The Williamson County Sun

The Numbers


Location Cases Deaths
Williamson 7,148 99
Bell 4,089 26
Travis/Austin 23,718 328
Texas 530,857 9,771
U.S. 5,254,878 167,253
U.S. recovered: 1,774,648

Aug 14 8:14 am

Wilco Status Report


County Breakout


Status
Total cases 7,326
  Confirmed cases  7,148
 Probable cases 178
Daily new cases 73
Deaths 99
Currently Hospitalized 75
  Of all hospital beds in Wilco available 23%
Currently in ICU 31
  Of all ICU beds in Wilco available 25%
Currently on ventilator 15
  Of all ventilators in Wilco available 75%
Gender
Female 48.5%
Male 45.3%
Pending 6.2%

Cases by City

City C Δ
Georgetown 1,225 +18
Round Rock 2,211 +14
Hutto 488 +7
Cedar Park 751 +2
Leander 367 +6
Austin (in wilco) 432 -1
Other towns 851 +8
Age Group
Age C Δ
1 to 17 602 +11
18 to 30 1,945 +20
31 to 40 1,351 +7
41 to 50 1,261 +16
51 to 60 951 +9
61 to 70 494 +4
71 to 80 304 NC
81 and over 196 NC

  C=Confirmed Cases
  Δ=Change

Aug 14 8:21 am


*Data is collected from the Williamson County and Cities Health District. Health care facilities in the county report COVID-19 case information to the health district. A spokesperson said the health district does not always get complete information for all of the cases as some data is reported via a test result and staff does not speak to the person to get full details. This is why broken down information might not always add up to the overall totals.

Sources: Williamson Co. Health Dept.


State offers guidance for reopening retail


Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order April 17 to allow nonessential retail businesses to operate during the pandemic. The Texas Department of State Health Services offers guidance to retail business owners, their employees and customers to operate safely. The guidelines are based on information currently available and will be updated when appropriate. This guidance does not apply to businesses considered essential. It is based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


    Retail employees
  • • All employees must be trained on environmental cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette.
  • • All employees must be screened before coming into the business for:
  • • new or worsening cough
  • • shortness of breath
  • • sore throat
  • • loss of taste or smell
  • • feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100 F
  • • known close contact with a person who is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19.
  • Any employee who meets any of these criteria should be sent home.
  • • Upon entering the business, employees must wash or sanitize hands.
  • • All employees must wear face coverings.
  • • Employees must maintain at least 6 feet separation from one another.

    Retail customers
  • • Customers may not enter the premises of a retail store. They may purchase items from a retail location for pickup, delivery by mail or delivery to the customer's doorstep.

    Retail to-go:
  • • All payments should be done over the phone or internet if possible, and contact should be minimized if remote payment is not available.
  • • An employee should deliver purchased items to the backseat or trunk of the customer's vehicle whenever possible to minimize physical contact with the customer.
  • • Employees must wash or sanitize their hands after each interaction with a customer, and whenever possible, must disinfect any item that came into contact with the customer.

    Retail delivery:
  • • All payments should be done over the phone or internet if possible, and contact should be minimized if remote payment is not available.
  • • An employee or third-party carrier should deliver purchased items to the customer's doorstep. The employee or third-party carrier may not enter the customer's house or business.

    Retail delivery by mail:
  • • All payments must be done over the phone or internet.
  • • Purchased items should be delivered by mail without customer contact.
  • • The customer should wash or sanitize their hands after the transaction.

May 6 7:56 am


The Guide to Georgetown

The Guide to Georgetown


[View all publications.]

Health district reports 59 new cases Monday

 

COVID-19 definitions

The following are some definitions, as provided by the Williamson County and Cities Health District.

  • • Confirmed Case: A Williamson County resident with a positive laboratory diagnostic test for SARS- CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
  • • Total Confirmed Cases: The cumulative number of confirmed cases, regardless of outcome.
  • • Deceased: The number of confirmed cases who died because of their COVID-19 illness or complications thereof.
  • • Probable Case: A case that does not have a negative viral test and meets one of the following criteria: 1) has clinical symptoms and close contact with known case; 2) has a positive serological test and clinical or epidemiologic link; 3) COVID-19 as cause of death or significant contributing factors.
  • • Estimated Active and Recovered Cases: Recovery dates are estimated as date of COVID-19 test plus 14 days, the average infectious period. It is important to note that actual recovery may take more or less time.
  • • Hospitalizations: WCCHD uses data reported by hospitals on the number of confirmed COVID-19 patients in the hospital, in the ICU and on a ventilator in the ICU. These patients may not all be residents of Williamson County. This more accurately represents the impact on Williamson County hospitals.
  • • Available Beds and Ventilators: The percentage of hospital beds and ventilators that are available for those with COVID-19 illness. Available bed and ventilator percentages are calculated using the overall capacity of Williamson County hospitals, calculated by the Capital Area Trauma Regional Advisory Council (CATRAC).
  • • Tests Reported: The cumulative number of diagnostic tests reported by public and non-public labs (commercial labs).
  • • Positive Test Rate: The positive test rate, calculated on a seven-day rolling average, displaying the percentage of positive test results out of the total viral tests reported.
  • • Epidemiological Curve: Shows the progression of the COVID-19 outbreak in Williamson County by the date cases are tested. The epidemiologic curve is the curve referred to in the phrase, "flatten the curve."
  • • Average Rate of New Infections: Shows the daily rates of new infections of COVID-19 over time. Each dot represents the average rate of new infections for the past seven days. Each colored line represents the infection rate over time for each county (Bell, Williamson and Travis).

The Williamson County and Cities Health District reported 59 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed Monday, bringing the county's total to 6,893 since the coronavirus outbreak began earlier this year.


The district's website states there have been 648 new cases in Williamson County during roughly the past month — since July 7.


"The large amount of cases were due to a lab-reporting backlog from the state," the website states. "The majority of cases are old, dating back from June and July.
"Although we notice a spike in the new infection rate due to this, (rising from 10 to about 27 per 100,000 people) we believe the actual rate of infection continues to slowly decline.


"The backlog is also driving down the percentage of positive tests, which now stands at 8.71%. We expect this number to rise again once the backlog is cleared."
In addition to the 6,893 confirmed cases, the health district also makes note on its dashboard website of 177 probable cases countywide. The district updates its information nightly at 10.


At least 93 county residents — including at least 16 from Georgetown — have died from coronavirus, based on death certificates compiled at the state level.


Georgetown accounts for 1,186 of the total cases, or 17.2%.
Residents age 18-30 continue to make up the largest single age group of those contracting coronavirus in Wilco. They represent 27% of the total, with 1,867 cases.


Since early May, 46,071 county residents have been tested for COVID-19. The health district says that's 8% of the total population.


An estimated 5,700 residents (82%) who at some point tested positive have recovered. Recovery dates are estimated from the date of the COVID-19 test plus 14 days, which is the average infectious period.


Countywide, the health district reported 164 regular hospital beds (24%), 22 ICU beds (20%) and 90 ventilators (76%) are available for COVID-19 patients.


Aug 11 2:01 pm


No COVID-19 deaths at area nursing homes


9 cases reported in care facilities none in assisted living centers


Georgetown’s residences for older adults have avoided high numbers of coronavirus cases according to data released July 27 by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which licenses long-term care facilities.

Among Georgetown’s three nursing homes, nine cases of COVID-19 among staff and residents have been reported. No deaths have been reported.

 

No cases have been reported among the 13 licensed assisted living centers in the city.

 

The data is self-reported according to HHSC but is staff-reviewed to ensure data integrity, HHSC Executive Commissioner Phil Wilson said.

 

HHSC had refused to release the names of nursing and assisted living facilities with cases of coronavirus for the past four months, saying the data was protected by health privacy laws, but a ruling by the Texas Attorney General’s Office on July 6 said the agency should disclose the information.

 

Visitation rules relaxed

On Aug. 6, Mr. Wilson announced new limited visitation rules for nursing and long-term care facilities, easing up on the total visitor bans that have separated residents from their families since mid-March.

At assisted living facilities, limited indoor and outdoor visitation procedures are now allowed. However, physical contact between residents and visitors is not permitted. Additional conditions a facility must meet to conduct limited visitation include:

 

• Use of plexiglass as a safety barrier for indoor visitation.

• No confirmed COVID-19 positive results in staff in the last 14 days.

• No active positive cases in residents.

• Adequate staffing to facilitate visitation in compliance with infection control requirements.

Revised restrictions are tighter on nursing facilities, which can offer only outdoor visits. To conduct limited outdoor visitation, nursing homes also must meet these requirements:

• No confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in staff in the last 14 days.

• No active positive cases in residents.

• Any facility previously experiencing an outbreak that has fully recovered must be adequately staffed and following adequate infection control procedures.

• Facility staff will be tested weekly for COVID-19 weekly.

 

“This is a rapidly evolving situation and we are constantly assessing what actions are necessary to keep residents and staff safe in these facilities,” Mr. Wilson said in a press release.

“By following these procedures and rules, facilities can more effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19 and help us achieve our shared goal of reuniting residents with their families and friends.”

 

Aug 11 2:06 pm


Death count measuring standard changes

As of Thursday morning, Williamson County officially had 76 COVID-19 deaths, not 100 as the county and local health district had previously reported. The change is a function of how deaths are being counted. It is not a change in actual deaths.

A press release from Williamson County government states: "The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is now using death certificates, instead of local health district reports, to count COVID-19 fatalities." The release said the new method standardizes reporting across Texas, but can cause local numbers to be out of sync with DSHS numbers. Following a fatality, death certificates can take weeks or months to be issued.

 

July 30 9:55 am


Health director warns: pandemic reality 'grim'

Masks and social distancing are our best hope

By LISA HELLIER

The county's top health official told city officials that "social distancing and mask wearing are the only two things that can save us at this point" last week at a council workshop. Williamson County and Cities Health District Director Derrick Neal said the situation is grim — and that his assessment was true and transparent.

Mr. Neal answered council questions about virus testing options, the health district's dashboard and what data to look out for. He also explained how important it is for the community to respect the virus and follow safety measures to slow its spread. "We're seeing our numbers grow at an alarming rate from opening up, which we understand we had to do to be able to survive economically," he said. "But those communities who tend to address the public health issue upfront tend to be economically solvent long term." Mr. Neal said businesses and facilities opened before the appropriate two-week decline in cases was seen. Governor Greg Abbott initiated phase one to reopen retail stores, malls, restaurants and movie theaters to a limited 25% occupancy on May 1 and initiated the second phase of reopening May 18. More nonessential stores opened and occupancy increased to 50% for the phase one businesses.

The infection rate in Williamson County, which had stayed at about 1% or lower since mid-March, exceeded 3% on multiple days leading up to May. It fluctuated from 1% to 3% through the rest of the month with no decrease in sight.

"We didn't even follow the guidance given to us," Mr. Neal said. "We opened up while still going through a growth" [in Covid cases].

 

Dashboard data

Mr. Neal explained the numbers reported on the Williamson County and Cities Health District online dashboard, which reports coronavirus data for the county. The dashboard highlights the total number of cases, deaths, hospitalization information, cases by city, estimated recovered and active cases.

Though all significant, he said hospital availability is one of the most important numbers to look at because a major part of slowing the spread is to ensure hospitals don't run out of space. Hospital bed and ventilator percentages are based on the number of those available for COVID-19 cases in the county and calculated by the Capital Area Trauma Regional Advisory Council. The health district transitioned in early July to CATRAC's contact tracing and data system. The district no longer has access to some of the data previously collected in-house. The district also started posting estimated active and recovered cases instead of exact numbers.

 

Fast test results critical
Mr. Neal said he wants more testing and faster results. He said it doesn't do residents any good to wait seven to 10 days to get test results back, especially for asymptomatic cases. He thinks the county should increase its rapid testing efforts to make sure those who test positive know quickly so they can stay home and not infect others. When asked if nasal or mouth swab testing is more effective, he said either way, 30% of tests result in a false positive or false negative. The mouth swab, he said, is easier and usually has a faster turnaround time. Even with the chance of false results, he still believes it is important to test.

He also said WCCHD has struggled with contact tracing — to follow up with people in close contact with someone who tested positive. "Contact tracing remains a huge issue at this point simply because a lot of residents don't want to cooperate when we call to ask questions in terms of contact," Mr. Neal said. Public health not political Council members emphasized the importance of communicating hard facts in what has become a political issue on top of a major public health problem. They expressed concern with some of the inconsistencies that occasionally pop up on the dashboard and confusion surrounding masks.

After 20 years in the field of public health, Mr. Neal said, this is the first time he has seen a health issue politicized. He emphasized that the public's safety is not a political issue. The health district relies on information it receives from area hospitals and it transitioned to the CATRAC system. Both have played a role in data changes and inconsistencies, he said. Mr. Neal said one of the greatest challenges in the pandemic has been to reduce the chance of COVID-19 spreading in nursing homes, assisted living homes and other institutional settings. Though he said the health district took action immediately in high-risk care facilities, risk can't be completely eliminated. It is introduced from the outside, he said.

"We've been doing a good job isolating, but it's a day by day process," Mr. Neal said. "We continue to insulate and protect the most vulnerable population. "One of the things I want to ask you is for grace on this, as public health professionals won't know the devastation of this disease until it runs its full progression." He said what may have been true three to four months ago may not be true now.

"We don't know everything about this disease," he said. "What we don't know can really harm us in the long term. The virus will have the final say.


Virus assistance programs available

 

Opportunities for Williamson and Burnet Counties is offering three new programs to help residents during the pandemic.

These programs were developed by Community Services to assist those who have been impacted by COVID-19 financially.

 

COVID-19 Emergency Assistance helps those who qualify with rental assistance, utility assistance or funds to cover the cost of a needed prescribed medication. Additionally, the Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) and the Self-Sufficiency Program are available for those in Williamson and Burnet counties who qualify. CEAP helps cover the cost of energy bills, while the Self-Sufficiency program provides case management services.

 

"This pandemic is something that has taken us all by surprise," said Kori Ince, the director of Community Services at OWBC. "More and more families have lost income, are struggling to pay their bills and are now at risk of losing their place to live. With funding from the recent CARES Act, we are able to help COVID-19 affected households by providing basic financial needs."

 

Visit www.owbc-tx.org and select COVID-19 Emergency Assistance to apply for assistance. Applications can be made online or printed and mailed to the main office at 604 High Tech Drive.

 

July 10 2:15 pm


 

City mandates facial coverings

Employees and customers at commercial businesses in Georgetown will be required to wear face coverings effective Friday, July 3.

Mayor Dale Ross issued the order Monday in response to the significant increase in COVID-19 cases across Williamson County in June, as well as the growing number of individuals hospitalized and those put in intensive care units. By press time Tuesday, 36% of hospital beds and 12% ICU beds were available.

The order applies to city facilities and all commercial businesses that directly serve the public.

The county has had a total of 2,100 cases, 1,165 of which are currently active. The month of June accounts for more than 70% of coronavirus cases since the outbreak started mid-March. Georgetown currently has 227 cases — 358 cases overall — and six deaths.

Businesses that do not adopt and enforce this new mask mandate, which is required when physical distance cannot be maintained, face a fine up to $1,000 per offense.

Neighboring cities Round Rock, Leander, Cedar Park, Hutto and Taylor have also implemented similar mask requirements. The order will remain in place until Williamson County reports a positive test rate of 7% or lower over a two-week average.

 

July 1 7:20 am

 


County continues free testing

Williamson County and Family Emergency Room plans to continue its free COVID-19 testing services for residents with a streamlined process and more testing sites.

 

The two entities announced Monday an improved contract to make testing more accessible and scheduling more efficient. Family Emergency Room will now provide a scheduling process that no longer requires residents to wait for a call back to schedule an appointment. People previously had to wait up to 48 hours after filling out an online assessment to schedule a test. The new process will allow individuals to select the time and testing location that best fits their needs.

 

The agreement also allows more Family Emergency Room sites to be used. Residents can use drive-thru testing at the Whitestone Boulevard and Lakeline Boulevard locations in Cedar Park or the Round Rock facility on A.W. Grimes Boulevard. Family Emergency Room plans to provide testing at additional Williamson County facilities.

 

The charges for COVID-19 tests currently are covered by most insurance companies. Family Emergency Room will bill insurance companies at no cost to residents. Tests for Wilco residents without insurance will be paid for by the county.

 

Testing, which originally started May 1 for symptomatic individuals, currently is available for symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.

 

Testing now is being prioritized for symptomatic individuals because of high demand. Asymptomatic and antibody testing is also available for a fee and is being scheduled within a five to eight day period.
Visit familyhospitalsystems.com/covid-19/ for more information on the nasal swab test and the antibody test or to schedule a test.

 

July 7 4:42 pm



   

Javier Ambler caravan rolls Saturday

 

The family of Javier Ambler will lead a caravan through San Gabriel Park at 2 p.m. Saturday, August 15, to bring attention to police brutality and racial injustice. 

 

Mr. Ambler died at the hands of Williamson County sheriff deputies J.J. Johnson and Zachary Camdenin March 2019. They repeatedly Tased the 40-year-old Black father with a heart condition during filming of an episode of Live PD, despite Mr. Ambler repeating that he couldn’t breathe. 

 

“This is not a new narrative,” said Kimberly Ambler-Jones, Mr. Ambler’s sister. “We see the same headlines week after week with new names of Black American’s murdered at the hands of the police — now we are demanding accountability in Williamson County to end this cycle of violence.” 

 

Before the “Pushing for Justice Caravan,” a meeting at 1 p.m. will include speeches from Texas Representatives from Williamson County Celia Israel, James Talarico and John Bucy, as well as Pflugerville City Council Member Rudy Metayer and Ms. Ambler-Jones. The caravan will meet near the Show Barn parking lot at 445 East Morrow Street. 

 

Voter registration will be available following the speeches. Time to decorate cars will be allotted and some decorations will be available. Social distancing guidelines will be followed. The caravan will begin at 2 p.m.

 

The family of Mr. Ambler hopes the caravan will encourage people to critically examine candidates up for election, namely Sheriff Robert Chody who is up for re-election against candidate Mike Gleason. 

“Something needs to change,” Ms. Ambler-Jones said. “We need to hold the deputies, the sheriff and the sheriff’s department accountable. For anyone to have their life stolen like this by those sworn to protect is inexcusable.”

 

To volunteer to help with the caravan can reach out to justiceforjavierambler@gmail.com

 


Restaurant Update


Most area restaurants serve takeout or offer delivery service. Some have opened their indoor and outdoor dining areas.


RoundAbout


Event Changes, status updates, and online entertainiment options.


Coronavirus testing

 

Wilco residents can go to wilco.org/coronavirus to schedule a drive-thru test at one of the testing locations. Individuals must first fill out an online assessment and then wait for a call from the facility within 48 hours to schedule an appointment.

 

StandOut!

Call 512-930-4824 or email ads@wilcosun.com to find out how to get premium front page placement with the Sun.

 

 


Upcoming Public meetings

• Georgetown school board:

regular session,

7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 17, Hammerlun Center,

East University Ave.

Watch at georgetownisd.org

 

• Commissioners Court:

regular weekly session,

9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18,

county courthouse,

710 S. Main St.

Watch at wilco.org

 

• City Council:

Tuesday, Aug. 25,

519 W. Ninth St.,

3 p.m. workshop and

6 p.m. meeting,

second and fourth Tuesday.

Watch at georgetown.org/gtv


County changes free virus testing sites

Williamson County has made a change to its COVID-19 testing sites this week. Additional free COVID-19 testing was conducted at Hutto Middle School on July 6, Jarrell Middle School July 7-8 and will end the week with testing in Taylor.


Testing for symptomatic and asymptomatic people will be conducted from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 9-10 at Taylor Main Street Intermediate School, 3101 N. Main St.


Testing is open to everyone, not just county residents. People will be asked to park and then stand in line. County spokesperson Connie Odom said people should be prepared for long lines and are urged to bring a water bottle and a form of shade to cover from the sun if necessary.


The City of Liberty Hill, the previously announced location for July 9-10, is rescheduling its testing for a different date in the future.

 

Family Health Clinic in Cedar Park is offering free COVID-19 testing for Liberty Hill residents as an option near the city.

 

The county's free testing this week is conducted through a partnership with the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Military Department, which includes Army and Air national guards and the Texas State Guard.