Eleven Kerr County residents are among at least 51,323 people in Texas who have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to the state health department. Most of the local residents had recovered. 

Active COVID-19 cases totaled approximately 19,664 statewide, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services

Of Texas's 254 counties, 225 were reporting coronavirus infections, according to TDSHS. At least 1,419 people had died from the disease in Texas and 770,241 had been tested. An estimated 30,341 people had recovered from the disease in Texas. Those currently hospitalized in Texas with COVID-19 totaled 1,791

Nationwide, 294,312 people have recovered from the disease, 1,551,853 have been infected and 93,439 have died since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the U.S., 11,834,508 had been tested for the virus. 

Worldwide, at least 5,019,676 had been infected since the pandemic began, 328,565 had died, and 1,913,103 had recovered, according to the university. 

Top 10 Texas counties for confirmed infections

Harris County

9,859 

Dallas County

7,904 

Tarrant County

4,643 

Travis County

2,595 

Bexar County

2,278 

Potter County

2,193 

El Paso County

1,930 

Fort Bend County

1,581 

Denton County

1,116 

Collin County

1,073

Confirmed infections in nearby counties

Kendall County - 24

Bandera County - 6

Gillespie - 5

Kimble - 1

Medina County - 60

Uvalde County - 6

Blanco County - 7

Llano County - 3

Mason County - 31

Hays County - 238

Comal County - 72

Frio County - 35

Zavala - 10

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins sees positive signs in data, but worries about a resurgence

As Texas continues to reopen its economy, Dallas County has seen its hospitalization and new positive test numbers stay relatively steady, county Judge Clay Jenkins told the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday.

The county began on Wednesday releasing the number of emergency room visits in local hospitals by people suspected to have COVID-19. The first day's number was 409. And the trend line for that stat has stayed relatively stable for at least the past two weeks, the newspaper reported. Similarly, the county reported 185 new cases Wednesday, down 40 from the day before and part of what the Morning News described as a continued decline.

“It’ll be a kind of happy story this week as the numbers seem to be going our way,” Jenkins told the newspaper in a meeting with its editorial board.

Jenkins and local officials had expressed a desire to keep the economy more closed until a steady decline in new cases occurred over at least two weeks. But the lack of an immediate spike has made him willing to reconsider his assumptions if current trends continue for a couple of weeks, he told the paper.

“We’re not stuck on some arbitrary political solution or static thing," Jenkins said. “We’re listening to what the science tells us — they’re looking at a novel virus every day and reevaluating.”

But, Jenkins told the paper, he's still worried about a potential resurgence in new cases this summer.

Texas reports 51,323 cases and 1,419 deaths

Texas reported 1,411 more cases of the new coronavirus Wednesday, an increase of about 3% over the previous day, bringing the total number of known cases to 51,323. Hall County reported its first case Wednesday; over 85% of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.

Harris County has reported the most cases, 9,859, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 7,904 cases. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.

Texas college football teams can resume workouts

College football and basketball teams can resume voluntary activities — like working out in on-campus facilities — on June 1, the National Collegiate Athletic Association's governing board voted Wednesday, Yahoo Sports reported.

Paired with Gov. Greg Abbott’s Monday announcement that sporting events can return without fans at the end of the month, the NCAA vote leads the way for a possible return of college football and basketball in the fall and winter even if there are no fans in the stadiums.

Austin Public Health officials said Wednesday that the city probably won’t hold any large events for the rest of the year. Events like football at the University of Texas at Austin would have to be spectator free.

The NCAA is expected to make a decision regarding other sports within the next week, Yahoo Sports reported.

Texans still able to refuse work if they lack child care

People can still refuse work if they don’t have access to child care, even as child care centers across the state are reopening, said Cisco Gamez, spokesperson for the Texas Workforce Commission, at a Wednesday media briefing. “We would continue to take claimants at their word, absent facts to the contrary, and would review the work refusal around lack of child care to determine benefit eligibility,” Gamez said.

Child care centers were allowed to open Monday, part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s second phase to reopen the state’s economy. Previously, child care providers were open only to children of essential workers.

On Tuesday, the Workforce Commission voted to phase out a temporary subsidy program for low-income parents and essential workers. The program — which offers subsidized payments for up to three months — stops taking applications at the end of the day Wednesday.

Austin Public Health officials say large events likely canceled for remainder of 2020

Austin Public Health officials said Wednesday that the city likely won’t be holding any large events for the remainder of the year, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

“The large events are the first thing that we turned off and are going to be the last thing we’re going to turn back on because of that risk of exposing lots of people to one another, particularly individuals of the same household,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim Austin-Travis County health authority.

This includes events like the Austin City Limits Music Festival and football at the University of Texas at Austin. Currently, Austin residents can gather, shop and visit restaurants in groups of 10 or fewer people who are at low risk for the new coronavirus.

To consider opening the city more, health officials are looking at effective treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, as well as rapid testing before heading into the stadium for football games.

“I think that’s incentive for us to work hard at that social distancing, work hard at ensuring that people who are sick stay home and if they’re staying home, they’re directed to testing, so that we can get a handle on this,” Escott said.

UT-Austin will resume classes this fall — but students won't return to campus after Thanksgiving

University of Texas at Austin students will return for fall classes, but their time on campus will be cut short as they will not be allowed to return after the Thanksgiving break, according to an email sent to students from school officials Wednesday.

Reading days and final exams will happen remotely this fall to encourage students to stay home after Thanksgiving.

“We hope to avoid the possibility of students becoming infected during the Thanksgiving break and then spreading the virus to classmates upon their return,” read the email, which was signed by President Gregory Fenves and Jay Hartzell, interim president designate.

When the campus opens in the fall, the school will have its own coronavirus testing material. The university anticipates needing to conduct more than 500 tests a day, according to the email.

The announcement signals the beginning of concrete plans being laid out for UT students who are still wondering what the fall semester will bring during the pandemic. UT System Chancellor J.B. Milliken previously told The Texas Tribune last month that that “most people are now convinced that the question isn’t whether or not [the university will] open in the fall, it’s how we will open in the fall.”

Classes will begin as scheduled Aug. 26. The university is still figuring out how the adjusted schedule will affect course syllabi, dorms and campus events that are normally held after Thanksgiving.

University employees on campus during the summer are required to wear face masks, but the email didn't indicate whether students will have to wear masks in the fall.

The university is postponing an in-person commencement for fall 2020 graduates until some time in 2021. Spring 2020 graduates will also be invited to this commencement. Spring 2020 graduates will be honored Saturday during a virtual commencement ceremony.

Texas doctors say their revenue has dropped by at least 50% since the pandemic, survey data shows

As both a health care worker and a small-business owner, the coronavirus pandemic hit Austin pediatrician Ari Brown especially hard.

“The public perception of health care right now is: You guys are inundated, and it’s like being in ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’” Brown said. While that was true for hospital and emergency room doctors, she said, for independent medical practices, “there was this abrupt halt in business as usual.” Even with a swift rollout of telemedicine, her patient volume dropped by at least 50% for two months.

To cope with the resulting cash crunch, Brown reduced her employees’ hours, began calling patients to remind them of mandatory vaccinations and met families in the parking lot for check-ups. She hasn’t taken a paycheck since March 15.

An unlikely casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, independent medical practices are experiencing severe financial strain, according to a Texas Medical Association survey of physicians released Wednesday. The survey analyzed responses from 1,548 Texas physicians and found that 68% of practicing physicians have had to cut work hours, while 62% have had their salaries reduced.

Medical practices have been struggling since the onset of the pandemic, even as COVID-19 strained hospital resources. Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order in late March banned elective surgeries, ordering health care facilities and professionals to postpone all procedures that were deemed “not medically necessary.”

As a result, the patient visits and elective surgeries that primarily drive revenue dropped precipitously and left clinics reeling. The majority of TMA-surveyed physicians reported stunning blows to income, with 63% of physicians reporting that their revenue decreased by half or more. Abbott lifted the ban on elective procedures April 22, but many patients were still hesitant to return.

Brown said she was lucky enough to take early advantage of federal loans from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan. But not all physicians were so lucky.

From March 1 to May 2, more than 160,000 people in the health care and social assistance industry filed unemployment claims, a statewide Tribune analysis shows. That represents 11.1% of all unemployment claims during the past two months. A $334 million lifeline proposed by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which would have increased Medicaid payments to health providers, is still in limbo.

Texas prisons starting in-person school programming

After Gov. Greg Abbott gave the OK this week for summer school to begin June 1, Texas’ prisons are also starting back up with in-person educational programming.

Kristina Hartman, superintendent of the prison’s school district, Windham ISD, said her teachers will abide by Monday’s guidance from the Texas Education Agency in regard to class size and social distancing.

She said inmates will sit 6 feet apart, and there will be no more than 11 people, including the teacher, in a class. The district will also move to a hybrid schedule, so instead of each inmate having class Monday through Friday, they will have alternate schedules of classroom time and additional work to do in their dorms or cells, Hartman said. In Texas prisons, where the coronavirus has infected thousands across dozens of units and killed nearly 40 inmates and staff, there is concern that allowing more people onto the units could further spread the virus.

All visitation and new inmate intake from jails has halted. But Hartman said all Windham staff members have already taken part in the mass testing that has occurred at several units, and she said teachers will be required to be tested if they are at a unit that later tests all inmates and staff members. For the many prison units on lockdown — where almost all movement and activity is restricted — because the coronavirus is present, Hartman said the teachers will continue distance learning. That includes sending materials to the unit, where officers distribute them to the inmates, and then collecting them later to grade it.

Military to clean and test local nursing homes

The Texas military will conduct a “deep cleaning” in the Windsong Care Center today, Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta said.

Along with cleanings, the military will also provide COVID-19 testing for all employees and residents of both Angleton nursing homes — Cypress Woods Care Center and Country Village Care, Sebesta said.

One Windsong employee was among six Pearland residents and 10 people in all announced as testing positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday afternoon.

Residents included women in their 60s, 30s and 40s, a teenage girl, a girl younger than 10 and a man in his 50s.

Two Alvin women — one in her 20s and one in her 70s —, a Manvel man in his 40s and an Angleton man in his 30s also tested positive, according to county data.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons were free of any newly-announced COVID-19 cases, according to county data.

No prisoners have been considered recovered due to the lack of communication with TDCJ officials, Sebesta said. Recovery numbers are likely higher than those reported, he said.

“I would think so,” Sebesta said. “They have their own health director though. We get notified and that’s about it.”

The county also reported 12 people to have recovered from COVID-19 on Wednesday.

The county now has 805 residents to test positive for the virus, with 381 remaining active and 407 recovered. Six were probable cases and 11 have died, according to county numbers.

For most people, the 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 vast majority of people recover.

County libraries to reopen JUNE 1

Brazoria County libraries will reopen with limitations June 1, according to a news release from the Brazoria County Library System on Wednesday.

Buildings will reopen with reduced occupancy, reduced seating and a limited number of computers to follow distancing guidelines, the release states. Meeting and study rooms will remain closed, while toys, games, puzzles and interactive areas have been removed until further notice. Children’s and teens’ programs, story times, craft activities and book clubs will be online only, the release states.

All 12 library branches will have adjusted hours and will remain closed on Sunday. Curbside pickup will continue from noon to 5 p.m. on days that each branch is open.

All library materials checked out during the shutdown are due back June 5, the release states.

State leaders direct agencies TO CUT budgets

Gov. Greg Abbott, Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick directed state institutions of higher education and agencies to work toward submitting a plan to reduce their budgets by 5 percent.

The three leaders urged agencies and institutions to seek budget-reducing plans for the 2020-2021 biennium in a letter Wednesday. Cost-cutting updates could freeze hiring of positions not related to COVID-19 response, avoiding non-essential administrative spending, travel expenses, and forgoing capital expenditures that can be deferred.

“We are confident that Texas will get back to work and continue leading the nation in job growth, economic innovation, and business creation,” the letter states. “However, it will take months until we know the true extent of the economic ramifications of COVID-19, and how combating this virus will impact state finances. To prepare for this economic shock, we must take action today to ensure that the state can continue providing the essential government services that Texans expect.”

Agencies told to cut budgets ahead of 'economic shock'

AUSTIN — Texas’ top Republican leaders asked certain state agencies and higher education institutions Wednesday to “submit a plan identifying savings” to reduce their budgets by 5 percent for the current biennium — an attempt to tighten financial belts amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Those entities, according to a letter Wednesday from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, have until June 15 to submit their plans to the Legislative Budget Board and the governor’s office.

The letter also identified a number of agencies that are exempted from the 5 percent reduction “given the importance of the state’s response to COVID-19 and the continuity of critical government functions.”

Among those agencies: the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Military Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety. The letter says funding for school districts, Child Protective Services and behavioral health service programs is also exempted from the request for reductions. The agencies and programs included in the exemptions make up a majority of the state's general revenue funding, according to the Legislative Budget Board.

"We are confident that Texas will get back to work and continue leading the nation in job growth, economic innovation, and business creation," the letter from the three officials reads. "However, it will take months until we know the true extent of the economic ramifications of COVID-19, and how combating this virus will impact state finances. To prepare for this economic shock, we must take action today to ensure that the state can continue providing the essential government services that Texans expect."

The trio suggested agencies consider "cost saving strategies," such as "foregoing any capital expenditures that can be deferred, any avoidable travel expenditures, any administrative expenses that are not mission critical, and keeping unfilled any open positions that are not essential to the COVID-l9 response."

Last month, Bonnen, an Angleton Republican who is retiring at the end of his term, sent a memo to Abbott and Patrick suggesting that state agencies “identify and execute” 5 percent budget cuts. Bonnen wrote that “a small 5% course correction now, with nearly 17 months for implementation … is a far more achievable goal than having to attempt a much larger cut with a much shorter window for execution."

Other lawmakers and Republican officials have also suggested that action be taken sooner rather than later during the legislative interim in an attempt to offset some of the economic devastation caused by the pandemic before the Legislature reconvenes for its regular session in January.

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, wrote in a recent letter responding to one of her GOP colleagues that “it is both reasonable and necessary for agencies to reduce their FY 20-21 spending — and to start immediately.” Nelson also suggested that, as she meets with state agencies to review future appropriation requests, she will “begin at ZERO.”

Meanwhile, Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced at the beginning of the month that Texas’ sales tax revenue — the state’s largest source of funding — had dropped about 9 percent from what the state collected the same month last year and warned that the figure would continue to “show steeper declines” in the coming months as data continues to come in.

To that end, Abbott, Patrick and Bonnen made clear in Wednesday's letter that "it may become necessary to make additional budget adjustments" as the state's revenues continue to come into focus. Hegar, who is expected to provide his revised fiscal forecast in July, has already said the current state budget will be billions of dollars out of balance.

County passes 800 cases and 400 recoveries

Six Pearland residents were among 10 people announced to test positive for COVID-19 Wednesday afternoon.

No Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates were included in the 10 new cases, according to county data.

The Pearland residents included women in their 60s, 30s and 40s, a teenage girl, a girl younger than 10 and a man in his 50s.

Two Alvin women — one in her 20s and one in her 70s — a Manvel man in his 40s and an Angleton man in his 30s also tested positive, according to county data.

The county also reported 12 people to have recovered from COVID-19.

The county now has 805 residents to test positive for the virus with 381 of them remaining active and 407 recovered. Six were probable cases and 11 have died, according to county numbers.

For most people, the 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 vast majority of people recover.

Texas pushes for kids to return to normal during pandemic

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — After months of home schooling and lost sports seasons, millions of Texas children may get a taste of a somewhat normal summer after all — if their parents go for it.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this week said child care facilities can reopen immediately and set the stage for a return to summer camp, youth sports leagues and even summer school.

All come with guidelines on just how to do it amid the coronavirus pandemic, including sanitation practices and limits on how many children can be in one place. They also require parents to keep their distance from one another while celebrating a goal, home run or dunk.

It's all welcome news for Whitt Melton, co-owner of Legendary Black Belt Academy in the Dallas suburb of Richardson. The business has been open to offer child care for essential workers but will now expand and open its planned summer camp.

Melton said he hopes to boost enrollment from the current seven children to a maximum of 30 a day, which would allow him to maintain proper social distancing measures for kids and instructors. But he doesn't expect the ramp up to happen right away.

“I don’t think it's going to be overnight,” Melton said. “We have to build trust with the community, and people have to trust that the state is making the right decision.”

Count Kara Conway of the Dallas suburb of Lewisville among the cautious.

Before the pandemic, the 40-year-old mother of boys aged 4, 7 and 10 had planned keep the youngest in day care for the summer while a babysitter took the older boys to sports camps and other activities.

Even when her husband returns to the office, she’ll keep working from the house for the summer and keep the kids at home, bringing in a babysitter for a few hours each day.

“We just didn’t want to risk sending him off to day care unnecessarily,” she said. “Even though I’m working, there’s really no reason for me to send my child to a place that I just don’t know who else is going there and what everybody else is doing and where everyone else has been.”

Health officials say kids have gotten COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, less frequently than adults and often less severely. But the disease has killed some children, and they can spread it without showing symptoms.

The return of child care, summer camps and sports was part of Abbott's “Phase 2” of reopening one of the world's largest economies. Day care and camp options for parents aren't just considered critical to getting children out of the house but for freeing up parents to return to work.

Democratic leaders of Texas' largest cities have worried the reopening is happening too quickly as the state sees a surge in deaths and cases of COVID-19. But Abbott has defended the plan by noting that Texas is ramping up testing and contact tracing, and that the daily rate of infection has dropped under 5%.

Abbott said child care facilities should operate under federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

According to Child Care Aware, a nonprofit that advocates for affordable child care, nearly every state is allowing child care facilities to operate on some level. Texas is joining the latest group to announce it would expand beyond just offering care for families of essential workers.

The summer reopening expands May 31 when summer camps and youth sports programs such as Little League Baseball can resume under similar social distancing guidelines.

Some states already allow youth sports and tournaments. Like them, Texas will have to figure out how to balance competition with the ethical choices of putting children and their families at risk.

Little League Baseball has canceled its annual World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. While some Texas leagues have already canceled, others quickly embraced the news they could return.

In the East Texas city of Lufkin, which had a team make the 2017 Little League World Series final, the season is part of the fabric of the community and families are eager to get their league playing again, said Parks and Recreation Director Mike Flynn.

“In springtime our park is usually full of spectators,” Flynn said. “It just hasn’t felt right. It's like Friday night without football. Finally, we''re getting these kids out of the house and some sense of normalcy swinging a bat, catching a ball and playing games.”

But just like day care, some parents are cautious about playing sports.

Joi Bailey, 49, of the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, has a 14-year-old daughter who plays club volleyball. Mom has mixed feelings about a return to practice and play as the team considers what to do.

“I think volleyball with middle school or high school girls might be OK because it’s not really a contact sport," Bailey said. "But I know how the girls like to be in the same proximity and close together. How do we do that safely is definitely a concern.”

Texas schools can hold summer classes, but students can't be required to attend in person

AUSTIN — Texas public school districts may offer summer school in their classrooms as early as June 1, but they cannot require any students to attend in person.

In April, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered all school buildings closed through the end of the academic year, but he announced Monday that districts could offer in-person summer school. The decision came as part of his second wave of the economic jumpstart during the coronavirus pandemic, with parents struggling to figure out how to work and take care of their children.

The state is encouraging school districts to prioritize making on-campus summer school available for their most vulnerable students, including students with disabilities who cannot learn virtually, homeless students and students with significant academic gaps. Many of those students were left behind during the academic year as school districts struggled to ramp up online instruction quickly once the pandemic hit.

School districts must use their best judgment, based on the local spread of the new coronavirus, to decide whether to offer summer school on campus, according to guidance from the Texas Education Agency issued Monday. And they cannot make in-person attendance mandatory, even for students who need to attend summer school to move to the next grade.

Staff members or students who go back to school buildings this summer will experience a marked change from the typical summer school. Teachers will have to take students' temperatures every day, students will be supervised while washing their hands for 20 seconds twice a day, and dividers will separate student desks.

Any students and staff members who attend summer school in person must stay 6 feet apart and cannot meet in groups larger than 11. School districts are encouraged to stagger school start and end times to reduce the number of students walking close together in the hallways, and parents are encouraged to stay outside to pick up and drop off their children.

Students cannot attend assemblies, go on field trips or gather in groups outside of individual classes unless 30 feet can be kept between groups. A positive Covid-19 case in a school will require a two-week closure of the classes that were exposed to the sick person. School gyms, weight rooms and indoor workout facilities cannot reopen, but students can participate in some outdoor sports as long as they follow Department of State Health Services guidance.

School districts have been writing up back-up plans for their back-up plans as they wait to see how and whether the coronavirus continues to spread this summer and spring.

The Associated Press, Texas Tribune
 "Coronavirus in Texas: In Dallas County, "the numbers seem to be going our way"" was first published at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/05/21/coronavirus-in-texas/ by The Texas Tribune. 
 
 

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