Coronavirus pandemic

Bell County Public Health District officials reported 11 new COVID-19 deaths in the county as it nears almost 200 deaths since the beginning of July.

The new deaths reported Thursday by the district bring the county’s total to 640 dead from the virus. These new deaths mean the county has now seen 192 reported since the spike of delta variant cases in early July, with 448 deaths reported at that time.

Nikki Morrow, interim director of the district, said the new deaths were from a one-month period between Aug. 26 and Sept. 22.

The deaths included a man in his 30s, a woman in her 40s, two women in their 50s, four men in their 60s and three men in their 70s.

The district also reported a slight rise in cases on the virus Thursday to 1,338, up from 1,320 on Wednesday. The county’s incidence rate also rose to 368.7 cases of the virus per 100,000 people.

During the pandemic the county has had 32,325 cases of the virus and 30,347 recoveries.

On Friday the Texas Department of State Health Services showed a slight rise in hospitalizations for Trauma Service Area L — which includes Bell County.

The percentage of hospital beds taken up by patients with COVID-19 rose by 0.64 percentage points to 14.36 percent. This means that of the currently 1,114 staffed hospital beds, 160 were taken up by patients with the virus.

Trauma Service Area L includes hospitals in Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam and Mills counties.

School cases

Temple Independent School District only had five active confirmed cases of COVID-19 on its dashboard Friday, with seven probable cases on its tracker.

The active cases included one at Lamar Middle School, one at Jefferson Elementary, and three at Thornton Elementary.

Belton ISD reported 49 active cases of the virus on its dashboard Friday, with 24 confirmed cases and 25 probable cases. The dashboard showed about 0.27 percent of the district’s staff and student population with the virus.

Only four of the district’s 18 campuses are virus-free, those campuses include Charter Oak Elementary, Leon Heights Elementary, Miller Heights Elementary and Belton New Tech High School.

Salado ISD Superintendent Michael Novotny said the district had 23 active cases Friday with 10 students at Thomas Arnold Elementary, five students at Salado Middle School and six students and two staff at Salado High School.

Killeen ISD showed 172 active cases of COVID-19 on its dashboard Friday, with 133 students and 39 staff members.

State SNAP benefits

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds in the state.

The state will now provide about $294 million in emergency food benefits during October to more than 1.4 million households. The additional emergency funds are a continued response by the state to COVID-19.

SNAP is a federal program aimed at providing low-income families around the country with food assistance, and is administered in Texas by the commission.

Households receiving SNAP benefits will receive a minimum of $95 in emergency allotments by Oct. 31, with amounts varying based upon family size.

“We are grateful that we’ll be able to continue to help Texans provide food for themselves and their families as we work together during this pandemic,” Wayne Salter, access and eligibility services deputy executive commissioner for the commission, said.

State officials said the most recent allotments are in addition to the more than $4.5 billion in benefits provided to state residents since April of 2020.

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