Williamson County has been deemed by officials to have an uncontrolled spread of COVID-19, so Taylor has moved into the highest level of restrictions due to the virus.
On Nov. 19, the Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD) classified the county as in the Red phase of community transmission. Taylor has also moved into the red phase of the city’s reopening plan.
“That’s uncontrolled community transmission, that COVID is spreading like wildfire throughout the county,” explained Mayor Brandt Rydell of the red designation, “so this is a serious time.”
County Judge Bill Gravell commented on the news Thursday afternoon. He did not indicate any future rules and restrictions on a county level.
“The increasing transmission rate and movement into the WCCHD red phase is a great opportunity to remind people during this Thanksgiving season to wear a mask, wash hands frequently, and keep six feet of distance from others not in your household," said Gravell. “While the number of cases has increased, other indicators, such as the hospitalization rate for our region, are below Gov. Abbott’s threshold for adopting more stringent guidelines under Executive Order GA-32. Personal protective measures are the best way to keep ourselves and those we care about safe.”
Active cases of COVID-19 in Williamson County have been on a mostly upward trend in recent weeks and stood at 436 on Nov. 19. Although the number remains hundreds away from the four-digit figures during the summer, the WCCHD uses other gating criteria to determine which phase of guidance to issue.
To meet the criteria for the county’s Red phase, the following situations must apply:
• Incidence trend — No decline over 14 days or has rebounded while in the orange phase;
• Incidence rate — Above 12.7 new cases per 100,000 people;
• Positivity rate — Testing positivity rate is above 15% for 14 days; and
• Hospitalization rate — No decline for 14 days.
For more on the WCCHD's COVID-19 guidance, visit http://www.wcchd.org/COVID-19/index.php
What does this mean for Taylor?
In Taylor, the city's reopening plan adopted in September is mostly based on Williamson County’s metric. The plan uses a color-coded chart for a phased reopening of city facilities and events as transmission level increases or decreases. With the exception of hospitalization rate, the city’s plan uses the same criteria as the county to determine the current phase for Taylor.
Thus far, Taylor has changed its current reopening plan phases when the WCCHD changes theirs. City officials have cautioned citizens that staff and workers typically need time to increase or decrease mitigation measures when transitioning between phases. The mayor also reserves the right to make a different decision if he deems fit.
“There’s no reason to panic,” stressed Rydell. “Let’s just use common sense and do the things we all know we need to do.”
The city’s plan has four phases ranging in severity from minimal to uncontrolled community spread. Each phase adjusts restrictions with respect to social gatherings, municipal building openings, public meetings, and indoor and outdoor events.
Phases from lowest to highest are green, yellow, orange and red. Taylor was considered to be in an orange phase for months before dropping to yellow Sept. 9 and green Oct. 23 before rising back to yellow Nov. 4 and orange Nov. 10.
“There is hope. There’s that glimmer on the horizon,” said Rydell in reference to vaccine news from the federal government. “They won’t be to us probably until the spring, so we need to bridge this gap.”
To view the city reopening plan and what the Red level and other levels mean for citizens, visit https://www.ci.taylor.tx.us/documentcenter/view/11255. For more information, visit https://www.ci.taylor.tx.us/1002/updates-from-the-city-of-taylor.
Latest from the governor
Gov. Greg Abbott has seen rising COVID-19 stats on a state level as well. In recent press conferences, the governor has stated that no state shutdown is planned.
“It is important for everybody in the state to know that statewide we’re not gonna have another shutdown," said Abbott. "There's an overestimation of exactly what a shutdown will achieve, and there's a misunderstanding about what a shutdown will not achieve.”
Regarding possibly handing more authority to municipalities, he expressed concern that smaller governments are not enforcing their own restrictions with the latitude they have already been given. As a result, he said giving more tools down the ladder would not mean anything.
“There are plenty of tools in the toolboxes of local authorities to achieve the results that are needed,” said Abbott. “Some local officials are not using the tools that are available to them to make sure that they are taking every step they need. … These measurable tools or metrics won’t matter if they’re not enforced, and they need to be enforcing the protocols that are in place right now.”