Even as the first Americans are being vaccinated against the virus, Bastrop County has been facing a dramatic surge in cases of COVID-19 over the past couple of weeks.
According to the weekly update published by the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management last Tuesday, December 8, the number of cases of COVID-19 confirmed between December 1 and December 7 was 254, a 379% increase compared to the 54 confirmed cases reported over the week before.
Additionally, the number of active COVID-19 cases in Bastrop County doubled between November 30 and December 7, from 170 to 341. As of Monday afternoon, that number is 497.
However, the COVID-19 hospitalization rate in the region is faring better than the state overall. The statewide COVID-19 hospitalization rate was 13.42% of the total statewide hospital capacity; the hospitalization rate in Trauma Service Area O, which includes Bastrop and Travis counties, was 6.79%, the lowest in the state, the county’s update last Tuesday said.
County official outlines next steps in pandemic response
Bastrop County deputy emergency director Christine Files gave an update to the Bastrop County Commissioners Court about vaccines and the paring down of the county’s emergency response during their meeting on Monday
Both of the county’s community testing sites, at the Ascension Seton Health Center in Elgin and St. David’s Emergency Center in Bastrop, will remain open until the end of the year; however, after December 30, only the St. David’s site will continue to offer testing to county residents, Files said.
County schools continue to do a good job of keeping everybody safe, Files said, but their cases are increasing and some schools are struggling a little due to teachers out sick or in quarantine. Additionally, local nursing homes are continuing to do well at keeping residents safe, she added.
With the beginning of the distribution of vaccines in the United States this week, the Bastrop County vaccination taskforce finalized plans for the administration of the vaccine last week, Files said.
Nursing homes are working with Walgreens and CVS through a federal program to vaccinate their residents. Files said the county does not yet know when the county will have access to vaccines for first responders or local healthcare providers such as private physicians.
“Let me please emphasize that the vaccine will not be available to the general public probably until the spring of 2021,” she said. “We want to get our health care providers here vaccinated, as well as our nursing home residents and staffs.”
Files said the county spent almost $2.8 million in federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) while fighting the virus, and left about $800,000 on the table that the county was not able to spend.
As the year ends, the county’s Emergency Operations Center will begin to wind down much of its operations and transition much of the work to organizations, individuals and committees, Files said, while core county staff members will still continue in their roles in the pandemic response.
Additionally, the commissioners’ court voted to extend the services agreement with Dr. Desmar Walkes, the Bastrop County local health authority, through March of 2021 during a special session on Monday, December 7.
“We will continue to be steadfast in our resolve to keep this virus in check,” Files concluded during Monday’s meeting. “We will continue to encourage the wearing of masks and keeping gatherings small. There now appears to be light at the end of this tunnel.”
McDade ISD moves older students to remote learning through December 18
After a student tested positive for COVID-19, McDade ISD moved some of their students to remote learning for a week.
On the night of Thursday, December 10, McDade ISD announced that a student tested positive for COVID-19 and that all students in grades five through 12 would not report to school the next day and learn remotely. All buildings would be sanitized starting early the next day, and all teachers and staff would report to school at the regular time.
The next day, McDade ISD announced that all students in grades five through 12 would move to remote learning for the week of December 14 through 18 out of an abundance of caution. Due to concerns with COVID-19, McDade ISD was working with the state health department and was deep-cleaning classrooms. Students in kindergarten through fourth grade and all teachers and staff were to report to school that week as normal.
When they return from Christmas break on January 11, all students, except those without internet access or those who have been notified that they must return for in-seat learning, will be learning remotely through January 22. During those weeks, free meals will be available for pick-up or delivery.
McDade ISD offers free 15-minute COVID-19 testing for school employees and students. For more information, contact Heather Stidham at 512-273-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
COVID-19 cases: 497 active, 2,646 recovered
As of Monday afternoon, Bastrop County reported a total of 2,604 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 and 578 probable cases, according to the county’s dashboard.
The new count of probable cases, recently added to the Texas Department of State Health Services dashboard as well as the Bastrop County dashboard, includes cases where an individual has either had a positive antigen "rapid" test, or had known exposure to someone with the virus and has symptoms of COVID-19.
So far, 2,646 people have recovered from the illness in Bastrop County, leaving 497 active cases.
At the same time last week, the county’s total number of confirmed cases was 2,127, with 2,149 total recoveries and 341 active cases.
The dashboard reports one more COVID-19 fatality, bringing the number of deaths in Bastrop County due to the illness to 39.
According to the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management’s weekly update last Tuesday, the county’s two community testing sites in Bastrop and Elgin performed 420 tests between December 1 and December 7. The positivity rate for tests conducted at these sites for that period is 6.7%. The statewide positivity rate as of December 7 was 12.83%.
“Please continue to minimize the spread of COVID-19 by following the CDC's suggested three W's: wearing masks properly, washing hands thoroughly, and watching your distance around others,” last week’s post said. “Anyone who shared the Thanksgiving holidays with others beyond your household are encouraged to get tested.”
For more information about receiving a test at one of these county testing sites, visit www.bastropcountycovid19.org or call 512-972-5560. For local questions about COVID-19, call the Bastrop County hotline at 512-303-4300.
For the latest update, posted each Tuesday, visit @BastropCountyOEM on Facebook.
According to the City of Austin’s COVID-19 dashboard, found at www.austintexas.gov/covid19, the portion of the 78621 zip code in Travis County has reported 238 cases. Last week, this number was 232.
The City of Austin dashboard also 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 afternoon, the MSA has 295 inpatients in the region’s hospitals, with 90 patients in the intensive care units (ICU) and 56 ventilators in use.
Last week, 227 people were in the hospital as inpatients due to COVID-19, 77 patients were in the ICU and 43 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 November 29 at data.cms.gov.
Since August 2, the Elgin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has reported no new confirmed COVID-19 cases or deaths among residents, but two more staff members tested positive for COVID-19. A total of 36 residents and 20 staff members have been confirmed with COVID-19 over the 25 weeks of data reported so far, and six residents have died due to the virus.
In early September, Elgin ISD launched a school district dashboard of daily reported COVID-19 cases by campus, found online at www.elginisd.net/Page/6358.
So far, 10 cases have been reported in December, five of which were reported since last Monday. This includes two people at Elgin Elementary School, one student at Neidig Elementary School, one staff member at Elgin Middle School and one staff member at non-campus facilities.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, www.bop.gov/coronavirus, the federal correctional institution in Bastrop has 143 inmates and 22 staff members with active cases of COVID-19 as of Monday afternoon. Last week, 74 inmates and 16 staff members had active cases. One inmate has died of COVID-19, and 264 inmates and three staff members have recovered so far.