By Terrance Turner
It is getting real — very real — in the Lone Star State.
Texas reported 2,504 cases of COVID-19 yesterday, which is the biggest one-day jump since the pandemic started. Texas also set a new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations for the third day in a row. According to the Texas Tribune, 2,153 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday — up from 2,056 the day before and 1,935 on Monday. The average number of hospitalizations a day has now climbed to 1,927 (officials use a 7-day “rolling average”). Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace broke the news on Twitter yesterday:
Today, 1,826 new cases were reported in Texas. There were 35 new deaths, according to Wallace. He added that 13,732 more tests have been conducted since yesterday. The Texas Department of Safety and Health Services estimates that around 54,000 Texans have recovered from the virus.
So what’s behind this new jump? Gov. Abbott’s spokesperson says that the rise can be traced to two events: the Memorial Day festivities and the recent protests that have blazed across the state (and country).
According to Houston Public Media, over 21% of Texas’ new cases yesterday were in Jefferson County. When asked about the cause of the increase, DSHS spokesperson Chris Van Deusen pointed to Jefferson County’s three state prisons. Most of the new cases were “due to a change in how the local health department is reporting” cases from the prisons, he said. As usual, though, Harris and Dallas counties lead the state in COVID-19 cases.
Tonight, the president is in Dallas for a panel discussion and fundraiser. Today, Dallas County hit a new one-day high of 312 cases, according to ABC affiliate WFAA. Three people died. There are now over 13,000 new COVID-19 cases in Dallas County. The president reportedly has made little mention of the cases tonight, but he did manage to crack a joke(?):
The Dallas Morning News captured this photograph of (maskless) people praying during the roundtable discussion that Trump was a part of.
Meanwhile, the state continues to reopen. On June 3, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Phase 3 of reopening the Texas economy. With “very limited exceptions”, virtually all businesses in Texas can now reopen at 50% capacity. That includes museums, libraries, water parks, and swimming pools. Beginning after midnight, restaurants will be able to operate at 75% capacity. Abbott’s order specifies that there will be no occupancy limits for church services, local government operations, child-care services, or youth camps, or recreational sports.
UPDATE (JUNE 12, 2020): Beginning at 12:01 am, restaurants began operating at 75% capacity. Significantly, Abbott’s order specifies that professional and collegiate sports events may also commence at 50% capacity. (This may be difficult for the University of Houston: today Fox 26 reported that six student-athletes at UH have tested positive for the coronavirus. As a result, the university is suspending voluntary workouts.
Today, Texas added another 2,097 cases of COVID-19, according to Wallace. 19 additional deaths were also reported. The Texas DSHS data reveals that, once again, Dallas County and Harris County lead the state in both cases and deaths. According to the most recent data, Harris now has 15,864 cases total, with 267 deaths; Dallas is not far behind, with 13,257 cases. Dallas County has 277 deaths, leading the state. (Data are provisional and subject to change.) Gov. Abbott says that he is “concerned but not alarmed” about the rise in cases. But Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo was concerned enough to sound the alarm.
Yesterday, she unveiled a four-part “threat level” system of COVID-19, revealing that the Houston area is now on level “orange”. That indicates significant risk. If current trends continue, she said, the county may have to ask residents to stay home. The only exceptions would be essential errands.