The Bell County Public Health District changed the COVID-19 Threat Level to Level 1 (Severe Uncontrolled Community Transmission) on Wednesday.
This change from Level 2 (Significant) is based on the rapidly increasing incidence rate, positivity rate and surge in hospitalizations, a news release said.
The Bell County Public Health District tracks local COVID-19 data and reports to the Texas Department of State Health Services for the state dashboard.
Bell County reported a rapid rise in active cases since the threat level was adjusted on Jan. 4, and the incidence rate is now as high as it was in January 2021.
“One month ago, the incidence rate was 50 active cases per 100,000 population. When the threat level was increased one week ago the rate was 575, and yesterday it went to 1,044 active cases per 100,000 population,” the release said. “The rapid rise in cases is largely attributable to the omicron variant, which now accounts for over 90% of new cases in Bell County.
“Because of the increased spread and contagiousness of the Omicron variant, we strongly encourage full vaccination and a booster dose if eligible. The booster dose significantly enhances the immune response and helps protect against more severe disease and hospitalization. COVID-19 vaccines have been found to be very safe and effective and are being continuously monitored by the FDA with the most comprehensive and intense safety monitoring program in U.S. history.”
The health district warned while the omicron variant appears to cause less severe disease than previous variants, “we are still seeing many people developing severe disease and requiring hospitalization, especially in persons who are not vaccinated.”
“The strain on the health care system is very concerning, as it affects not only people needing care for COVID-19 but also those who need care for strokes, heart attacks, and trauma or those needing cancer treatment or surgery”, said Dr. Janice Smith, Local Health Authority. “Our health care professionals continue to provide the highest quality care possible, but they need your help. Please do your part to help prevent further spread of this virus.
“In addition to vaccination, we also encourage added layers of protection by wearing a mask especially when indoors, avoiding crowds, maintaining social distancing, and good hand washing.”
With a threat Level of 1, it is strongly recommended that those not vaccinated or at high risk of severe disease also minimize indoor activities where there are large crowds or social distancing is not possible, according to county Health District Interim Director Nikki Morrow. Use of high quality, well-fitting masks such as 3-ply surgical masks, KN95 or N95 masks provide the best protection, and are strongly recommended even for those who have been vaccinated, but especially for those who have not completed the vaccine series or had a booster, or who have contact with people who are at high risk of severe disease.
Smith recommends that anyone who has been exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19 closely follow the recently revised recommendations for isolation or quarantine. “While allowing persons to return to work after only 5 days of quarantine or isolation if they are not having symptoms, the individual must wear a mask for an additional 5 days. For those unable or unwilling to wear a mask, the isolation and quarantine periods are still 10 days.”
The Health District urged people to consult their health care providers or primary care physicians for questions on COVID-19 vaccines.
To find a COVID-19 vaccine near you or for frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 vaccines, please visit www.vaccines.gov or call 1-800-232-0233.
You can also text your zip code to 438829 to find a vaccine location near you. To reach the COVID-19 Helpline, call 2-1-1 and select option 6, call 1-877-570-9779 or visit www.211texas.org.