WILLIAMSON COUNTY, TX — Another two people have died of the coronavirus on Monday, bringing the total fatality count to 74 since the respiratory illness onset across the region. The illness count grew to 4,888 on Monday — 96 more cases than reported on Sunday.
The latest to die of the illness — for which no vaccine exists — were a man and woman in their 90s. Williamson County and Cities Health District officials are precluded from providing further given the existence of patient privacy laws.
“As these families try to navigate life without their loved ones, it is our responsibility to do everything we can to help reduce the spread of the virus that took their lives forever," Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell said in a prepared statement. "We ask that you stay home if you are feeling ill, wear a face covering when you are in public, socially distance, wash your hands often, and keep hand sanitizer handy. These safety measures may sound repetitive by now, but they continue to be our best assets when it comes to fighting back against COVID-19.”
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According to a Williamson County and Cities Health District statistical dashboard, there have been 4,888 confirmed cases of coronavirus. There are an estimated 1,407 active cases of the respiratory illness, including 98 currently hospitalized — with 39 being treated at intensive care units and another 18 placed on ventilators to help them breathe.
Amid the growing rates of illness, hospital resources continue to dwindle, with 28 percent of hospital beds available and 10 percent of intensive care unit beds. Ventilators are more plentiful, with 64 percent available.
The data indicate an estimated 3,767 patients have recovered since contracting the virus.
The past 30 days of the coronavirus reach have been especially lethal in Williamson County. The two deaths reported on Monday follow another pair of fatalities — a woman in her 70s and a man in his 90s — reported on Sunday.
"Thinking about the families that are going on without their loved one today and sending them prayers during this difficult time," Gravell said then. "Nothing can take away their pain from losing a loved one too soon due to COVID-19. All we can do moving forward is to stop the spread of this disease through the actions that are within our power. Wear a face covering and keep social distancing. These things will protect yourself and others, especially the most vulnerable in our community."
On Saturday, three people were reported to have died — a man in his 60s, another in his 80s and a woman in her 80s. Last Friday (July 17), a woman in her 80s and a man in his 50s succumbed to the illness. The day before on Thursday, health officials reported four deaths in a single day — all women, ranging in ages from their 60s to their 90s. The day before that, five fatalities were reported in a 24-hour period — the highest number of fatalities in a single day, a county spokesperson told Patch. Those July 15 deaths involved a man in his 50s, another in his 70s, two women in their 80s and another in her 70s.
The upshot: In the month-long span, 39 people have succumbed to the virus.
Despite the rising illness counts and death rates, Gravell has resisted mandating masks — largely a formality at this point given a recent executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott mandating them — in what could yield a powerful message as to their effectiveness in blunting the spread of illness.
“Face coverings in our more populated areas in Williamson County seem to make sense, but in some of more rural areas, it just seems to make no sense, whatsoever,” Gravel told CBS Austin in June in explaining his resistance to issue a countywide mask mandate. “You can’t legislate common sense. And, I think if there are area businesses that are concerned because people aren’t wearing masks, they also have the right to refuse customer service, as well. I remember as a kid growing up, where you would see the signs that say no shoes, no shirt, no service. And, if that’s a decision an area business wants to make, they can certainly do that.”
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Short of a countywide mask mandate, several cities within the county took it upon themselves to require masks in mitigating further spread of illness. KUT recently compiled the various mask mandates across the region:
Every person from age 10 and older is required to wear a face covering in commercial spaces and public places when six feet of distance cannot be maintained.
A first-time violation of the ordinance will result in a verbal or written warning. Ensuing violations are punishable by fines up to $200.
Exceptions include scenarios such as when a person is exercising or if there is a barrier such as Plexiglas provides adequate protection.
The ordinance is in effect until Aug. 28.
The mask ordinance was passed unanimously by city council members, and can be found here.
Every person over the age of 10, including employees and visitors, must wear a face covering when inside these facilities when within six feet of another person.
All commercial entities or nonprofits, not including places of worship, must require face coverings and display a notice of the requirement.
There are no civil or criminal penalties for noncompliance.
A mask is not required in some instances, like when exercising, or when someone under 13 is attending daycare or camp.
The order went into Wednesday and does not have an end date.
The full emergency order issued by Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale, can be found here.
Employees of commercial establishments and visitors must keep a distance of at least six feet, but when that cannot be maintained, people should wear face coverings.
There will be no penalty for not wearing a face covering.
Exceptions include being outdoors and when eating or drinking.
The order is in effect until Aug. 1.
The full order issued by Mayor Troy Hill can be found here.
Georgetown, Granger, Hutto and Taylor also implemented mask-wearing ordinances.
For more information on the latest COVID-19 cases count in Williamson County, visit the Williamson County and Cities Health District dashboard. The dashboard information is updated daily.
Those experiencing respiratory illness symptoms such as cough, fever and shortness of breath are urged to contact their health care providers. However, health officials stress the importance of calling ahead before arriving at a clinic, urgent care or emergency department to avoid potential spread.
Find information on the county's response to COVID-19.