Bell County Judge David Blackburn announced at a news conference Thursday that the Texas National Guard will set up COVID-19 testing stations in Troy and Rogers.

Blackburn said the sites would open on May 8, and that testing will be done by appointment only. The test centers will not be drive-through stations. Rather, you'll need to undergo a health screening before visiting one of these test sites.

The testing centers will be set up at the Troy Volunteer Fire Department, 201 E Main St. in Troy, and the Rogers Volunteer Fire Department, 4 W Mesquite Ave. in Rogers.

According to the latest numbers posted by the Bell County Public Health District, there have been 174 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Bell County. 34 have been hospitalized, and 25 of those have been admitted to the ICU. There have been 79 recoveries, and 3 patients have died.

Killeen has reported the most COVID-19 cases (77), while Temple had reported 45, Belton 19, Harker Heights 15, and unincorporated areas and smaller cities 18.

Data indicates that 51% of confirmed cases were women, and 49% male.

The publicly posted data also indicates that African Americans in Bell County have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. This article provides more detail on the subject.

When asked about racial and ethnic data collected and released by Bell County, Bell County Public Health District Director Amanda Robison-Chadwell said race and ethnicity data is unreliable given a sample size as small as Bell County's, and that not everyone diagnosed with COVID-19 chooses to publicly share their race or ethnicity because it is not mandatory. Dr. Chadwell added that the data being collected will not match with currently available census data from ten years ago.

When asked how the Bell County Health District is reaching out to minority communities to inform them about social distancing, Dr. Chadwell said the district is using social media and their website to provide information, and that they're coordinating with healthcare providers, city and county officials, and the district's health educator. Chadwell said the district has been handing out CDC educational materials, and that the district is planning to release its own educational materials.

Chadwell's remarks about demographic groups begin at the 4:49 mark in the video above.

At Thursday's news conference, Judge Blackburn reported that two employees at the Bell County Communications Center have tested positive for COVID-19. (The center is Bell County's regional 9-1-1 dispatch center.) Blackburn said the county is testing all employees at the center, and that hygiene and safety policies have been in place, and that the county is taking additional steps to ensure there's no disruption of 9-1-1 services in Bell County.

Blackburn also cautioned local businesses to continue following state guidelines for safety and hygiene as they begin to reopen Friday, including only allowing 25% of normal customer occupancy at any time. He urged business owners, employees, and consumers to wear masks or other protective face coverings to protect themselves and others, and to continue social distancing and frequent hand washing or sanitation.

Business owners who have questions, concerns, or recommendations can reach out to the governor's office at local.input@gov.texas.gov.

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