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Council enacts local face covering ordinance

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    As of Friday afternoon, 650 cases have been reported in Bastrop County, and one additional death is shown on the dashboard. According to the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management, this recent sudden spike in cases is partially due to a backlog of cases being entered into the database by the state, as well as an actual increase in cases. This image will be updated regularly as the information on the dashboard changes. View the dashboard at www.co.bastrop.tx.us/page/em.coronavirus.

Last Wednesday, the Elgin City Council passed an ordinance requiring face coverings in many public situations during a special emergency meeting.

The virtual meeting was livestreamed on YouTube, and the video of the meeting can be found on the City of Elgin - Texas YouTube channel.

The ordinance took effect at 11:59 p.m. on July 1. All people ten years and older must wear a face covering inside a commercial entity or other buildings where it is difficult to keep six feet of distance from others, as well as outside with a group of people where it is difficult to keep six feet away from other people in a group. The requirement does not apply while exercising, while in a building that requires security surveillance such as a bank, while consuming food or drink, when doing so poses a greater mental or physical risk, when outside with a group of members from the same household or when another mitigation strategy provides adequate separation. The first violation will result in a verbal or written warning, with a fine not to exceed $200 per violation after the warning.

Before the council discussed the ordinance, over two dozen written comments submitted by the public were read to the council for nearly 30 minutes. All but one of the comments expressed support for the ordinance. A number of the comments mentioned the number of COVID-19 cases in Elgin; at the time of the meeting, the 78621 zip code had a total of 275 cases from the Bastrop and Travis county portions combined.

City manager Thomas Mattis then discussed the ordinance more with the council.

The previous day, the cities of Bastrop and Smithville implemented their own mask orders. Bastrop Mayor Connie Schroeder issued an emergency order requiring business entities within the city limits to develop and implement a COVID-19 safety policy in accordance with the order, and the Smithville City Council voted to pass an emergency ordinance mandating face coverings in public during a special-called emergency meeting.

“We try to be consistent throughout the county, but our numbers are very significant in Elgin alone,” Mattis said.

Mattis emphasized that the requirements for face coverings is not a political issue from the city’s perspective, but a health and safety issue.

City attorney Charlie Crossfield said the ordinance is similar to the Round Rock ordinance adopted the previous week. He added that Round Rock, a business-friendly city, saw the requirement for masks in businesses as a much better alternative to a lockdown and a way to keep their economy going.

Next, Elgin Police Chief Patrick South spoke about what enforcement of the ordinance would look like. He said violation of the ordinance would not result in an arrest and would be citation-only, but he anticipates the majority of enforcement to be warnings. Instead of sending officers to proactively check businesses, Elgin Police Department will respond when business owners or members of the public call to report violations, he added.

“Our approach has always been educational, and it will continue to be,” South said. “The last thing we want to have to do is take any kind of enforcement action.”

Finally, community services director Amy Miller said signs regarding the ordinance will be available for businesses to put on their doors.

Council member Forest Dennis asked if the ordinance would apply to churches; Crossfield said churches would be protected from the ordinance.

Near the end of the meeting, the ordinance passed unanimously.

The day after Elgin’s emergency meeting, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order requiring those in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases to wear a face covering while in public spaces.

Elgin modifies city operations

Last week, the City of Elgin released a memorandum with an update to the city’s modified operations under COVID-19.

Under this modified phase of the city’s plan, which went into place last Tuesday, city hall, municipal court offices and the police station are closed to the general public, the memorandum said. Utility payments and court fines can be dropped off at the drive-through window. In-person use of the public library by reservation, which began in mid-June, has been discontinued, but the sidewalk delivery program continues each weekday from 9 a.m to 4 p.m.

All city parks remain open to the public: since the city does not have the resources available to ensure sanitation, restrooms will remain closed, while playground equipment, sports courts and pavilions are available at the user’s risk.

The swimming pool was opened to the general public, for limited use and by reservation, starting on July 1. Face coverings are required in common areas, the pool is divided into three lanes, and capacity is limited to a maximum of 20 people. For more information and to reserve a time, visit http://elgintx.com/270/Morris-Memorial-Pool.

According to the memorandum, since the pandemic is a fluid situation, it’s hard to say when these restrictions will be lifted, but these changes will remain at least through this Friday.

Bastrop testing site added to Austin online portal

Bastrop County is partnering with Austin Public Health (APH) to expand its testing site’s capabilities, according to a press release from the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management posted on Friday.

Bastrop County residents can fill out APH’s public testing enrollment form, and if they qualify, can schedule a free drivethrough test in Bastrop. A link to the online portal with the form, and more information about COVID-19 in Bastrop County, can be found at bastropcountycovid19.org.

Patients who do not meet testing criteria can revisit the portal at any time to try again, such as if their symptoms change in later days. The current criteria for getting tested include symptoms of COVID-19, exposure to others who have tested positive and other high-risk factors identified by the Centers for Disease Control and prevention.

“Bastrop County is thrilled to be able to offer this new service to our citizens,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, the Bastrop County health authority, said in the press release. “This new open test site will allow us to identify and slow the spread of COVID-19.”

The Bastrop testing site will be able to test 192 people per day. Appointments will be available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Bastrop County’s testing site is one of two non-Austin sites included in APH’s testing enrollment portal. The other location is in Williamson County. Adding Bastrop County to the portal will help health officials, since the information collected is shared between teams dealing with the pandemic across the various jurisdictions, the release said.

COVID-19 cases pass 500 in Bastrop County

As of Monday afternoon, Bastrop County has confirmed 520 positive cases of COVID-19, according to the county’s dashboard. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) reports that 159 people have recovered from the illness in Bastrop County.

At the same time last week, the county’s total number of cases was 436, with 155 recoveries.

According to data from DSHS available on Monday morning, 54 percent, or 243 of the cases, are in females, while 46 percent, or 210 are in males. Twenty-two cases are children nine years old or younger, 39 cases are people between 10 and 19 years old, 95 cases are people in their 20s, 92 cases are people in their 30s, 64 cases are people in their 40s, 60 cases are people in their 50s, 52 cases are people in their 60s, 16 cases are people in their 70s, and 13 cases are people 80 years or older.

Out of the three cities in Bastrop County, Elgin still has the highest number of cases with 131 confirmed cases; Bastrop has 20 cases, and Smithville has 14 cases. The remaining 288 cases are from residents who live in unincorporated areas of the county.

Broken down by zip code, Elgin’s region has a total of 198 cases in Bastrop County, with 67 cases from the unincorporated part of the 78621 zip code area. According to the City of Austin’s COVID-19 dashboard, the portion of the 78621 zip code in Travis County has 98 cases.

The unincorporated portion of the 78602 zip code, which is the area surrounding the city of Bastrop, has 63 cases. This area includes the Camp Swift and Lake Bastrop regions. Including the cases within the city limits, the 78602 zip code has a total of 83 cases.

The unincorporated portion of the 78957 zip code, which is the area surrounding the city of Smithville, has 12 cases, bringing the total for that entire zip code to 26.

The rest of the cases in the unincorporated regions of the county are found in the following zip codes:

  • 78612 (Cedar Creek): 69 cases
  • 78616 (Dale): 19 cases within Bastrop County
  • 78617 (Del Valle): 38 cases within Bastrop County
  • 78650 (McDade): four cases
  • 78659 (Paige): 12 cases
  • 78662 (Red Rock): four cases

See the latest numbers at www.co.bastrop.tx.us/page/em.coronavirus.

The city of Austin’s COVID-19 dashboard, found at www.austintexas. gov/covid19, includes information about hospitalized patients in the five-county Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), in addition to the case numbers for Austin and Travis County. The MSA includes Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson County.

As of Monday morning, the MSA has 446 inpatients in the region’s hospitals, with 137 patients in the intensive care units (ICU) and 72 ventilators in use.

Last week, 351 people were in the hospital as inpatients due to COVID-19, 114 patients were in the ICU and 60 ventilators were in use.

In May, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began gathering and reporting data from nursing homes about the number of confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19 in residents and staff. As of Monday, data was available through the week ending on June 21 at data.cms.gov.

On June 21, one more resident at Elgin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center was confirmed to have COVID-19 for a total of 33 residents. Two more residents have died from COVID-19, bringing the total to four. No additional staff members tested positive.

CMS also shows data for Silver Pines Nursing Home, Bastrop Lost Pines Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and Bastrop Nursing Center in Bastrop and Towers Nursing Home in Smithville. As of July 21, none of the nursing homes had confirmed cases of COVID-19 in residents, but one staff member each at Towers Nursing Home and Bastrop Nursing Center have tested positive, the data shows.