BELL COUNTY, Texas — Bell County healthcare leaders said that have noticed a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases as they continue to closely follow cases and hospitalizations in the county.
Over the past several weeks, the county’s incidence rate has hovered between 25 and 30 new cases per 100,000 population. However, last week’s total was 154 active cases.
“The increased volumes are more evidence that we are not out of COVID just yet,” Patrick Swindle, Chief Executive Officer of Seton Medical Center in Harker Heights, said. “Staying diligent with masking and appropriate hand-hygiene is still important. However, the most effective route is getting vaccinated. I urge the public to take the necessary steps to get vaccinated wherever offered.”
Officials have also noticed a few trends in the new cases: Area COVID-19 patients have gotten younger. Most of the new positive tests have belonged to people between the ages of 20 and 40.
“The increase in cases is concerning, especially since some of the cases have been identified as the Delta variant, which is much more contagious and more likely to result in hospitalization and death in the unvaccinated population,” Dr. Janice Smith, Local Health Authority, said.
Bell County Judge David Blackburn said the "vast majority" of these new cases are in people who have not been vaccinated.
“It is clear that increasing vaccinations is still our best strategy to navigate through this pandemic and get to closure," Blackburn said.
Vaccinations are available at several Bell County CVS, H-E-B, Sam’s Club, Target, Walgreens and Walmart locations. Baylor Scott & White is offering vaccinations out of four locations in Temple and Killeen. Appointments can be scheduled through the MyBSWHealth app or by calling 1-844-BSW-VACC.
“If you have any questions or concerns about getting vaccinated, please talk to your doctor or contact the Bell County Public Health District,” Blackburn said.
The Bell County Public Health District has plans to increase educational messaging to help people understand the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine. These include a targeted media campaign in those geographic areas that have experienced recent spikes. Organizers also hope to increase outreach and coordination with a variety of community entities including developing back-to-school vaccination initiatives.