Virus numbers continue to rise
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Despite new daily case numbers in the single digits in Williamson County since a spike April 26 due to a cluster of cases found in a Round Rock nursing home, the rise remains steady.
Williamson County announced the twelfth death from COVID-19 Wednesday, a male in his 90s. It was the fourth fatality in the County in the last week.
“I am reminded that we are still in the fight against this deadly disease, and it will take all of us doing our part to keep our loved ones, and others in our community safe,” said County Judge Bill Gravell. “When we make sacrifices to reduce the spread we save lives.”
Eight of the county’s 12 fatalities have been over the age of 60.
Liberty Hill has not announced a new case in more than a week, with five total cases – three of those reported as recovered.
Six cases were identified as being in Liberty Hill previously, but a discrepancy of a patient’s residential address versus a Liberty Hill post office box address mistakenly placed that person in Liberty Hill.
The total number of confirmed cases in Williamson County is 341 — up 48 from the same time last week. Officials are reporting that 199 of those individuals have recovered.
While Williamson County ranks 21st among Texas counties in confirmed cases, Travis County is fourth with 1,876. Seven counties have 1,000 or more cases and one or more cases of the virus have been confirmed in 216 of 254 counties. Burnet County has 24, Bell County has 210 and Milam County has 18.
Across the state, the testing effort has increased dramatically, with more than 124,000 Texans tested in the last week. The total tested is 438,938, representing about 1.5 percent of the population. Public testing continues to be limited to individuals showing virus symptoms.
With the increase in testing has come an increase in confirmed cases, averaging just over 1,000 new cases per day in the last week, bringing the state total to 34,422. The number of fatalities has also increased at a faster rate, with 23 percent of the total fatalities (948) in Texas coming over the last seven days (216).
As of Wednesday, 1,812 were hospitalized in the state, representing only 10 percent of available hospital beds. The number hospitalized had surpassed 1,800 April 23, only to dip down to below that number for nine days before peaking Tuesday at 1,888.
Across the country, the confirmed case total has surpassed 1.2 million, with more than 70,000 fatalities.
Many Liberty Hill businesses have reopened since Gov. Greg Abbott announced new guidelines that would allow some to reopen on May 1.
“I went around Friday to the offices or businesses I knew that were starting to open or planned to open and I talked to them,” said Liberty Hill Mayor Rick Hall. “It seemed like they were all adhering to the Governor’s orders of distancing inside and the 25 percent maximum of their occupancy. A lot of restaurants have taken tables out and set them to the side and reorganized their seating to accommodate that.”
He added that some have decided to remain closed or continue with even more limited services, but the ones who had opened appeared to be handling the restrictions well.
“(Businesses) seemed to be pleased, and they didn’t have any issues,” Hall said. “They are just trying to make it and I think it is a good start as long as the public and the businesses adhere to the Governor’s orders I think we’ll still be okay throughout this reopening process and not have any further impacts.”
With new guidelines in place for a week that allowed retail and restaurant operations to reopen May 1, Abbott announced Tuesday that salons and barber shops could reopen Friday and that gyms and exercise facilities can do so May 18.
The directive for Friday allows salons, barber shops, nail salons, and tanning businesses to open. Guidelines include urging businesses to schedule appointments to limit the number of customers in the business at once, as well as asking customers to wait in their cars rather than the waiting area until their appointment time. Businesses are expected to screen employees for symptoms of the virus, and encouraged to provide masks for clients.