By Terrance Turner
Today was Texas’ deadliest day ever for the coronavirus.
Today, the state reported 60 new deaths from the virus — and a startling rise in new positive cases. The 10,026 new cases are the most since July 4, when there were roughly 8,260 cases. It is the first time that COVID-19 cases in Texas have topped 10,000 in a single day. The 60 new deaths are also a record high.
Also hitting record highs is the number of hospitalizations in Texas. According to Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace, 9,286 people are in Texas hospitals with coronavirus. That’s up 588 since just yesterday. Hospitalizations have risen 42% since last Tuesday, and COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas are up 515% since Memorial Day.
Somehow, Texas is still reporting 1,148 available hospital beds. But CBS News quoted Austin Mayor Steve Adler today as saying that hospitals risk becoming “overwhelmed” in the next 7-10 days. In fact, Austin hit Stage 5 today, meaning that conditions there qualify for a citywide lockdown. The daily hospitalization rate has hit 74, according to editor Matt Largey.
In Houston, officials said hospitals are exceeding base capacity in intensive care units. Houston is located within Harris County, which consistently leads the state in COVID-19 cases. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo appeared on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday to discuss the pandemic. “What we need right now is to do what works, which is a stay-home order,” Hidalgo said. “We don’t have time for incrementalism.” Hidalgo, whose county has seen the most coronavirus cases of any county in Texas, said she needed to take further action: “I need the authority to issue an enforceable stay home order. That is the only way we are going to stop ping-ponging between open and closed.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lashed out in an interview with Beaumont television station KFDM today. He criticized “county judges or mayors who are asking for more authority to take action or to really shut things down completely back into lockdown mode that really force Texans into poverty.” The governor added: “They need to show up, enforce the law as it is before they’re given any further authority. They ask for more and more, but they do absolutely nothing.”
Former presidential candidate and Texas Senator Beto O’Rourke took note of the fray. His response was simple and characteristically blunt:
All of this comes as the Texas Education Agency is announcing guidelines for back-to-school procedures. Today, the TEA announced that students should be able to return to school for the 2020-21 school year. Their guidelines include the following:
- Daily on-campus learning will be available to all parents who would like their students to learn in school each day.
- In addition, all parents will have the option to choose remote learning for their children, initially, or at any point that year.
- Parents who choose remote instruction for their children may be asked to commit to remote instruction for a full grading period (e.g. six or nine weeks).
- But parents will not have to make that commitment more than two weeks in advance (that way, they can make a decision based on the latest public health information).
- Schools can phase in on-campus learning.
- Schools will also conduct screenings (i.e. temperature checks) on every child who attends.
UPDATE (July 8): Today was the deadliest day to date in Texas. 98 deaths from coronavirus were reported by the Texas DSHS. Today’s 9,610 lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations are also a new record high (again). 9,979 new positive cases of the virus were also reported today — down only slightly from the 10,000 cases yesterday.
The rise in coronavirus cases has led to the cancellation of a Texas GOP convention. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner instructed the Houston First Corporation to cancel the event, which was supposed to take place in Houston next week. The planned venue was the George R. Brown Convention Center. Asked why he waited so long to make the request, Turner said he hoped the Texas Republican Party would do so on its own.
“No one wanted this to even appear to be political,” Turner said at a press conference today. “This is a political convention, and the last thing you want to do in the midst of a pandemic is to politicize or make it seem like you are going out of your way to close the door.”
UPDATE (July 9): 105 new deaths from COVID-19 were reported today. The state of Texas added another 9,782 new positive cases of the virus. Hospitalizations currently number 9,689 in Texas. Those lab-confirmed hospitalizations now take up 16.7% of Texas’ hospital beds, per the Texas Tribune. The positivity rate, which had hovered around 13% at one point, is now 15.6%. According to the Texas Dept. of State Health Services, there are now 2,918 total fatalities from COVID-19 in the state. There are now 230,346 total cases in Texas.
Harris County reported 495 cases and 7 deaths. That leaves the county with a total of 40,000 cases (which leads the state) and 411 deaths, per the Texas Tribune. The City of Houston reports 412 new cases and 5 new deaths — all of them either black or Hispanic patients, according to ABC 13 Houston. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner warned today in a press conference that the next 14 days will be critical if the virus is to be brought under control.