One hundred one Kerr County residents were among the 153,011 coronavirus infections reported in Texas since the start of the pandemic, according to information released from the state and city of Kerrville.
Active COVID-19 cases totaled as many as 70 as of this morning, 30 had recovered, and two people are hospitalized with infections at Peterson Regional Medical Center, according to a city press release posted on Facebook.
Since the state health department is experiencing "a significant backlog in its tracking and investigation process," more locals may have recovered, and there may be fewer active infections, according to the city.
Statewide active COVID-19 cases totaled approximately 69,273, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, and 244 Texas counties had reported coronavirus infections. At least 2,403 people had died from the disease in Texas and 2,061,939 had been tested. An estimated 81,335 people had recovered from the disease in Texas.
Nationwide, 705,203 people have recovered from the disease, 2,682,897 have been infected and 129,544 have died since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the U.S., 31,557,407 had been tested for the virus.
Worldwide, at least 10,417,063 had been infected since the pandemic began, 509,516 had died, and 5,255,829 had recovered, according to the university.
Top 10 Texas counties for confirmed infections since pandemic started
More than 30 Texas bars sue over Gov. Greg Abbott's recent shutdown order
HOUSTON — Hoping to block Gov. Greg Abbott’s Friday decision ordering Texas bars to close due to a rise in coronavirus cases, more than 30 bar owners filed a lawsuit Monday challenging Abbott’s emergency order.
The lawsuit, first reported by the Austin American-Statesman, was filed in Travis County District Court by Jared Woodfill, a Houston attorney who has led previous legal efforts opposing Abbott’s other shutdown orders during the pandemic.
A copy of the lawsuit challenging Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency order shutting down bars.
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“Why does he continue unilaterally acting like a king?” Woodfill, former chair of the Harris County Republican Party, said of Abbott in an interview. “He’s sentencing bar owners to bankruptcy.”
Announcing the shutdown Friday, Abbott said the actions of his executive order "are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health."
Dozens of Texas bar owners — including those who run Machine Shed Bar & Grill in Kilgore, Shots and Crafts in Denton, and Big Daddy Zanes in Odessa — disagree, and they have positioned themselves in a legal standoff with the governor as hospitals across the state fill up with sick Texans due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The move Monday by bar owners also comes as millions of Texans are jobless, including many people who have applied for unemployment benefits but have not yet received them. The bar and restaurant industry has been hit especially hard. Nearly 800,000 workers in the restaurant industry have lost their jobs since March, according to the Texas Restaurant Association.
Abbott, who decided Friday to close down bars again to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, has admitted few personal errors during the pandemic, but over the weekend he acknowledged he would like a do-over on the state's bars.
"If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars, now seeing in the aftermath of how quickly the coronavirus spread in the bar setting," Abbott said during an interview with KVIA-TV in El Paso.
In the lawsuit, the bar owners argue that their rights have been “trampled” by Abbott while “thousands of businesses are on the brink of bankruptcy.”
Abbott said Friday that it "is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars."
Tee Allen Parker said she is confused. As a bar owner in East Texas, she’s allowed to walk into church or a Walmart but not permitted to host patrons at Machine Shed Bar & Grill.
“I don't think it’s right that he’s violating our constitutional rights,” Allen Parker, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said Monday in an interview. “The reason I'm speaking up is I don't like that he can't be consistent. You lead by example. Everything he’s said he’s walked back. And I’m disappointed in him because I was a big fan of his.”
Allen Parker drove to Austin on Monday, as she and other bar owners plan to protest Abbott’s order at the Capitol grounds Tuesday. She also hoped for a lunch with Abbott to hash out their differences, but with the lawsuit filed, Allen Parker wasn’t so sure about lunch, or what’s next for Texas bars.
“He wanted the spotlight, so he made the decision to open up first so he could get national news," Allen Parker said. "But what I know is he’s closed my business and he’s violated my constitutional right."
Disclosure: The Texas Restaurant Association and Walmart Stores Inc. have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
Texas city and county leaders ask Gov. Greg Abbott for authority to implement local stay-at-home orders
As Texas grapples with soaring coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, local elected officials in some of the state’s most populous counties are asking Gov. Greg Abbott to roll back business reopenings and allow them to reinstate stay-at-home orders for their communities in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
Officials in Harris, Bexar, Dallas and Travis counties have either called on or reached out to the governor in recent days, expressing a desire to implement local restrictions for their regions and, in some cases, stressing concerns about hospital capacity.
Local governments across the state implemented stay-at-home orders, which generally direct businesses deemed nonessential to shut down, to varying degrees in March before the governor issued a statewide directive at the beginning of April. Abbott’s stay-at-home order expired at the end of April, when he began announcing phased reopenings in the state and forcing local governments to follow his lead. Since then, a number of local officials, many of whom have been critical of Abbott’s reopening timeline, have argued that the jurisdiction to reinstate such directives is no longer in their hands.
“If you are not willing to take these actions on behalf of the state, please roll back your restriction on local leaders being able to take these swift actions to safeguard the health of our communities,” Sam Biscoe, interim Travis County judge, wrote in a letter to Abbott on Monday.
Biscoe asked Abbott “to roll all the way back to Stay Home orders based on worsening circumstances,” further cap business occupancy, mandate masks, and ban gatherings of 10 or more people.
On Monday afternoon, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued an impassioned plea for Abbott to let cities and counties make decisions for themselves.
“We need more tools. If I had my ultimate ask to him, I would say restore to local governments, to mayors and County judges, all the tools that we had in March and April. Give us back our tools,” he said. “Because the situation is more critical now than then, and we had more tools at our disposal then than now. And I will tell you it is frustrating, because when people are reporting locally and nationally, they are talking about the city of Houston, as well as other cities. I would like to have the ability to do what is in the best interest to the city of Houston to get on top of this virus.”
Officials in Bexar County also wrote a similar letter to the governor Monday, saying that “the ability to tailor a response and recovery that fits the San Antonio region’s need is vital as we look forward to a healthier future.”
“Our region’s hospital capacity issues and economic circumstances require stronger protocols to contain the spread of this disease,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg wrote. The two asked Abbott to “restore the ability for the City of San Antonio to take additional local preventative measures, including potential Stay Home/Work Safe restrictions.” They also asked the governor to mandate face coverings for people who are outside a household and issue “clearer language that strictly limits social gatherings,” among other things.
Abbott, whose office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, took his most drastic move yet Friday to respond to the surge in cases this month, ordering bars to close again and lowering restaurant occupancy to 50%. Before that order, bars were allowed to operate at 50% capacity and restaurants at 75% capacity under a phased reopening Abbott has led since late April — a process that at times has drawn criticism from public health experts and local officials who argued the state was reopening too quickly.
Later Friday, Abbott publicly expressed regret for the first time over his decision to let bars reopen, saying in an evening interview with KVIA-TV in El Paso that the “bar setting, in reality, just doesn’t work with a pandemic.”
Meanwhile, counties and cities across the state have implemented face mask requirements for businesses after Wolff, the Bexar County judge, moved to do so without facing opposition from Abbott. The governor had previously issued an executive order banning local governments from imposing fines or penalties on people who chose not to wear a face mask in public.
Local leaders have also voiced concerns about the testing capacity of large cities. In Travis County, Biscoe explained that because of the “rapidly increasing demand,” officials are rationing testing only for people with symptoms. The stress on the system is also making contact tracing efforts more difficult.
“In summary, the rapid increase in cases has outstripped our ability to track, measure, and mitigate the spread of the disease,” Biscoe wrote.
Biscoe said the regional hospital system has hit about 70% of its capacity, which has prompted Austin Public Health to begin working on an alternative care site. A spokesperson for Austin Mayor Steve Adler did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Officials in Harris County have also considered plans for a temporary facility. Over the weekend, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who oversees the state’s largest county, suggested in an interview with ABC-13 that she was pushing for the authority to issue another stay-at-home order.
And in North Texas, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins sent a letter to Abbott over the weekend, requesting that the governor consider a list of recommendations from a citywide public health committee, such as instituting a 30-day stay-at-home order and mandating masks.
“I recommend that you enact these requirements statewide, or at the very least, regionally. If not, please rescind your prior order restricting local control and allow Dallas County to implement the above recommendations in an effort to slow the spread of the rampant and devastating COVID-19 virus,” Jenkins wrote in a letter Saturday. “Lives depend on swift action.”
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson has not publicly weighed in on whether he supports the governor reauthorizing local officials to implement stay-at-home directives. The mayor has asked Abbott to consider implementing a statewide mask policy and adopting a statewide or regional approach to curbing the spread of the virus in an attempt to minimize confusion and increase compliance, according to a spokesperson in Johnson’s office.
Disclosure: Austin Mayor Steve Adler, a former Texas Tribune board chairman, has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
Officials in Texas' big cities say their public testing sites are being strained. Austin has begun to limit who can be tested.
As the new coronavirus continues to spread in Texas, leaders of some of the state's biggest cities said Monday that their testing sites were being strained, forcing them to turn away people in the middle of the day or limit who is eligible to take a test.
In Travis County, interim County Judge Sam Biscoe said the county’s public testing is being rationed to only people with symptoms. Previously, local leaders had encouraged anyone to get tested, including asymptomatic people and people that had come into contact with COVID-19 patients.
“The rapid increase in cases has outstripped our ability to track, measure, and mitigate the spread of the disease,” Biscoe wrote in a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott asking to allow metropolitan areas to issue their own stay-at-home orders.
The largest laboratory analyzing tests is also strained, Biscoe said, to the point that the county has decided to prioritize cases from severely ill patients in hospitals. Residents in Travis County who don't show symptoms still have other options, like private facilities, to get tested.
In Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner said his city's two public testing sites, where testing is still available to people who are symptomatic or asymptomatic, reached their maximum capacities before noon.
“The capacity on those sites will be increased from 500 [daily tests] to 650 each,” Turner said. “It is clear that there is a demand out there, and we need to ramp up as best as we can to meet that demand.”
Meanwhile, the two community-based testing sites in the city of Dallas are reaching their capacity "by noon or early afternoon daily," according to city spokesperson Roxana Rubio. In these sites, testing is restricted to symptomatic patients, high-risk people, first responders, essential workers and asymptomatic patients who have engaged in large group settings.
The shortages come even as testing has ramped up in recent weeks. In April, Abbott set a goal of 30,000 daily tests in the state — a benchmark it consistently missed through the first half of June. The state has more frequently met that goal lately, but the increased number of tests is being accompanied by an added demand as the virus spreads.
Community testing sites have seen increasingly long wait times as more than 38,000 positive cases were reported in the last week in Texas. The city and county sites are part of a longer list of options Texans have to get tested. The Texas Department of State Health Services has created a statewide map with these facilities, which also includes scores of private sites.
City of Brenham council to discuss mask order
The Brenham City Council will meet Thursday at 1 p.m. to discuss coronavirus response and upcoming community events in council chambers at city hall.
City council will discuss “a citizens request for (a) city-wide mask order” according to the meeting agenda.The agenda states city staff has received several emails and phone calls from concerned citizens requesting Mayor Milton Tate to put a mandatory mask order in place.
Tate would like to discuss this item with all of city council before making a decision.
Lufkin's emergency advisory directive calls for wearing masks in public
Mayor Bob Brown and the city of Lufkin are issuing an emergency advisory directive calling on people to wear masks while in public.
The advisory calls for commercial establishments to post a sign requiring anyone over the age of 10 to wear some kind of covering over their nose and mouth while in the establishment.
“Ultimately, it is the individual responsibility of each person to protect themselves, their families, and others in our community. We are asking our commercial establishments and residents to work together to help us get through this difficult time,” said Mayor Bob Brown.
This comes after the city’s message on Friday that Brown was considering implementing an emergency mask regulation.
“The battle with COVID-19 is far from over. We’re still in the middle of the fight and no one needs to let their guard down,” said Gerald Williamson, director of public safety. “Let’s wear our masks, practice social distancing and personal hygiene. Do your part to slow the spread of COVID in Lufkin.”
However, Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent executive order states: “Individuals are encouraged to wear appropriate face coverings, but no jurisdiction can impose a civil or criminal penalty for failure to wear a face covering.”
Therefore, the order cannot be compulsory.
The order encourages people to wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, maintain six feet of distance between oneself and others in public, use hand sanitizer when needed, stay home when sick and wear a face covering in public when social distancing is not possible.
As of Monday afternoon, Angelina County has had 789 patients test positive for the new coronavirus and 14 coronavirus-related deaths, including those from the Duncan Unit in Diboll.
The Angelina County & Cities Health District is reporting 476 positive tests with 225 estimated recoveries and six deaths.
The Duncan Unit is reporting 270 offender cases and 43 employee cases, according to information from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Of the offender cases, 81 are active and 189 are recovered. Of the employee cases, 28 are active while 15 have recovered.
The Duncan Unit is reporting eight coronavirus-related deaths as of Monday. There are 208 offenders on medical restriction and 98 in medical isolation.
As of Saturday, Nacogdoches reported 369 total cases, 283 estimated recoveries and 24 deaths.
The health district also reported 113 positive tests in Polk County with 42 estimated recoveries and 105 positive tests with 34 recoveries and seven deaths in San Augustine County.
As of Monday morning, the state was reporting 148,723 cases, 2,393 fatalities and an estimated 79,974 recoveries.
In the release on Friday, Williamson included statistics from the Department of State Health Services. The DSHS designates Trauma Service Area H as Angelina, Nacogdoches, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto and Tyler counties with a total estimated population of 272,151.
As of Friday morning in Area H, there were:
■ 35 lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations
■ 556 staffed hospital beds
■ 200 available hospital beds
■ 18 available ICU beds
■ 111 available ventilators
Statewide cases fall below 5,000
Confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Texas took a slight step back on Monday, with the state reporting 4,288 new cases. Walker County followed suit with 37 new community cases from the weekend.
The Texas Department of State Health Services said the new number of cases reported Monday brought the state's total to 153,011 confirmed cases. There have been 452 confirmed cases of the virus in Walker County, of which 61% remain active. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the COVID-19 virus without feeling sick.
Also Monday, state health officials said 10 more deaths were reported from the virus, bringing the state's total to 2,403.
Texas is scrambling to contain what is now one of the nation’s biggest hotspots. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott once again closed bars and nightclubs on Friday, while also ordering rafting and tubing outfitters on Texas’ popular rivers to cease operations. Outdoor gatherings of 100 people or more must seek approval from local governments.
Abbott began lifting lockdown orders in May and has since accelerated his own timelines on some openings amid protests from conservatives.
Texas reached a record high positive test of 5,996 last Thursday and had surpassed 5,000 new cases the past six days.
On Friday, Texas surpassed 5,000 hospitalizations for the first time with 5,102 hospitalizations. Health officials said Monday that the number of people hospitalized was at 5,913.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
The next community testing date is scheduled for July 8 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Walker County Fairgrounds. You do not have to show symptoms to be tested, however, you must pre-register at www.txcovidtest.org or by calling 512-883-2400, with registration beginning 48 hours prior to the testing date.
A valid ID is required at the test site.