WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Although Williamson County has moved to orange phase guidelines for COVID-19 spread, indicating high levels of community transmission, County Judge Bill Gravell says he does not plan to issue another shut down order.
According to Williamson County & Cities Health District, the county has reached the second-highest level (with the red level indicating an “uncontrolled” spread) after the seven-day average rate of new infections increased from 6.88 to 9.22 per 100,000 residents in just one week.
Under orange phase, personal social gatherings of more than five people should be avoided, as should gatherings in city parks. Guidelines are recommendations, however, and can be superseded by orders from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
“Williamson County trusts our residents to be smart and prudent. We know that they will take the appropriate measures to stay safe,” Gravell wrote in a statement.
As of Wednesday, in Williamson County, there are an estimated 331 active COVID-19 cases; 10,187 recovered cases; 37 current hospitalizations and 159 deaths.
Also effective Wednesday, the health district will be reporting the prior day’s data to allow time for more quality assurance checks, after it identified around 600 confirmed and 800 probable cases between July and October that were unintentionally left out from its reports.
Venues open as cases rise
The increase in COVID-19 cases comes as Rodeo Austin readies the Dell Diamond in Round Rock for a crowd. The baseball venue plans to host two days of bull riding Saturday and Sunday.
“We’ve been communicating with the Mayor and Williamson County to make sure if we are going to open this venue up, then we are going to do it right,” said Chris Almendarez, Dell Diamond Team President, said on Thursday.
“People have some pandemic fatigue, and they are ready to get out and be safe,” said Almendarez.
Back in March, Rodeo Austin was among the first wave of major events to get hit with COVID-19 closures. Months later, Rodeo Austin has turned to the Dell Diamond to hopefully recover costs. The ‘Bulls in the Ballpark’ event will be one of the several socially distanced events the Dell Diamond has hosted this fall.
“During a concert typically we can get 16,000 people. We recently had Koe Wetzel, where we had 4,200 people in here,” said Almendarez. “That was by utilizing the field, and having created six-by-six pods where people were six feet apart.”
The outdoor venue expects to operate at a limited capacity, with seating arrangements and physical barriers.
“We did that Granger Smith concert on July 4th, and that was the peak of the COVID-19 numbers. We were very safe, and our staff and fans were safe,” said Almendarez.
The Williamson County and Cities Health District says this comes at a time when COVID-19 numbers don’t look like they’ll flatline anytime soon.
“Based on the case numbers we are seeing in the community, it doesn’t make sense to participate in a big venue event,” said Allison Stewart.
Stewart, Williamson County’s lead epidemiologist, has seen the COVID-19 numbers jump three levels in the last three weeks.
“We are not quite as high as we were in July, but we are on a very similar trajectory,” said Stewart. We do expect that we will probably exceed those July numbers.”
Kalahari in Round Rock also opened its doors on Thursday.
Tentative vaccine distribution
Once a COVID-19 vaccine is available, county commissioners say people who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, first responders and those older than 50 will be prioritized first.
Commissioners are also considering distributing the vaccine at the county’s expo center in Taylor and are currently looking into location options in Round Rock and Sun City.