The total number of confirmed cases in COVID-19 in Central Texas rose to more than 33,000 Wednesday, the regional death toll is approaching 500, and there are growing concerns that holiday travel, Thanksgiving gatherings and Black Friday shopping combined with “mask fatigue” could lead to an even more alarming surge after the long weekend.
“What is concerning is that the number of people going out is not decreasing like it did (when cases surged) in June,” Waco Family Health Center CEO Dr. Jackson Griggs said during a virtual news conference Wednesday.
“People stopped going out in June and cases went down. Cases are going up this time but people are still going out,” he said.
“This is a concern. We would like for people to please stay home.”
Another 542 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed Wednesday in Central Texas, increasing the regional total to 33,143.
Three more deaths were reported in McLennan County and additional deaths were reported as well in Leon and Bell counties.
The Central Texas death toll may now be as high as 494, but according to state data Wednesday at least 483 area residents diagnosed with the virus have now died including 113 Bell County residents, one more than the local count; 15 Bosque County residents; 16 Coryell County residents, one more than the local count of 15; 14 Falls County residents; 12 Freestone County residents; seven Hamilton County residents; 18 Hill County residents; 10 Lampasas County residents; 15 Leon County residents; 18 Limestone County residents; 183 McLennan County residents, two fewer than the local count of 185; nine Milam County residents; four Mills County residents; 36 Navarro County residents, nine fewer than the local count of 45; seven Robertson County residents, one more than the local count of six, and six San Saba County residents.
“There is a lot of fatigue with mask wearing,” Dr. Mark Elieson of Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center said during a virtual news conference Wednesday.
“At the store yesterday I saw at least six people with no mask at all. That doesn’t include the countless people that were wearing masks incorrectly. That scares me,” he said.
“I get the question ‘when will people get it?’ My answer is I don’t know.”
“We need people to wear masks like we need people to brush their teeth and wear a seat belt,” he said.
“The governor has mandated masks be worn. There is not much more we can do.”
The statewide death toll rose by 200 Wednesday to 20,950 as the Texas Department of Health Services reported 15,609 additional cases of the virus, a record 14,648 of them new, for a statewide total of 1,130,980.
Of the total, 177,573 cases were active Wednesday, double the number the state was reporting just more than a month ago, and 935,011 patients have recovered.
Hospitalizations statewide rose again Wednesday to 8,585, 90 more than on Tuesday.
In the two Trauma Service Areas that include most of Central Texas, almost 175 patients were hospitalized, and in the TSA that includes Waco, hospitalizations are sufficiently high to trigger bar closings, reductions in restaurant and business capacity, and suspension of elective surgeries.
The statewide Lab Test Report Date clinical positivity rate dropped slightly to 11.58% Wednesday from 11.97% Tuesday.
Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Department of State Health Services Monday announced guidelines for distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the state.
The Bell County Public Health District reported 99 additional cases of the virus Wednesday for a total of 8,337.
Of the total, 1,297 cases were active Wednesday, 7,040 patients have recovered and 112 have died, according to local data.
State data, which include Fort Hood personnel who live on post, showed 8,344 cases, an increase of 126, and 113 deaths.
Health officials are urging caution ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Please stay safe and help us prevent the spread of COVID-19,” health district Director Dr. Amanda Robison-Chadwell said Wednesday.
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.
Public school students are on Thanksgiving vacation this week.
The health district has created a guide for safe holiday practices that’s available online.
The Waco-McLennan County Health District Wednesday reported the deaths of three more residents diagnosed with the virus, a 67-year-old woman, a 63-year-old man and a 64-year-old woman.
The deaths increased the virus’ toll in the county to 185.
State data, based on death certificates and county of residence, showed 183 deaths.
The health district reported 212 additional cases of the virus Wednesday, 142 from ongoing surge testing, raising the county’s total to 14,029.
Of that number, 1,408 cases were active Wednesday, 12,436 patients have recovered, and 94 were hospitalized, 16 of them on ventilators.
Seventy two of the 94 are McLennan County residents.
The new cases involve two residents younger than 1; 12 who range in age from 1 to 10; 23 who range in age from 11 to 17; 43 who range in age from 18 to 25; 21 who range in age from 26 to 29; 23 residents in their 30s; 22 in their 40s; 25 in their 50s; 24 in their 60s, 12 in their 70s, and five who are 80 or older.
Health officials Wednesday said there are two active cases of the virus in the McLennan County Jail, three clusters involving churches, and 76 cases in long-term care facilities.
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.
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 145 active cases Wednesday, 126 involving students, 13 involving staff, five involving faculty and one involving a contractor. Over the past seven days, 72 cases have been confirmed for a clinical positivity rate of 3%. Since Aug. 1,535 cases have been confirmed. Baylor offered free voluntary rapid testing for the virus through Wednesday for students, faculty and staff ahead of the Thanksgiving holidays. Fall semester on-campus instruction ended Wednesday. After Thanksgiving, remote instruction is scheduled on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. Spring classes begin on Jan. 19.
The McLennan Community College dashboard showed 29 active cases Wednesday, 19 involving students, and a total of 197 in the past three weeks, 168 involving students and 29 involving employees.
Public school students are on Thanksgiving vacation.
Coryell County was still reporting 1,137 confirmed cases Wednesday, 308 of which were active.
At least 814 patients have recovered and 15 have died, according to local data.
State data, which include Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates, showed 2,459 confirmed cases, an increase of 132, 2,038 recoveries and 16 deaths.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Wednesday showed 75 cases involving inmates and 32 cases involving employees at the Christina Melton Crain Unit in Gatesville where 412 inmates were on medical restriction and 76 were isolated; three cases involving employees at the Hilltop Unit in Gatesville where 40 inmates were restricted; three cases involving inmates and 12 involving employees at the Alfred D. Hughes Unit in Gatesville where 141 inmates were medically restricted and three were medically isolated; three cases involving employees at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville where 10 inmates were medically restricted; one case involving an inmate and two involving employees at the Dr. Lane Murray Unit in Gatesville where 100 inmates were restricted and one was isolated, and two cases involving inmates and four involving employees at the Linda Woodman State Jail in Gatesville where 22 inmates were restricted and three 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.
Falls County reported 792 cases Wednesday, an increase of 19.
Of the total, 686 patients have recovered.
Fourteen have died.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Wednesday reported one case involving in inmate and 32 cases involving employees at the William Hobby Unit in Marlin where 79 inmates were medically restricted and one was isolated, and 30 cases involving inmates and seven involving employees at the Marlin Transfer Unit where 355 inmates were medically restricted and 31 were medically isolated.
Limestone County reported 373 confirmed cases Wednesday, an increase of six.
Of the total, 679 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.
Navarro County reported 1,821 confirmed cases Wednesday, an increase of 18, and 805 probable cases for a total of 2,626.
Of that number, 337 cases were active Wednesday, 11 patients were hospitalized and 2,244 have recovered.
The virus has claimed 45 lives in the county, according to local data.
State data showed 36 deaths.
According to the latest figures Wednesday Bosque County was reporting 527 cases, an increase of seven, and 428 recoveries. State data based on death certificates and county of residence showed 15 deaths.
Freestone County reported a total of 505 cases Wednesday. Of the total 462 patients have recovered. Twelve residents have died, according to state data. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Wednesday reported four cases involving employees at the William Boyd Unit in Teague.
Hamilton County reported 283 cases Wednesday, an increase of three. Of the total 214 patients have recovered. State data showed seven deaths in the county.
Hill County reported a total of 1,182 cases Wednesday, an increase of 11, and 906 recoveries. Eighteen residents have died, according to state data.
Lampasas County reported 373 cases Wednesday, an increase of six, and 319 recoveries. Ten residents have died.
Leon County reported 437 cases Wednesday, an increase of four, and 375 recoveries. State data Wednesday showed a 15th death.
Milam County reported 640 confirmed cases Wednesday, an increase of seven. Of the total, 27 cases were active, two patients were hospitalized and 604 have recovered. Nine residents have died.
Mills County reported 136 cases Wednesday, an increase of seven, and 93 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 seven deaths.
San Saba County reported 301 cases Wednesday and 234 recoveries. Six residents have died, state data showed. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice reported five cases involving inmates and four involving employees at the San Saba Transfer Unit where 22 inmates were medically restricted and three were isolated.