Coryell County judge eyes other local orders as neighboring county COVID-19 cases jump
By LYNETTE SOWELL
On Thursday morning, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the state was pausing any future phases to reopen due to the recent increase in hospitalizations and spike of positive COVID-19 cases statewide.
Businesses currently permitted to operate under previous phases can continue to operate at designated occupancy levels and under the minimum standard health protocols provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Abbott said, “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses. This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business. I ask all Texans to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly, and socially distancing from others. The more that we all follow these guidelines, the safer our state will be and the more we can open up Texas for business.”
From Monday through Wednesday this week alone, the number of positive cases in the state rose by 14,320.
Texas had a total of 131,917 confirmed positive cases as of Thursday afternoon, with an estimated 74,496 having recovered, leaving an estimated 55,125 active cases. There have been 2,296 fatalities.
In the state of Texas, there are 4,739 COVID-19 patients in the hospital. This has been a steady upward trend since June 1, when there were 1,756 hospitalized.
Bell County: starting Monday, if you go into a business, you must wear a face covering
During Monday morning’s meeting of the Coryell County commissioners’ court, the commissioners voted unanimously to extend the county’s disaster declaration through July 27.
Monday’s decision came before other counties, such as Bell County, saw an increase of 84 positive cases on Wednesday alone, on Thursday increasing to a total of 971 cases and 594 active cases. Killeen has 378 cases, Temple 319, Harker Heights 64, Belton 122, and elsewhere in the county 88.
Bell County Judge David Blackburn subsequently announced on Wednesday that the county will be implementing a mandate to wear masks or face coverings inside Bell County businesses that “provide goods and services directly to the public,” starting Monday, June 29 and continuing through at least Monday, July 13.
According to the orders, face coverings do not need to be worn while in a building that requires security surveillance, screening, or identification, such as at banks; when consuming food or drink; in vehicles or while exercising or engaging in physical activity outside. They do not need to be worn by children under the age of 2 and there are certain exceptions for those with medical conditions.
The mandate is placed on the shoulder of businesses, which can be fined $1,000 for failing to develop and implement the new policy. Businesses must also post signs regarding the mandate.
Coryell County Judge: no “one size fits all” mask approach for Coryell County
Coryell County Judge Roger Miller is taking a wait-and-see approach at this point for Coryell County, and depending on what happens where Coryell County cases are concerned this week, has considered enacting something similar for Coryell County.
However, Miller doesn’t believe such requirements are “one size fits all” where Coryell County cities and communities and businesses are concerned.
“Employers can only do so much, and that’s one of the challenges I face. How do I approach it? Mayor Deaver in Waco, says if you’re in public, you’ve got to wear a mask. That’s one approach. Bell County took the approach of, business (employees) are going to wear masks and if you’re a patron of that business, you’re going to wear a mask. That’s another approach. There’s merits to both sides of that,” Judge Miller said on Wednesday evening.
“That’s where I feel challenged, with us as a ‘tweener’ county. If I was mayor of Copperas Cove, I’d be putting out a business masking order…You can go anywhere you want to, but if you’re going to go into business, you’re going to wear a mask.”
But this isn’t something he would necessarily want to implement for all communities in the county.
“But then I’ve got Turnersville. Do Turnersville (shoppers) have to wear a mask going into the feed store in Turnersville?” The dilemma for Miller is where and what level to get involved.
“What works for Copperas Cove, will not work for Evant and Oglesby. And what works for Evant and Oglesby, might not work for Gatesville,” Miller said. “One of the things I’m trying to work through in talking with our local medical experts and our local elected officials is the disparity in where cases are coming from and how they’re coming.”
Coryell County has a total of 109 positive confirmed cases as of Wednesday, with 49 cases being currently active, 58 recovered and two deceased. There have been no new noted cases as of Thursday.
As of Thursday, June 25, the county’s most recent database reflected five new cases in the county dated Monday, June 22, to include a Copperas Cove man in his 20s and four new cases in Gatesville, a boy and girl under the age of 10, plus a male in his 20s and a female in her 40s.
Judge Miller discussed concerns that local hospitals are nearing their capacity of ICU beds in particular. Coryell, Bell, and McLennan Counties are located within Hospital Region L, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“We have 13 ICU beds available, and my understanding from talking to some of the local people is that many of those beds are coming out of larger counties because they’re trying to protect their beds,” Miller said.
The main hospitals in the region include Coryell Health, AdventHealth Central Texas, Seton Medical Center, Baylor Scott & White, and Providence Hospital.
COVID-19 cases as of Thursday
Bell County 971 (377 recovered) - Per Bell County Health District
Burnet County 100 (50 recovered)
Coryell County **109 (58 recovered)
Lampasas County 19 (7 recovered)
McLennan County 473 (173 recovered)
Williamson County 1,614 (737 recovered)
**Not counting TDCJ