Covid-19 (copy)

Waco McLennan County Public Health District.

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The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in McLennan County reached 13 Friday, as the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District announced six new cases.

Another 34 tests are pending, and 20 people have tested negative for the disease caused by the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of people tested to 67. Those testing numbers do not include tests by private laboratories.

Health officials will be considering all new cases in the county “community spread,” health district spokeswoman Kelly Craine said. Officials first confirmed Thursday that the virus was spreading from person to person in the Waco-McLennan County area and have emphasized the need for residents to practice social distancing.

Nearby Bell County had reported seven COVID-19 cases as of Friday afternoon, according to the Bell County Public Health District website. At least one of the cases was contracted locally.

Milam County reported its first COVID-19 case Friday, according to the Milam County Health Department website.

Texas had reported at least 194 cases of COVID-19 and five deaths from the disease, as of noon Friday. That number does not reflect the most recently reported numbers from local health departments, including McLennan County’s six new cases, five Bell County cases and Milam County’s only case.

Statewide, at least 5,277 people had been tested for the coronavirus as of Friday, 1,168 by public labs and 4,109 by private labs, according to the Department of State Health Services website. The site notes that additional providers are testing that have not reported their numbers yet.

McLennan County reported its first six positive cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, a day after Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver declared a state of local disaster and public health emergency that closed bars and in-restaurant dining, as well as gyms, pool halls, bowling alleys and similar spaces.

Hotels were not ordered closed, but two anchor hotels of downtown Waco closed Friday. The 195-room Waco Hilton and 153-room Courtyard by Marriott posted notice that they could close until further notice. Hilton general manager Justin Edwards said the group that owns both hotels decided to close them based on “unprecedented economic conditions.”

On Thursday, Deaver announced the county’s seventh positive coronavirus case and amended the city of Waco’s disaster declaration to reduce the maximum number of people in a gathering from 50 to 10, in accordance with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This should help stem the community spread of the disease, which means the source of the infection is unknown.

McLennan County issued a similar disaster declaration Thursday, shortly before Gov. Greg Abbott announced he would be implementing the same measures statewide via executive orders, starting at 11:59 p.m. Friday.

At least three of the cases have ties to Baylor University.

Baylor University President Linda Livingstone announced Thursday that a Baylor student had tested positive for COVID-19. The student tested positive after returning to Waco from an out-of-state area with high levels of community transmission, Livingstone wrote. The student self-isolated at home and did not go to campus.

Two Baylor professors who had traveled to New York also tested positive, Baylor announced earlier in the week. They also self-isolated and did not go to campus.

Another case reported involved an employee of the Chick-fil-A location in Richland Mall, which has closed until further notice. The employee did not interact with customers and had not been at work “in the days prior to him being tested,” officials said. The health district will identify and notify anyone the man had direct contact with by phone.

Anyone experiencing fever, cough and difficulty breathing should call or visit their healthcare provider’s website first for screening. Ascension Providence, Baylor Scott & White and the Waco Family Health Center have online screening forms for COVID-19 and will accept new patients and people without insurance. Testing must be ordered by a physician and sent to a lab.

The health district is now recommending people with flu-like symptoms isolate themselves at home, away from family members, as if they have the disease, even if they have been refused a COVID-19 test. People experiencing symptoms should remain in contact with their doctors on how long to isolate themselves and what to do if their symptoms worsen.

Brooke Crum joined the Tribune-Herald as the education reporter in January 2019. She has worked for the Springfield News-Leader in Missouri, Abilene Reporter-News, Beaumont Enterprise and the Port Arthur News. Crum graduated from TCU in Fort Worth.

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