Just three weeks after Austin County Judge Tim Lapham lifted the mask order on Oct. 12 and there has been a spike in COVID-19 cases, mostly impcting the southern end of the county.
Brazos High School reported seven positive cases on Nov. 2, all active. Five of them are freshman students, one is a staff member and the other is an auxiliary staff member. In the last two weeks, Sealy ISD reported one active case – a sixth grader. Bellville ISD’s last reported case came on Oct. 21.
“From Aug. 19 until now we didn’t have a single case. We got them all at once,” said Brazos Superintendent Brian Thompson. “It’s unfortunate.”
He said the high school had to postpone and then cancel its last football game of the season against Rice Consolidated. As for protocols, he said the classrooms are wiped down between classes and each building is fogged every evening.
“We have been really blessed in terms of COVID cases so far,” Sealy ISD Superintendent Bryan Hallmark said in an email. “We currently have one active case in junior high (student). Prior to that, we had not had an active case in four weeks. So far this year we have had nine cases (four junior high students, three high school students, and two staff members. I think our people are taking it very seriously and are taking the necessary precautions to keep the virus from spreading when we do have cases. We just have to keep our guard up. With flu season rapidly approaching it will get interesting.”
On Monday Lapham reported that the number of active cases in the county had risen to 10, with seven of those coming on Monday, presumably the ones at Brazos High. On Thursday Lapham received word from the Texas Department of State Health Services that a 10th person in the county has died of the virus. The death occurred in early August but was just reported to Lapham last week. The total number of cases in the county was 523 as of Monday.
“We are monitoring an increase in cases in the Wallis area,” Lapham said in his Monday report. “I spoke to one gentleman today from the west end of the county who received a positive test today. He was very consciences about wearing a mask in public and he still got COVID. Social distancing is still key.”
On Friday Lapham shared information he received from the state.
“Attached you will find a list of the new cases in your county. You will notice that both of the individuals on today’s case report are listed as deceased in the comments,” the email from the state says. “These individuals were never reported to us as a positive case but recently came to our attention when they showed up on a list of individuals who had COVID-19 listed as an official cause of death.
“Further investigation by one of our epidemiologists uncovered the original positive lab report and so we are adding them to the official case count. DSHS has already been including them in the death count. Those same two individuals are listed below as new deaths verified by both death certificate and further epi investigation.”
According to daily tracking done by The Texas Tribune, Austin County has had 16 new cases in the last 14 days. That is still well below the state’s threshold of 30 active cases in the previous 14 days to allow a county to opt-out of the statewide mask mandate. Private businesses may still require masks in their establishments.
Statewide, the number of active cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise rapidly. According to the Texas Tribune, the average number of cases in the state has risen by 524 over the average the week before. On Monday alone there were 3,982 cases reported in Texas. Texas has had 909,257 cases overall. Hospitalizations are also up. On Monday there were 5,770 reported across the state. At the same time, Texas experienced 20 new deaths related to the coronavirus for a total of 18,097 since the pandemic began.
Locally, no one is hospitalized at Bellville Medical Center.
“We don’t have anyone hospitalized with COVID currently and haven’t since the latest ‘surge,’” said spokesperson Nancy Dornon. “I know the bigger hospitals are getting more cases. We are preparing for an increase, especially when those larger hospitals may not be able to accept transfers because they are at capacity.”