Trauma Service Area O, the region of Texas that includes Bastrop County, has reached the threshold of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 that triggers a 50% capacity limit for most businesses.
Bastrop County has been notified by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) that, due to high hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the region, certain Bastrop County businesses are to operate at 50% capacity and healthcare providers may not conduct elective surgeries. Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order GA-32, issued on October 7 last year, reinstates restrictions that stop the spread of COVID-19 for regions that have high hospitalizations of COVID-19. According to the order, “high hospitalizations” is defined as any trauma service area that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 patients exceeds 15% of total hospital capacity. This designation lasts until the trauma service area’s COVID-19 hospitalization rate falls below 15% for seven consecutive days.
Under the criteria in GA-32, Trauma Service Area O meets the definition of a high hospitalization area. The Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management shared this notification—a letter from DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt, addressed to County Judge Paul Pape and sent to the mayors in Bastrop County—on their Facebook page Monday afternoon.
GA-32 also allows counties in a high hospitalization trauma service area to choose to allow their businesses to operate 75% capacity if the county has reported less than 30 cases over the previous two weeks and the county judge submits an attestation to DSHS. However, Bastrop County does not qualify for the attestation process because more than 30 cases were reported in the past two weeks.
On Monday evening, Pape released a public statement explaining these restrictions and what it means for Bastrop County. The high-hospitaliation designation means lective surgeries may not be conducted, retail businesses and restaurants are reduced from 75% occupancy to 50% for now, and bars, as defined by the TABC, have to close for in-person service.
"As County Judge, I am asking each business to comply with these more strict limits immediately," Pape said in the statement. "Working together to slow the spread of this virus is the best way to get these additional restrictions lifted. Let’s all wear a face covering in public, keep distanced from others when possible, and practice good hygiene."
Trauma Service Area O also includes Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hayes, Lee, Llano, San Saba, Travis and Williamson counties.
For more information about GA-32 and to read the order to learn which businesses are affected, visit www.dshs.texas.gov/ga3031.
Elgin library temporarily closes to the public
At the most recent Elgin City Council meeting, city manager Thomas Mattis provided an update to the council about COVID-19’s effects on the city.
As of last Tuesday’s meeting, eight city employees had tested positive in the previous week, and three more employees were quarantined.
"This is something that hasn’t happened virtually the entire year,” Mattis said. “We only had two or three cases during the entire year. Suddenly, after the holidays, we're seeing a significant spike."
Mattis said there was no obvious pattern to the infections; the affected employees were not all in the same department or in the same family.
"It's virtually all over the place,” he said. “It's a little disconcerting that we've seen this real spike."
Two library employees tested positive for COVID-19, leaving only one full-time employee and one half-time employee, Mattis said. Additionally, volunteers can’t work at the library due to the spike in cases. As a result, the city has had to shut down the library to the public again and go back to offering only curbside services and virtual programming until at least January 26.
"With this limited staff, we just simply can't operate," Mattis said.
Mattis said the city has not been receiving negative feedback on its current level of operations, so the city may stay in its current level of operations until vaccines are more widely available.
"We're certainly concerned about this spike, and we're certainly concerned about this environment with our employees,” Mattis said. “We thought when we got past 2020, it was supposed to get better. Suddenly, here we've had a rough week."
Police Chief Patrick South also spoke to the council about COVID-19 and said six employees at the police department had already received a vaccine.
“As much as we would like to have everyone do the right thing, all across the country, not just in Elgin, we're seeing the surges from Christmas and New Year’s,” Elgin Mayor Ron Ramirez said at the conclusion of the COVID-19 update. “A surge doesn't just last a week, a surge can last up to four or five weeks. That's what we're seeing. At all times, safety has to be our top priority."
COVID-19 cases: 651 active, 3,443 recovered
As of Monday morning, Bastrop County reported a total of 3,193 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 and 949 probable cases, according to the county’s dashboard.
So far, 3,443 people have recovered from the illness in Bastrop County, leaving 651 active cases.
At the same time last week, the county’s total number of confirmed cases was 2,977 and the total number of probable cases was 839, with 3,281 total recoveries and 488 active cases.
The dashboard reports one more COVID-19 fatality, bringing the number of deaths in Bastrop County due to the illness to 48.
As of Monday, 1,363 residents of Bastrop County have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 80 of those people had received their second dose to become fully vaccinated, according to a dashboard from the Texas Department of State Health Services, found at dshs.texas.gov/news/updates.shtm. Last week, 902 people had received their first dose of a vaccine.
According to the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) weekly update last Tuesday, the county’s community testing site in Bastrop performed 445 tests between December 29 and January 4. The positivity rate for the molecular PCR tests given at the county testing sites between these dates is 15.5%.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 across the 11-county Trauma Service Area O, which includes Bastrop and Travis counties, was at 15.25% as of last Tuesday.
“Please continue minimizing the spread of COVID-19 by wearing your masks, social distancing, washing hands frequently and staying home when you are sick,” last week’s post said.
For more information about receiving a test at the county testing site, visit www.bastropcountycovid19.org or call 512-972-5560. For local questions about COVID-19, call the Bastrop County hotline at 512-303-4300.
The OEM update said those who are 65 years or older, or have a medical condition that increases the risk of hospitalization or death due to COVID-19, can now receive a vaccine, depending on local availability. For a map of vaccine providers to call and inquire about the vaccine, visit www.bit.ly/2WSDFZ2.
“Providers may not have vaccines available for you yet,” the OEM’s update said. “We ask folks to be patient. Vaccine supply is limited, but providers receive more vaccines each week. It will take some time to vaccinate everyone in the 1A and 1B priority groups.”
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 261 cases. Last week, this number was 246.
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 586 inpatients in the region’s hospitals, with 180 patients in the intensive care units (ICU) and 114 ventilators in use.
Last week, 484 people were in the hospital as inpatients due to COVID-19, 151 patients were in the ICU and 92 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 December 27 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, although one more staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 during the last week of data. A total of 36 residents and 22 staff members have been confirmed with COVID-19 over the 29 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.
As of Monday afternoon, 10 students and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since last Monday. This includes one student and two staff members at Booker T. Washington Elementary School, two staff members at Neidig Elementary School, one staff member at Elgin Intermediate School, one student and two staff members at Elgin High School or Phoenix High School, and one staff member at non-campus facilities.
Including a staff member at a non-campus facility who tested positive on January 2, Elgin ISD has reported a total of 11 cases in January.
Earlier in the month, one staff member at a non-campus facility tested positive on January 2.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, www.bop.gov/coronavirus, the federal correctional institution in Bastrop has 13 inmates and 30 staff members with active cases of COVID-19 as of Monday afternoon. Last week, 15 inmates and 26 staff members had active cases. One inmate has died of COVID-19, and 452 inmates and six staff members have recovered so far.