UPDATE: FRIDAY, MARCH 13: Bell County health officials have confirmed a presumptive case of COVID-19 in Belton. More information here.


 

At a media conference held Thursday at the Central Texas Council of Governments in Belton, county officials announced their plans for responding to the spread of COVID-19 to Bell County should it occur.



Judge David A. Blackburn opened the conference by stating that there were no confirmed cases of the virus in Bell County as of Thursday afternoon. However, he said, officials expect that to change at some point.

Blackburn said Bell County is currently in Stage 1 of a three-stage COVID-19 Action Plan. Under stage one, citizens are advised to do the following to prevent the spread of the disease:

  • Stay home if you're sick
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unclean hands
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throw that tissue away
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces with a disinfectant cleaner
  • Don't travel to areas with active community spread of COVID-19
  • Wash your hands with soap and water regularly and use hand sanitizers with at least 60% of alcohol content when soap and water are not available

"When the first case in Bell County has been confirmed, the Bell County Public Health District anticipates adding to the above recommendations something called 'social distancing'", Blackburn said. That would involved people keeping a distance of at least 6 feet away from each other, as the disease is spread by air droplets with a radius of 3 to 6 feet.

Stage 2 would involve:

  • All Stage 1 measures
  • Active practice of "social distancing"
  • Avoiding contact with other people in both social and workplace settings

Stage 3 would involve:

  • All stage 1 and 2 measures
  • Bell County or the Bell County Public Health District may issue orders restricting or prohibiting mass gatherings or movement of people

Asked to elaborate on those restrictions, Blackburn replied, "My first response to that is we'll have to assess and determine what that means if and when that event occurs. In other words, when there's community spread that occurs. But there are provisions under state law that allow the county to restrict the movement of persons through disaster declarations, local disaster declarations."

Blackburn said some cities and counties have already issued such orders, which primarily affect mass gatherings. However, he did say there are provisions in the health code allowing for quarantining people. He said Stage 3 actions would be detailed should that stage be reached.

You can hear Blackburn's full presentation in the video above. Using the button below, you can download or view the documents that were handed out to members of the press present at the event.