Coronavirus pandemic

BELTON — Bell County officials announced they are once again closely following local COVID-19 numbers as the county sees an increase in cases — including the contagious Delta variant.

County spokesman James Stafford said last week’s number of active cases reached 154, following weeks with an incidence rate of 25 and 30.

Officials said a majority of those with positive tests belong to those people who have yet to be vaccinated. Of those testing positive, most have been people ages 20 to 40.

“The increased volumes are more evidence that we are not out of COVID just yet,” Patrick Swindle, chief executive officer of Seton Medical Center in Harker Heights, said. “Staying diligent with masking and appropriate hand-hygiene is still important. However, the most effective route is getting vaccinated. I urge the public to take the necessary steps to get vaccinated wherever offered.”

Local health authority Dr. Janice Smith said some of the new cases have been identified as the Delta variant.

“The increase in cases is concerning, especially since some of the cases have been identified as the Delta variant, which is much more contagious and more likely to result in hospitalization and death in the unvaccinated population,” Smith said.

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