Bell County Leaders Track COVID-19 Case Increases

Belton, TX – Bell County healthcare leaders are closely following COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Officials say they have recently seen a slight uptick in those numbers.

The Bell County Public Health District has tracked local COVID-19 rates and reported them to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) for its dashboard. Over the past several weeks, the county’s incidence rate has hovered between 25 and 30 new cases per 100,000 population. However, last week’s total was 154 active cases.

“The increased volumes are more evidence that we are not out of COVID just yet,” Patrick Swindle, Chief Executive Officer of Seton Medical Center in Harker Heights, said. “Staying diligent with masking and appropriate hand-hygiene is still important. However, the most effective route is getting vaccinated. I urge the public to take the necessary steps to get vaccinated wherever offered.”

“The increase in cases is concerning, especially since some of the cases have been identified as the Delta variant, which is much more contagious and more likely to result in hospitalization and death in the unvaccinated population,” Dr. Janice Smith, Local Health Authority, said.

Officials have also noticed a few trends in the new cases. First, area COVID-19 patients have gotten younger. Most of the new positive tests have belonged to people between the ages of 20 and 40.

“Additionally, what I am hearing from our health care providers is that the vast majority of the positive tests belong to individuals who have not been vaccinated,” Bell County Judge David Blackburn said. “It is clear that increasing vaccinations is still our best strategy to navigate thru this pandemic and get to closure.”

“This speaks to the importance of our continued COVID-19 vaccine effort in the community,” Shahin Motakef, president of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Temple, said.

Vaccinations are currently available at several Bell County CVS, H-E-B, Sam’s Club, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart locations. Baylor Scott & White is currently offering vaccinations out of four locations in Temple and Killeen. Appointments can be scheduled through the MyBSWHealth app or by calling 1-844-BSW-VACC (1-844-279-8222).

“If you have any questions or concerns about getting vaccinated, please talk to your doctor or contact the Bell County Public Health District,” Judge Blackburn said.

The Bell County Public Health District has plans to increase educational messaging within the community to help people understand the importance of the COVID-19 vaccination.  These include a targeted media campaign in those geographic areas that have experienced recent spikes in cases. Organizers also hope to increase outreach and coordination with a variety of community entities including developing back-to-school vaccination initiatives.

“We encourage everyone eligible for the vaccine to take this crucial step in protecting themselves and our community,” Motakef said, “by not getting vaccinated, we risk erasing much of the progress we have made to get life back to normal.”