After confirming that they lived in the county, the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) announced that five more people have died due to COVID-19.
The five fatalities were added to the dashboard after their Bastrop County residency was confirmed, according to the OEM’s weekly update on Friday. These deaths did not all occur last week, since the county receives this data after death certificates are submitted to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Last week, the county’s community testing sites completed 175 COVID-19 tests, the update also said. Since July 21, the testing sites have tested and returned results on 961 people, of which 132 have come back positive, resulting in a positivity rate of 13.74% for the county testing sites.
To see if you qualify for a free test at one of the testing sites, visit www.bastropcountycovid19.org or call 512-972-5560.
The OEM weekly update concluded with advice for parents with students who are going back to school in-person. They encourage parents to discuss proper protective measures with their children and remind them to wash their hands, practice social distancing and wear facial coverings.
“We know all of our magnificent school nurses, teachers and administrative staff have worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of all students and staff returning to school campuses and they will continue to do so,” the post says. “We appreciate each and every one of them! Let’s all do our part to protect each other, including our families, friends and those we don’t even know in order to slow the spread of COVID throughout our communities.”
Emergency official: active cases decreasing
During Monday’s regular meeting, county emergency deputy director Christine Files gave an update on Bastrop County’s response to COVID-19 to the Bastrop County Commissioners Court.
She said new cases are going down and the number of estimated recoveries is increasing, so Bastrop County has seen a decrease in active cases.
Bastrop County continues to operate two community testing sites—one at Mayfest Park in Bastrop, and the other at the Ascension Seton Health Center in Elgin—and is working to finalize a contract with St. David’s HealthCare in Bastrop to open a testing site there in the next couple of weeks, Files said.
Since July 7, the community testing sites have received results on 2,054 tests. Overall, the county has performed a total of 4,577 tests at the testing sites and in nursing homes in Bastrop County. Now that Bastrop County is working with a new laboratory, they receive test results within 48 hours, which helps people stay home once they know they’re positive, Files said. Next week, the testing sites will add mouth swabs to their testing methods to replace the "painful, all-the-way-up-your-nose" tests, she added. Additionally, the county has ordered three rapid antigen testing machines that can provide preliminary tests in approximately 15 minutes.
This Friday and Saturday, the county will host a walk-up, no appointment necessary testing site at the Cedar Creek United Methodist Church, and Acadian Ambulances will offer free testing on Friday at the McDade High School.
Temperature kiosks have been installed at all county buildings with public access, and the installation of air purifiers in all county buildings is almost complete, Files said.
"Wear your mask, encourage others to wear their masks,” she concluded. “Masks and physical distancing truly have proven themselves effective in reducing the spread of this virus. This is really the only way we're going to keep Texas open."
Health authority gives advice to school districts
Dr. Desmar Walkes, M.D., Bastrop County’s local health authority, continues to meet weekly with local school superintendents and government officials; last Monday, she shared advice for reopening schools to help school administrators during their decision-making, according to a press release from Bastrop County.
Among those attending the tele-conference were Jodi Duron, Cheryl Burns, Barbara Marchbanks and Barry Edwards from Elgin, Smithville, McDade and Bastrop ISDs, respectively.
Her recommendations are based on Bastrop County’s specific data. Under the Texas Education Agency, each independent school district has authority over when and how to reopen campuses.
According to the press release, the superintendents welcomed Dr. Walkes’ recommendations as they work on reopening schools, and school administrators and county officials will continue to meet weekly to monitor the situation.
“It is critical that everyone makes every effort to exercise good hygiene and take personal responsibility as we enter this new school year,” Dr. Walkes said in the press release. “With proper precautions, we are hopeful that things will go well for the students, teachers and administration.”
Last Monday evening during the Elgin ISD school board meeting, Duron reported back after the meeting with county officials that the area is seeing a downturn in both positive cases and hospitalizations. She said she has a standing meeting with superintendents and county officials in both Bastrop and Travis counties, as Elgin ISD spans both counties’ jurisdictions.
“The theme of the day, after talking to both counties, we still have a lot of work to do, but we’re trending in the right direction, and the efforts that we are making to reopen schools are the right path to take,” she said.
COVID-19 cases: 224 active, 1,282 recovered
As of Monday afternoon, Bastrop County has confirmed a total of 1,536 positive cases of COVID-19, according to the county’s dashboard.
So far, 1,282 people have recovered from the illness in Bastrop County, leaving 244 active cases.
At the same time last week, the county’s total number of cases was 1,452, with 1,192 recoveries and 233 active cases.
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 182 cases.
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 172 inpatients in the region’s hospitals, with 63 patients in the intensive care units (ICU) and 40 ventilators in use.
Last week, 234 people were in the hospital as inpatients due to COVID-19, 83 patients were in the ICU and 54 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 August 9 at data.cms.gov.
At that time, the Elgin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center had reported no new COVID-19 cases among residents or staff, as well as no new resident deaths attributed to COVID-19. A total of 36 residents and 17 staff members have been confirmed with COVID-19 over the 11 weeks of data reported so far, and six residents have died due to the virus.