson County residents, and 23 San Saba County residents.
The Bell County Public Health District has moved its COVID-19 threat level from moderate controlled transmission to uncontrolled community transmission as cases rise.
The health district reported another 108 cases of the virus Thursday, increasing the county’s total since the start of the pandemic to 24,247.
At least 22,865 residents diagnosed with the virus have recovered and 471 have died.
The health district reported 911 active cases Thursday.
DSHS data, which includes Fort Hood personnel who live on post, showed 1,879 active cases Thursday, an increase of 450.
State data also showed 2,670 probable cases of the virus.
At least 24,649 residents diagnosed with the virus have recovered, state data showed, and 461 have died.
Masks are again mandatory on Fort Hood after the Defense Department directed employees working in areas at high risk of transmission to use face masks to help stem the spread, particularly of the more virulent Delta variant of the virus.
Killeen ISD Teachers and staff who work at the district’s schools on Fort Hood will have to obey the post’s mask mandate, KISD spokeswoman Taina Maya said Thursday.
A memorandum signed Wednesday by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks directs all service members, federal employees, onsite contractors and visitors to wear masks on Department of Defense facilities regardless of vaccination status and says all service members, federal employees, contractors and visitors who are not fully vaccinated must continue to physically distance.
The Waco-McLennan County Health District reported 28,959 total cases Thursday, an increase of 119.
At least 616 cases were active Thursday.
At least 27,874 residents diagnosed with the virus have recovered and 57 were hospitalized Thursday, seven on ventilators.
The county’s COVID-19 dashboard showed three available ICU beds.
The health district reported 469 deaths.
DSHS data showed 490 deaths.
COVID-19 testing provided by the Waco-McLennan County Health District and the Waco-McLennan County Office of Emergency Management has ended. Providers throughout the county including clinics and pharmacies still offer COVID-19 testing. The DSHS test location finder is a resource.
Baylor University’s online dashboard showed 18 active cases involving students, three involving staff, one involving a faculty member and two involving contactors Thursday, and 4,045 cases since Aug. 1, 2020. 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 of Thursday, more than 43% of students and more than 73% of employees had been vaccinated. The university plans to operate at 100% capacity indoors and outdoors and to return to in-person instruction without social distancing this fall. Face masks are no longer required on campus, but the school recommends those who aren’t vaccinated wear face coverings indoors.
The McLennan Community College dashboard showed five active cases Thursday and a cumulative total of 374 cases, 291 involving students.
Coryell County had 7,441 total confirmed cases of the virus Thursday, an increase of 30, and a total of 314 probable cases.
The number of active cases of COVID-19 in the county rose to 336 Thursday.
At least 7,330 residents diagnosed with the virus have recovered and 89 have died.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Thursday reported one case involving an inmate and six cases involving employees at the Christina Melton Crain Unit where one inmate was isolated; five cases involving employees at the Hilltop Unit; two cases involving inmates and nine cases involving employees at the Alfred D. Hughes Unit, where two inmates were isolated; three cases involving employees at the Mountain View Unit; six cases involving employees at the Dr. Lane Murray Unit, and three cases involving inmates and one involving an employee at the Linda Woodman State Jail where 76 inmates were restricted and five were isolated.
Falls County had 1,910 total confirmed and 205 total probable cases of the virus Thursday.
DSHS data showed 18 active cases in the county.
At least 2,064 residents diagnosed with the virus have recovered, and 33 have died.
Marlin City Hall employees were tested for COVID-19 on Wednesday and Thursday after several coworkers tested positive for the virus, Mayor Carolyn Lofton said in a statement posted Wednesday.
The Marlin Police Department will be closed to the public until further notice, Lofton said, and all city staff will wear masks when dealing with the public until further notice.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Thursday reported no active cases at either the William Hobby Unit or the Marlin Transfer Unit.
Limestone County had 2,262 total confirmed and 700 total probable cases of the virus Thursday.
DSHS data showed 106 active cases in the county.
At least 2,775 residents diagnosed the virus have recovered and 81 have died.
Navarro County had 3,543 total confirmed and 2,573 total probable cases Thursday.
DSHS data showed 143 active cases Thursday.
At least 5,826 residents diagnosed with the virus have recovered.
Local data showed 150 deaths.
The state reported 147.
Bosque County had 1,443 total confirmed and 327 probable cases of the virus Thursday. Of the total, 1,672 residents diagnosed with the virus have recovered and 37 have died, according to state data. Sixty-one cases were active Thursday.
Freestone County had 1,141 total confirmed and 906 total probable cases Thursday. At least 1,937 residents have recovered and 51 have died according to state data. At least 59 cases were active Thursday. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Thursday was reporting one case involving an employee and five involving inmates at the William Boyd Unit in Teague where 80 inmates were restricted, and one inmate was isolated.
Hamilton County had 783 total confirmed and 62 probable cases of the virus Thursday. At least 783 residents diagnosed with the virus have recovered and 29 have died, according to state data. Thirty-three cases were active Thursday.
Hill County Thursday had 3,891 total confirmed cases and 772 probable cases. At least 4,473 residents diagnosed with the virus have recovered, and 111 residents have died, according to state data. At least 79 cases were active Thursday.
Lampasas County had 1,987 total confirmed and 373 probable cases Thursday. At least 2,220 residents diagnosed with the virus have recovered, and 36 residents diagnosed with the virus have died, according to state data. At least 104 cases were active Thursday.
Leon County had 1,326 total confirmed and 388 total probable cases Thursday. At least 1,620 residents diagnosed with the virus have recovered, and 43 have died, according to state data. At least 51 cases were active Thursday.
Milam County had 1,557 total confirmed and 1,110 total probable cases Thursday. At least 2,635 residents have recovered and 53 have died. Thirty-two cases were active Thursday.
Mills County had 600 confirmed and 66 probable cases of the virus Thursday. At least 639 patients have recovered and 21 have died, according to state data. Six cases were active Thursday.
Robertson County had 1,895 total confirmed cases Thursday and 443 total probable cases. At least 2,219 residents diagnosed with the virus have recovered, and 48 have died, according to state data. At least 71 cases were active Thursday.
San Saba County had 527 total confirmed cases Thursday and 265 total probable cases. At least 757 residents diagnosed with the virus have recovered and 23 have died, according to state data, which showed 12 active cases Thursday. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Thursday was reporting three cases involving employees at the San Saba Transfer Facility.
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