Central Texas Local News | kcentv.com

Mask order issued for Bell County, 83 new positive cases

Hospital capacity is becoming a "concern" with largest number of patients since pandemic began, County Judge David Blackburn said.

BELL COUNTY, Texas — Bell County Judge David Blackburn issued a directive Wednesday requiring the use of face masks for businesses including their employees and customers.

Blackburn said Directive seven goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday, June 29 and will continue until July 13.

Blackburn also directly addressed the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Bell County and in Texas.

The Bell County Public Health District reported 83 new cases Wednesday, the largest one day increase by more than double. The total was 903.

The jump in cases brought the seven day average from 26 Tuesday to 33 Wednesday.

Blackburn said his biggest concern was the hospital bed capacity in Trauma Service Area L which includes Bell County and several other counties.

"Out of 1,027 total staffed hospital beds, 79% of those beds are occupied  and there are only 13 ICU beds available as of 3:50 pm Tuesday," Blackburn said.

Blackburn said he was advised by the largest private health care provider in the county that they have, "the largest number of COVID patients that they have had since the pandemic began."

"The directive is intended to help stem the trend lines we are now seeing in the number of new cases in Bell County and to help us maintain our hospital capacity," said Blackburn.

Blackburn also addressed what Gov. Greg Abbott said about the possibility of another state shut down.

"I think the message he is sending us is that if we don’t see the numbers turn around, he is prepared to step back in and issue more mandate," Blackburn said. "In fact, I think the message is we will see a return to some measures that none of us want to see return."

Here is the exact wording of Directive Seven:

Health and Safety Policy - Commercial Entities.  From the effective date of this Directive, all businesses and commercial entities (‘businesses’) in Bell County providing goods or services directly to the public must develop and implement a health and safety policy (“Health and Safety Policy”).  

The Health and Safety Policy must require, at a minimum, the following:
A. All businesses (this includes all offices and departments of Bell County) shall require employees, including volunteers, to have a face covering when either in an area or performing an activity which will necessarily involve close contact or proximity to co-workers or the public, where six (6) feet of separation from other individuals is not feasible; 

B. All businesses shall require that all visitors, to include contractors and vendors, wear face coverings while on the business’s premises;  
C. All businesses shall post the Health and Safety Policy required by this Directive in a conspicuous location sufficient to provide notice to employees, volunteers, and visitors; and 
D. The Health and Safety Policy required to be developed and implemented by this Directive may also include other mitigating measures designed to control and reduce the transmission of COVID19 such as temperature checks and health screening.  

Face Coverings - General Public. From the effective date of this Directive, it is strongly recommended that all people 10 years or older should wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when in a public place where it is difficult to keep six feet away from other people or working in areas that involve close proximity with other coworkers.  The CDC advises face coverings for people 2 years or older.  Face coverings may include homemade masks, scarfs, bandanas, or a handkerchief.  Bell County residents should continue to maintain social distancing of at least six feet while outside their home.  Bell County employees are not exempt from these recommendations.  

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