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Bell County health officials prepare for possible surge in COVID-19 cases following holiday gatherings

Posted at 8:27 PM, Nov 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 21:27:29-05

KILLEEN, TX — As McLennan County businesses transition back to 50% capacity following a seven-day spike in hospitalizations, the big question on people’s minds over in Bell County is are we next?

While hospitals in McLennan County are busier than those down I-35, city and health officials alike have concerns about a similar situation arising ahead of Thanksgiving COVID-19 cases.

After witnessing community members take a lax approach to COVID-19 safety, Karen Riddle says she’s worried Bell County may mirror McLennan County's restrictions in the coming weeks.

“They need to be concerned,” the Bell County resident said. “And I see a lot of people running around my neighborhood without masks or any type of protection. So, yes, it does scare me.”

But there is some good news. Bell County officials say county hospitals are stressed but managing patient caseloads.

“Our resources are very busy but we are not overwhelmed,” said Kevin Roberts, president and CEO of AdventHealth of Central Texas. “We are not drowning right now, and Lord willing, we never will.”

Per Governor Abbott’s orders, if a county exceeds a 15% hospitalization rate for seven days straight, occupancy levels must be restricted.

Over the past week in Bell County, hospitilization rates have averaged about half of that.

But as many gathered over the weekend for Thanksgiving, officials believe those numbers may change.

“I think as we’ve seen in previous holidays over the course of this pandemic, a week to 10 days to two weeks later, we typically do see a spike of numbers in cases,” Bell County Judge David Blackburn said.

Officials said they’re monitoring the situation every day and can’t predict what will happen in the future, but Riddle says she’d rather be safe than sorry.

“I’ve been preparing myself for it,” she said.

And no matter what happens, health officials have a word of advice.

“Don’t let up. Gon’t give up. Don’t give in to the fatigue. You can do this. The vaccine is literally around the corner,” Roberts said.