Texas Reports Record Number of Coronavirus Cases
Texas has a “massive outbreak” of coronavirus cases across the state after reopening, Governor Abbott acknowledged. On Wednesday, June 24, the state reported a record-breaking 5,551 new cases of Covid-19 in one day. This follows 13 consecutive days of record-high hospitalizations. These figures represent an increase of 10% in the positivity rate – the highest since April 17. The positivity rate is the ratio of positive cases to the number of tests conducted. Coronavirus levels began to rise after Governor Abbott reopened the state economy on May 1 but exponentially spiked after Memorial Day, May 25. “To state the obvious, COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas, and it must be corralled,” he said. “We must find ways to return to our daily routines as well as finding ways to coexist with COVID-19.”
Texas health officials attribute some of the new cases to a data entry backlog in Harris County, which accounted for 1200 of the recorded illnesses. However, the Texas Department of State Health Services said part of the increase is credited to Texans gathering at bars, beaches, rivers, and other social gatherings like graduation parties. Furthermore, people testing positive in prisons and meatpacking plants continue to contribute to the growing number of cases.
According to the statistical dashboard maintained by state health officials, the highest concentration of illness have been reported in:
- Harris County 24,421 cases, 14,048 actives cases
- Dallas County 17,744 cases, 5,702 active
- Tarrant County 9,386 cases, 4,403 active
- Bexar County 7,467 cases, 4,232 active
- Travis County 6,596 cases, 1,715 active
- El Paso County 4,809 cases, 1,194 active
- Fort Bend County 3,176 cases, 1,885 active
- Potter County 2,838 cases, 1,162 active
- Collin County 2,359 cases, 858 active
- Denton County 2,302 cases, 1,103 active
- Hidalgo County 2,130 cases, 1,098 active
- Galveston County 2,040 cases, 1,210 active
The outbreak comes amid the Trump Administration’s plans to end funding for seven federally funded coronavirus testing sites in Houston, El Paso, and Dallas on June 30. Lawmakers from both parties urged the administration to keep funding the testing sites. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, made clear on Wednesday that he also opposes the federal withdrawal, saying “now is not the time to retreat from our vigilance in testing.” During a conference call with reporters, Cornyn continued, “I agree with the Houston delegation … and I believe they need to extend that federal support in Texas, at least until we get the most recent uptick in cases addressed.”
In the hard-hit Houston region, health officials are reporting that intensive care units at many hospitals are near or over capacity. The LBJ Hospital’s ICU was at 120%, UMMC ICU 85%, Texas Medical Center 97%, and Ben Taub’s ICU at 88% capacity prompting hospitals to begin moving coronavirus patients to other facilities to help manage bed space. Local Houston leaders are warning that hospitals could get overwhelmed if the number of infections keeps climbing. In response, Governor Abbott banned elective surgeries for the second time since the start of the pandemic. This time the ban on nonessential procedures is only in effect for Harris, Dallas, Bexar, and Travis counties – four areas where the number of patients hospitalized with the virus is rapidly increasing.
Governor Abbott once again recommends Texans stay home as much as possible. “We want to make sure that everyone reinforces the best safe practices of wearing a mask, hand sanitization, maintaining safe distance, but importantly, because the spread is so rampant right now, there’s never a reason for you to have to leave your home.” Governor Abbott has since allowed the re-tightening of two previous restrictions: giving local officials the ability to place restrictions on outdoor gatherings of over 100 people, a max he originally set at 500 people and enacting mandatory health standards for child care centers after rules became voluntary earlier this month. Despite the latest spike of rapidly increasing indicators that have worried public health experts and local officials in Texas, Abbott maintains that “closing down Texas again will always be the last option.”
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