COVID-19 threat not going away



Liberty Hill has been reminded in an up close and personal way recently that the threat of COVID-19 infection has not gone away and the need for safety protocols and precautions remains.

Winkley’s General Store in Liberty Hill announced on social media Sunday that one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19 and the business has been temporarily closed. The store’s post read: “(The employee was) last at the store on Wednesday, June 10. They were not out in the general shopping area and did not come into contact with any customers. We have hired The Steam Team to conduct professional disinfecting for the whole store and will re-open as soon as possible.”

At press time Wednesday, no more information was available as to when Winkley’s would reopen.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Liberty Hill have doubled since June 1, from 11 to 22. Ten of those have been reported as recovered.

In Williamson County, confirmed cases have gone from 816 on May 1 – the first day businesses in Texas began opening after a nearly six-week period of limited service and shutdowns – to 1,734 as of Tuesday evening. The number of active cases in the county – which is the confirmed total minus reported recoveries and fatalities – is also climbing daily and was at 393 Tuesday. Of the 1,021 total cases in Williamson County since the first were announced in mid-March, 49 percent of them have come since June 1.

Travis County has seen a recent spike in cases to a total of 4,771 — the fourth highest total for a county in Texas behind Harris, Dallas and Tarrant counties. Among Texas’ 254 counties, 237 have now had at least one COVID-19 case, with 17 of those reporting more than 1,000.

Increases across the state have prompted mayors in many larger cities to request authority from Gov. Greg Abbott to tighten restrictions and enforce precautions locally.

When Abbott announced the phased plan to reopen Texas businesses and loosen stay home restrictions, his executive order prevented local authorities from issuing more restrictive regulations.

On Tuesday, Abbott addressed the rising number of hospitalizations, which surpassed 2,500 for the first time, and the new single-day high of 2,622 new confirmed cases in the state.

He attributed the large number of new cases to a large number of tests out of an assisted living center in Collin County and added that Hays County was another example of a large single-day increase.

Abbott said masks are necessary in preventing the spread of coronavirus, although he emphasized local governments can’t use their authority on those violating social distancing guidelines.

“Putting people in jail, however, is the wrong approach,” he said.

He recommended that people stay home, which he says is especially true for those with an underlying health condition or who are 65 and older, but added that precautions taken by recently open businesses can be effective in slowing the spread of the virus.

“Businesses have learned safe strategies both for their employees as well as their customers to make sure that they’re preventing the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

He said Texas doesn’t have to choose between either returning jobs or protecting health care.

Addressing the question of hospital bed availability as more Texans are hospitalized for COVID-19, Dr. John Zerwas said there are 14,993 total beds available in Texas out of the state’s 54,844 beds.

Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said state officials expected this increase in patients, but added, “We are seeing it occurring at a manageable level. The possibility that things could flare up again and produce a resurgence of COVID-19 is still very real.”

In the Austin region, which includes Williamson County, 28 percent of the area’s 3,250 beds are available.

When asked about schools returning in the fall, Abbott says he anticipates an announcement this week or next on the upcoming school year.

“It is my expectation to see students return to schools in a classroom setting – able to interact with teachers as well as able to interact with other students,” he said.