The Bell County Public Health District has changed the county's COVID Threat Level from Level 2 (significant) to Level 1 (severe uncontrolled community transmission).
The health district said the change is based on the, "rapidly increasing incidence rate, positivity rate, and surge in hospitalizations." Current COVID-19 data can be found on the health district's website at www.bellcountyhealth.org.
"Bell County has continued to see a rapid rise in active cases since the threat level was adjusted on Jan. 4th, and the incidence rate is now as high as it was in January 2021," said the health district. "The rapid rise in cases is largely attributable to the Omicron variant, which now accounts for over 90% of new cases in Bell County."
According to the health district, one month ago the incidence rate was 50 active cases per 100,000 population; but on Tuesday it went to 1044 active cases per 100,000 population.
"Because of the increased spread and contagiousness of the Omicron variant, we strongly encourage full vaccination and a booster dose if eligible," said the Bell County Public Health District. "While the Omicron variant appears to cause less severe disease than previous variants, we are still seeing many people developing severe disease and requiring hospitalization, especially in persons who are not vaccinated."
A threat level one strongly recommends that unvaccinated individuals minimize indoor activities where there are large crowds or social distancing is not possible, according to Interim Director Nikki Morrow.
"Use of high quality, well-fitting masks such as 3-ply surgical masks, KN95 or N95 masks provide the best protection, and are strongly recommended even for those who have been vaccinated, but especially for those who have not completed the vaccine series or had a booster, or who have contact with people who are at high risk of severe disease," said the health district.
Anyone who has been exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19 should closely follow the recently revised recommendations for isolation or quarantine, according to Local Health Authority Dr. Janice Smith.
“While allowing persons to return to work after only 5 days of quarantine or isolation if they are not having symptoms, the individual must wear a mask for an additional 5 days," said Smith. "For those unable or unwilling to wear a mask, the isolation and quarantine periods are still 10 days.”