Officials say McLennan County unlikely to shelter in place

After a months-long quarantine through the spring, rising COVID-19 cases may send the country back into their homes. Photo illustration by Chase (Junyan) Li | Photographer & Videographer

By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer

As COVID-19 cases surge, counties across the nation are starting to implement stricter protocols again or even ruling lockdowns. Is McLennan County next?

Kelly Craine, communications lead for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, said a statewide mandate for a stay-at-home order would come from Governor Greg Abbott, and there are no plans on the local level in the works for a lockdown.

“If our hospitalization rates go to 15%, consecutively for seven days, then that would institute a change of restaurant and venue operations to 50%,” Craine said.

Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Science Dr. Benjamin Ryan said a stay-at-home order should not be the first response, but it was needed in the first months to gain a better understanding of the coronavirus.

“That period of time in lockdown, you use that to build up your testing, contact tracing, isolation capacity, so that we can rapidly quarantine those who have been in close contacts and build up your hospital capacity,” Ryan said. “When you do reopen naturally, you will get some extra cases, but you want to do it as safely as you can so that you don’t overfill the hospitals, and that is what’s guiding the activities in Texas.”

Dr. Ray Perryman, CEO and founder of The Perryman Group, said via email that it is important to find a balance between protecting lives and keeping the economy going.

“The federal government has many tools at its disposal,” Perryman said. “Another stimulus package would make a huge difference. When the original CARES Act was passed this spring, the pandemic was anticipated to be dealt with in a matter of months. Clearly, that hasn’t happened, and expiration of CARES Act funds is causing major problems for individuals, families, and businesses. Without additional help, problems such as evictions and food insecurity will increase, and businesses will be forced to lay off more workers, or even close entirely.”

Perryman said it is possible to support local businesses safely through many avenues.

“Many businesses are coming up with innovative ways to sell their products and services, and people can look for these options and support them,” Perryman said.

Craine said COVID-19 fatigue is common right now, but to keep following the protocols to keep everyone safe.

“We’re sacrificing being with friends and family, and that’s a very important part of our lives, but remember that this sacrifice right now means that we will have many years to come with the people that we love,” Craine said. “COVID knows no boundaries. It doesn’t respect age groups or health. It can reach out to anybody. It can take anyone down, and we want to make sure that we protect everyone.”

Craine said vaccines are going to be here soon, and once they are FDA approved, the information about the vaccine will be available for everyone to read.

“Coming vaccines are going to be a crucial tool to stopping this pandemic and getting us back to a sense of normalcy and able to see our friends,” Craine said. “Stay strong. We’re very close to getting that vaccine, and when the vaccine becomes available, take that. You’ll protect yourself, and you’ll protect everyone around you.”