COVID numbers continue to rise, City adjusts holiday plan

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

The month of November saw the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Texas and Williamson County since the pandemic reached the area in early March.

The County recorded 3,927 new confirmed cases last month, nearly 500 more than the second highest monthly total which was 3,493 in July. That number followed the spike in cases after Gov. Greg Abbott reopened most businesses in May. The November new case total represents 29 percent of all cases in the county since March.

The City of Liberty Hill currently has 20 active cases, and Liberty Hill ISD is reporting 14 active cases across the district, down from the pre-Thanksgiving spike that forced the temporary closure of the Junior High. This week, the Junior High is down from the 13 cases – and 10 probable – that forced the closure, to no active cases.

Of the 14 active cases in the district, four are at Rancho Sienna Elementary, three each at Liberty Hill Elementary and the high School, and two each at Santa Rita and the Intermediate School.

The increase through November did prompt the Liberty Hill City Council to pull back on its Christmas Festival planned for Dec. 12 due to concerns over continued spread of the virus.

“We made a decision about keeping businesses open, but this is a whole different thing,” said Council member Steve McIntosh. “This is a voluntary attendance thing and I think if we contribute to some sort of outbreak we’re all going to be answering for that later. I think we should keep that in mind. I think we all want to be optimistic about what we do here, and do what we hope that everyone wants, but we have some responsibility to do the right thing.”

The Council heard three options on how to handle the festivities, one being to go forward as originally planned, the second to cancel all events, and the third to cancel some and present other activities in a safer way to promote social distancing and limit the number of people gathering in one place. The Council voted unanimously to go with a scaled down, altered plan.

“Kids love this stuff, and it’s hard because people really need this, but they really also need to not get sick,” said Council member Kathy Canady. “We have hard things to think about. Maybe not popular either, but they’re important and that we make the right decision on this.”

The decision means rather than the traditional Christmas parade, the City will hold a reverse parade.

“Right now we have included a reverse parade, which is going to line Loop 332 from Liberty Hill Elementary School to the Intermediate School,” said City Administrator Lacie Hale. “We’re still working on placement for our floats, but the plan is for it to continue to be downtown. We will have a DJ that will play Christmas tunes.”

Other activities that had been planned for the festival may be put on between Dec. 18-23 individually as pop-up events, but the specific list or plans have not been settled completely.

“We’re going to host a series of pop-up events which can be a combination of photos with Santa, an ornament event where we hand out individually packaged ornaments that can be picked up to decorate at their leisure and then put it on the Christmas tree,” Hale said. “We’ll probably do two or three pop-up events and one of those will be the movie in the park on Dec. 20. ‘Elf’ is what the community decided on in the poll and we’ll still do that, we will just have a social distancing protocol so we can still spread out in the park.”

The City of Liberty Hill has also made adjustments to the daily operations of City facilities due to the increase in COVID cases.

“What the City has done is we have pushed it out on social media and put it on our website as well that the City facilities are closed to the public,” Hale said. “We did this last spring just to keep our employees safe and also to try and mitigate against the spread of COVID. Serving the public has remained consistent. We are staffed at City Hall and while we’re closed to the public we’re answering phones, payments can be made online and business is continuing.”

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