The number of COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Bell County, with an increase of more than 200% in case numbers over last week, the Bell County Public Health District reported.
The health district also reported two new deaths from the virus this week, bringing the county’s total to 754 during the pandemic.
Costa Claver, epidemiologist with the health district, said the two new deaths both took place in the last two weeks of December. Both were men, one in his 40s from Killeen and the other in his 70s from Belton.
As of Wednesday, active cases of the virus totaled 2,419 — an increase of 343 active cases in a single day.
The increased cases brought the district’s incidence rate up to 666.53 cases per 100,000 people in the county.
Recognizing the rising numbers and higher incidence rate, the health district earlier this week increased the county’s COVID threat level from Level 3 to Level 2, which is described as moderate controlled community spread.
With Bell County’s incidence rate now exceeding 300 since late last week, Interim Health Director Morrow is encouraging residents to get fully vaccinated and receive a booster if eligible.
“The vaccines provide a layer of protection which can prevent or reduce the severity of COVID-19, including death,” Morrow said in a news release. “Currently — due to significant spread of COVID-19 — we encourage added layers of protection by wearing a mask when in crowded areas.”
However, not all masks are effective, according to the health district.
“Single-ply cloth masks and bandanas are simply not very effective against this variant,” Bell County Health Authority Dr. Janice Smith said.
Instead, it is recommended that individuals wear face coverings such as 3-ply surgical face masks, or KN95 and N95 respirator masks.
Smith also encouraged individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19 to closely follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recently revised recommendations for isolation and quarantine.
“While allowing persons to return to work after only five days of quarantine or isolation if they are not having symptoms, the individual must wear a mask for an additional five days,” Smith said. “For those unable or unwilling to wear a mask, the isolation and quarantine periods are still 10 days. We are hopeful these changes will cause less disruption to our workforce while keeping our community safer.”
So far during the pandemic, the district has seen a total of 37,452 reported cases of COVID-19, with 34,279 having recovered.
Vaccinations and testing
Killeen city officials are again partnering with Killeen Independent School District and Texas Military Department to provide free rapid COVID-19 testing and vaccines over the next two weeks at two sites, city officials announced Wednesday.
Testing and vaccines will be available today, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., inside the former Nolan Middle School at 505 E Jasper Road.
Testing and vaccines will also be available next week Monday through Friday at the former Nolan Middle School and Monday through Thursday at the Killeen Special Events Center at 3301 S. WS Young Drive. Both locations will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The following will be available each site:
Pfizer Adult (12 years and older) Vaccine to include booster (16 years and up for booster)
Pfizer Pediatric (5–11-year-olds) Vaccine not including booster
The city of Nolanville is offering testing and vaccination services every Monday and Friday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the central fire station located at 84 North Main St.