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Central Texas health districts respond to new coronavirus trends

Posted at 7:15 PM, Jun 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-29 20:15:15-04

This weekend, the three biggest counties in Central Texas combined for more than 400 new positive tests and multiple COVID-related deaths.

The spike in cases has brought with it several new trends health experts say are worrisome.

One major trend over the last two weeks has been a change in the average age of people who test positive for the virus. In Bell County, people aged 20-29 make up about a quarter of all COVID-19 cases, while in Brazos County, the number is over 35%.

"I am concerned about the 18-25 year old age group," Brazos County Alternate Health Authority Dr. Seth Sullivan said. "I'm concerned because we have seen a significant shift over the last two weeks, that again is lagging from the couple weeks before that."

McLennan County has seen a similar shift in demographics over the last two weeks.

"We're just seeing more activity, and the people who are the most active are younger, so that's where we're seeing the spread," Waco-McLennan County Health District spokesperson Kelly Craine said.

In addition to a decline in the average age of COVID-positive people, more cases are now the result of community spread.

"You're more likely to be exposed to COVID by someone you know than a stranger," Craine said.

Over the weekend, Brazos County alone had more than 200 new cases of coronavirus. 72% of the new cases were the result of community spread.

"It increases the chance that if somebody is there not knowing they have the virus, they are gonna spread it to a significant number in that party," Sullivan said.

Several Brazos County cities have issued mandatory mask orders to help curtail the spread, but in Bell County, commissioners announced Monday morning they would not uphold Judge David Blackburn's executive order requiring businesses to mandate masks.

Instead, they will "strongly encourage" their use.

"We had a lot of concern from law enforcement. We had a lot of concern from businesses. We had a lot of concern from individuals as well," Bobby Whitson, Bell County Commissioner for Precinct Two said. "But, that original order had so many loopholes in it that we didn't think it was enforceable anyway."

Health officials across Central Texas say even as the numbers continue to rise, the best way to stay safe and healthy is to continue following basic guidelines: wash your hands, stay six feet apart and wear a mask.