The Williamson County Sun

The Numbers


Location Cases Deaths
Williamson 8,331 139
Bell 5,255 77
Travis/Austin 28,212 413
Texas 701,350 14,826
U.S. 6,676,410 197,655
U.S. recovered: 2,540,334

Sept 18 8:08 am

Wilco Status Report


Due to the Labor Day Holiday, the county data will not be updated on 9/7/20. Data from this weekend will be posted on the 9/9/20 update.


County Breakout


Status
Total cases 8,525
  Confirmed cases  8,331
 Probable cases 194
Daily new cases 35
Deaths 139
Currently Hospitalized 13
Available hospital beds* 24%
Currently in ICU 8
Available ICU beds* 28%
Currently on ventilator 9
Available ventilators* 83%
Gender
Female 47.9%
Male 45.6%
Pending 6.5%

Cases by City

City C Δ
Georgetown 1,482 +12
Round Rock 2,590 +6
Hutto 547 NC
Cedar Park 833 +1
Leander 475 +4
Austin (in wilco) 551 -1
Other towns 1,039 +33
Age Group
Age C Δ
Under 5 118 -1
5 to 10 134 NC
11 to 13 114 -1
14 to 17 316 +1
18 to 30 2,323 -2
31 to 40 1,569 +5
41 to 50 1,466 +11
51 to 60 1,109 +8
61 to 70 547 +1
71 to 80 347 +1
81 and over 235 +3

  C=Confirmed Cases
  Δ=Change

*Available Hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators includes all units in Williamson County.

Deaths by Age Group
Age  
18-50 7
51-60 16
61-70 23
71-80 41
81+ 52


Sept 18 8:23 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.]

A group of girls wearing masks practice a dance routine on a football field.

The Georgetown High School Georgettes dance team, all wearing face masks, practice a routine at Birkelbach Field on Friday, September 11. They're getting ready for the first home football game of the season on October 2. Photo by Andy Sharp.


Five new COVID deaths since 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).

By BRAD STUTZMAN

 

The Williamson County and Cities Health District reported 35 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed between Wednesday and Thursday, bringing the county’s total to 8,331. That’s 104 more than reported through this past Monday night, when the Sun last examined the data.

Five new COVID deaths were reported since Monday, bringing the county’s total to 139.

 

In addition to the 8,331 confirmed cases, the health district also reports another 194 probable cases countywide.

 

Throughout the week the health district continues to list Williamson County in what it calls “phase yellow,” meaning there is “moderate community transmission” of coronavirus. More specifically, the health district’s website says it means the rate of new infections has fallen below 7 per 100,000 population and the positive test rate is below 10%.

 

“The epidemiologic curve has started to flatten,” the WCCHD reported. ”Daily new case levels, while high, continue to decline at the state and county level. The public health control measures, especially the mask mandates and business safety precautions, are having the intended effect and should be continued.


Data all over the place

The seven-day positive test rate average is 2%, down from 6% earlier in the week. The number fluctuates and the health district’s goal is to have a positive test rate of no more than 5%.

 

However, the health district cautions the reported drop might not reflect reality.

“Continued drop in positive viral test rate and the seven-day average of positive tests is due to an influx of 5,798 backlogged tests reported by DSHS (Texas Department of State Health Services) on Sept. 15, the health district’s website states. “Our positive viral test rate is artificially low due to this backlog of tests.”

A caveat also accompanies the health district’s update on hospitalization numbers.

 

The health district says 13 county residents are hospitalized due to COVID-19 — down from numbers in the mid-70s reported in recent weeks — with 13 in ICU and nine on ventilators.

 

“Today hospitalizations are at 13,” the website reports. “During routine QA [quality analysis] on our date feed, we found an error which has been corrected. The number now reflects Williamson County hospital activity.”


Most in Wilco recover

Countywide the health district reported 162 regular hospital beds (24%), 29 ICU beds (28%) and 95 ventilators (86%) available for COVID-19 patients.

 

Georgetown accounts for 1,482 of the total Williamson County cases, or 17.8%. That’s 36 more than the Sun last reported.

Residents age 18-30 continue to make up the largest single age group of those contracting coronavirus in Wilco. They represent 28% of the total with 2,333 cases.

 

Since early May 70,385 county residents have been tested for COVID-19. WCCHD says that’s 12% of the population.

An estimated 8,187 county residents (98.2%) who at some point tested positive have recovered. Recovery rates are estimated from the date of the COVID-19 test plus 10 days.

 

Williamson County reported its first COVID-19 cases March 18 and its first COVID-related death March 28 

 

Across Texas, through Friday morning 710,000 COVID-19 cases had been reported, including 14,909 deaths.

 

Throughout the U.S., as of Friday morning there had been approximately 6.7 million cases and about 198,000 deaths.

 

Globally the case count is 30.2 million and the death count stands at 947,000.

The WCCHD updates its information nightly at 10.

 

 

Sept 18 2:39 pm


COVID deaths in elderly facilities

By KATHERINE ANTHONY


State-issued reports of COVID-19 cases in state-licensed residences for the elderly show, as of August 14, there have been two resident deaths in Georgetown and there were 10 active employee cases in two Georgetown facilities.

 

The data was released on Aug. 14 by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

According to the HHSC nursing facility report, Georgetown’s Park Place Health Care Center had one resident death and eight active cases among its employees as of Aug. 14. Park Place is located at 121 FM 971.

 

The Reserve, an assisted living facility at 3600 Williams Drive, had one resident death and two active cases among employees, according to the HHSC report for assisted living facilities.

No cases were noted in any of Georgetown’s other 12 assisted living facilities.

 

The agency issues separate reports for nursing care and assisted living facilities. The August 14 reports are the second time the agency has released statewide COVID-19 data in facilities for the elderly. The first was on July 24. Before that date, HHSC had refused to release the names of senior facilities with cases of coronavirus, but a July 6 ruling by the Texas Attorney General said the agency should disclose it.

 

HHSC executive commissioner Phil Wilson said in July that data is self-reported by facilities but is reviewed by agency staff to ensure data integrity.

 

The reports are online at www.hhs.texas.gov/services/health/coronavirus-covid-19.

 

 

Sept 1 4:41 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

 

   

 

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, Sept. 21, Hammerlun Center,

East University Ave.

Watch at georgetownisd.org

 

• Commissioners Court:

regular weekly session,

9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22,

county courthouse,

710 S. Main St.

Watch at wilco.org

 

• City Council:

Tuesday, Sept. 22,

519 W. Ninth St.,

3 p.m. workshop and

6 p.m. meeting,

second and fourth Tuesday.

Watch at georgetown.org/gtv


Free COVID-19 testing coming to Hutto

Williamson County’s Office of Emergency Management, in partnership with the Texas Division of Emergency Management and Hutto Fire Rescue/Emergency Services District 3 will host free COVID-19 testing in Hutto, Tuesday through Thursday.   

 

Testing will be at the Hutto Fire and Rescue Station at 501 Exchange Boulevard. It will begin at 10 a.m. and will close by 2 p.m. or until supplies run out.    

 

This is a drive-up site that will not require an appointment. It is a cheek swab test, so you absolutely must not eat, drink, or use tobacco for at least 20 minutes before the test. Please bring a cell phone for on-site registration. Also, please remember that, due to high demand, there may be a wait.  

 

COVID-19 testing at this site is available for all Texans, whether they are Williamson County residents or not.

 

For more information on this and future testing sites, visit www.wilco.org.     


County to offer 19 Early Voting locations

Williamson County residents will have ample opportunity to vote — and 19 polling places to choose from — when the 18-day Early Voting period starts on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

 

Early Voting runs from Oct. 13 to Oct. 30. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, except for the two Sundays of Early Voting, when they’ll be open 1-6 p.m.

 

Any registered Williamson County voter can vote at any Early Voting location. The same holds true for Election Day, when even more polling places will be available.

 

Voting Locations: 

• Williamson County’s Georgetown Annex — 100 Wilco Way

• The Worship Place — 811 Sun City Blvd., Georgetown

• Georgetown ISD Technology Building — 603 Lakeway Drive

• Georgetown Randalls — 5721 Williams Drive

• Georgetown Parks and Recreation Administration Building — 1101 N. College St.

• Anderson Mill Limited District — 11500 El Salido Parkway, Austin

• Raymond Hartfield Performing Arts Center — 5800 McNeil Drive, Austin

• Spicewood Springs Library — 8637 Spicewood Spring Road, Austin

• Cedar Park Public Library — 550 Discovery Blvd.

• Cedar Park Randalls — 1400 Cypress Creek Road

• Williamson County Hutto Annex — 321 Ed Schmidt Boulevard, Suite 100

• Jarrell ISD Administration Building —108 E. Avenue F

• Pat Bryson Municipal Hall — 201 N. Brushy St., Leander

• Liberty Hill Municipal Court — 2801 RR 1869

• Baca Senior Center — 301 W. Bagdad St., Building 2, Round Rock

• Round Rock Randalls — 2051 Gattis School Road

• Brushy Creek  Community Center — 16318 Great Oaks Drive

• Williamson County Jester Annex — 1801 E. Old Settlers Blvd.

• Taylor City Hall — 400 Porter St.

 

— Brad Stutzman

 

Sept 11 2:30 pm


Curbside service for voter registration

 

By KATHERINE ANTHONY

 

The League of Women Voters-Wilco will hold two “curbside” voter registration events that allow people to register while staying in their cars.

 

The events are scheduled for:

• Friday, Sept.18, 5-7 p.m. at Igo Elementary, 1601 C.R. 314, Jarrell

• Saturday, Sept. 19, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at San Gabriel Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1322 E. University Ave., Georgetown

 

“Empowering voters is a tenet of the LWV at all levels — national, state and local,” Chris Spano, LWV-Wilco president said. “In a democracy, our vote is our voice, and the first step in voting is to get registered.”

 

Ms. Spano said the current pandemic has driven people inside, and they may pass this year on getting registered to vote.

The curbside events, she said, are designed for safety.

 

“We will be socially-distanced and workers will be masked. Just drive up and we’ll give you a registration card that you can fill out in your car and hand back.”

 

Ms. Spano said trained and certified Volunteer Deputy Registrars will conduct the registrations.

 

To be eligible to register to vote, you must be:

• A United States citizen

• A resident of the county where the application is submitted

• At least 17 years and 10 months of age

• Not be a convicted felon (unless you have completed your sentence including any incarceration, probation, or parole)

• You must not have been declared by a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be either totally mentally incapacitated or partially mentally incapacitated without the right to vote.

 

 The deadline to register to vote in the November election is Oct. 5.