Bell County Judge David Blackburn on Tuesday officially ended the local disaster declaration issued during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Blackburn’s decision comes as more people get vaccinated for COVID-19 and restrictions slowly ease.
The local declaration had been in place since March 18, 2020. Bell County is now one of several counties that have ended their emergency declarations.
Blackburn said he originally wanted to wait until Gov. Greg Abbott repealed the state declaration before repealing the county’s but decided to move forward on it Tuesday.
“The only reason the declaration has been in effect the past several months was to ensure that, if there were any federal or state benefits or program funding available to the county, we could make use of them,” Blackburn said. “In talking to several area leaders, I don’t see any need to continue it at this time.”
Although the order ending, Blackburn said this was not an end to the county helping with vaccination efforts.
Blackburn said the county will continue to work with federal, state and local entities to continue to get people vaccinated, but will assume a support role. He said local health care companies and pharmacies would be the entities taking the lead in vaccinations.
As the county winds down its COVID-19 response, school districts have started to do the same by dropping mask mandates and ending updates to their dashboards.
Killeen Independent School District recently announced that it would stop updating its COVID-19 dashboard as more people get vaccinated. Killeen ISD now joins Temple ISD in winding down their dashboards, with Temple having stopped updating theirs in May alongside the Bell County Public Health District.
Belton ISD said they currently plan to continue updating their COVID-19 dashboard to show active cases through the end of the school year, if not longer.
Even as the county and state are winding down COVID-19 measures, officials are still planning on being prepared for possible future needs.
Mike Harmon, executive director of the Bell County Communications Center, told commissioners that his office had received a large amount of personal protective equipment being liquidated by the state.
Harmon said the county was able to pick up a total of 48,000 face masks and 90,000 gloves to boost the local inventory of these items.
While there has been a slowdown in vaccinations and the reporting of cases, some entities have continued doing what they can to make sure people get the vaccines they need.
For example, Feed My Sheep in Temple provided the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to the community during its Feast of Hope Event on Saturday.
Kaye Cathey, board member of the organization, said the group was able to vaccinate about 26 people who had yet to receive a vaccine. She said all but three to five of these people who received a vaccine were homeless.
“The numbers were lower than what we expected but still comparable to what the condition is right now, kind of late in the vaccine process,” She said.