By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer
Waco and McLennan County extended their shelter in place orders until April 21 Tuesday as the number of cases in the county rose to 44.
Both the Waco City Council and the McLennan County Commissioners voted for the respective extensions Tuesday. Essential businesses will still remain open and essential activities are still permitted. The City of Waco also voted to postpone its May 2 elections until November 3.
Waco suffered its first death from COVID-19 Tuesday morning when 49-year-old Phillip Perry, principal of the G.W. Carver Middle School in Waco passed away. Perry was hospitalized for the disease Monday and had underlying health conditions. As of Tuesday, another six patients are hospitalized, five of which are in critical condition. Six people have recovered.
The virus’ long incubation period (the time it takes after an initial infection to begin showing symptoms) and the time needed for testing means the effects of the shelter-in-place order may not be apparent for some time. The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District said on its website that the number of cases will likely continue to rise as more people are tested.
“As testing for COVID-19 increases with additional testing available in McLennan County, number of cases will most certainly increase,” the District said. “This makes the shelter in place order and social distancing vital in stopping the spread of the virus.”
In a video message posted Monday, Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver continued to urge residents to shelter in place.
“Remember, social distancing and sheltering in place are not only procedures that protect you, they protect those in our community that this virus could affect the most: the elderly, the immune-compromised, even those that might not know how seriously they could be affected,” Deaver said. “I know how much Waco cares about its citizens. Staying home saves lives. Take care of each other.”
Violating the shelter-in-place order is a Class C misdemeanor and offenders could be fined up to $1,000, but enforcement has been lax thus far, a notice issued Friday on the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District website said.
“The City of Waco is not requiring law enforcement to stop citizens asking for proof of travel and/or authorization to be traveling to/from locations,” the notice said. “You will not be stopped by the Waco Police Department.”
The United States leads all countries in known COVID-19 cases with more than 185,000 reported since the beginning of the outbreak as of Tuesday evening. More than 3,800 of these were fatal. Texas is home to more than 3,300 of these cases with roughly 400 deaths.
After canceling in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester, Baylor University announced a plan to credit students for lost housing, dining and parking services Monday.