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Bell County’s number of COVID-19 cases skyrocketed Thursday when health officials announced 32 residents — a third of whom were connected to a cluster of infections at a Killeen church — had contracted the virus.

That is the highest daily increase reported in the county, according to the Bell County Public Health District. The county has at least 528 cases.

“The 32 new cases today can be attributed to several factors, including more gatherings occurring, complacency following masking and social distancing recommendations, and more frequent testing in health care settings,” said Health District Director Amanda Robison-Chadwell. “Higher counts today are linked, in part, to a cluster of 10 new cases associated with a Destiny World Outreach Center in Killeen.”

Chad Rowe, the pastor of Destiny World Outreach Center, told FME News Service on Thursday evening the infections stemmed from an asymptomatic Fort Hood soldier who was recently at the Killeen church to sing during a livestream of a service.

“I was shocked, but also sad. My heart goes out to the young man and anybody (who has the virus),” Rowe said. “This is a very serious thing that could happen and people go through. Obviously, we began to pray and notify people.”

Destiny World Outreach Center has been livestreaming its services during the pandemic. Production of the services has occurred inside the church, 101 N. W.S. Young Drive in Killeen. Since the infection, Rowe said he has been holding online services from his home.

Rowe stressed that when people are at the church, they are wearing masks, keeping up with their personal hygiene and practicing social distancing. The church hired a professional cleaning services company to sanitize the building, the pastor added.

Robison-Chadwell is concerned people are getting bored and complacent about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“As much as most of us really want this virus to go away, we really do need to continue to be vigilant. Early efforts to stop the spread helped,” she said. “If we go back to that same level of vigor with handwashing, masking, and social distancing, we will likely see the numbers level out again, though I do not expect the numbers to drop as low as they were in April or early May.”

The health district also reported two additional cases to its Tuesday tally, which is now 21; it was 19. That 21 figure is now the second highest daily increase reported in the county.

The Bell County Public Health District did not report any new deaths Thursday. Six residents have died from the coronavirus.

The health district reported eight new recoveries, increasing that total to 245.

An additional 311 tests were performed since Wednesday, according to the health district. At least 20,491 tests have been performed in the county.

CORYELL, LAMPASAS COUNTIES

Coryell County did not receive new numbers from the state with the tally that didn’t include state prisoners, said Robert Harrell, emergency management coordinator. Coryell County reported 82 confirmed cases on Wednesday.

The state figures on Thursday showed 296 for Coryell County. That includes prisoners at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons in Gatesville.

Lampasas County remained at 10, officials said.

Herald reporter Hunter King contributed to this report.

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