Virus Outbreak Texas

Healthcare workers process people waiting in line at a United Memorial Medical Center COVID-19 testing site Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, in Houston. Texas is rushing thousands of additional medical staff to overworked hospitals as the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients increases. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Hospital Association on Friday urged Texans to keep Thanksgiving gatherings small as statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to climb.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 11,738 new cases Friday, the state's second-highest single-day total of the pandemic. The record was set Thursday, with 12,256 new cases.

"We are counting on you to stay vigilant and protect yourself, so that we can remain ready and able to provide help to those who need us most," the association, which represents nearly 500 Texas hospitals, said in a statement. "This has been a long road, and while we have come a long way, Texas hospitalizations are sharply increasing, reaching almost 8,000 hospitalizations yesterday — the highest we've seen since the devastating summer outbreak in Texas."

A spokeswoman for the association said the group continues to be concerned about hot spots in El Paso, the Panhandle and elsewhere in West Texas.

In Kerrville, the total number of hospitalizations at Peterson Regional Medical Center, but the hospital has had just one day this month where more than 10 weren't hospitalized. While Peterson doesn't report the total number of those hospitalized, The Kerrville Daily Times analysis suggests that there have been a minimum of 15 people hospitalized in November. The care for COVID-19 patients in November has added up to 172 days, compared to 112 days in July. 

State health officials reported 8,164 hospitalizations Friday, the first time since Aug. 7 that the number has exceeded 8,000. Hospitalizations reached a plateau of just over 3,000 through much of September before starting to steadily rise since the beginning of October.

Cases are increasing in much of the rest of the country ahead of Thanksgiving.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday advised Americans to avoid traveling for Thanksgiving because the country has seen an "exponential increase" in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, said Dr. Henry Walke, COVID-19 incident manager at the CDC.

"We're alarmed," he said at a news briefing. "What we're concerned about is not only the actual mode of travel — whether it's an airplane or bus or car, but also the transportation hubs."

Local health officials likewise have urged residents to avoid traditional large Thanksgiving feasts with extended family and friends.

In the face of record infection numbers, Gov. Greg Abbott has made it clear that he will not move to shut down the state, as he did in April and as some other governors have recently done.

"Statewide, we're not going to have another shutdown," Abbott said in a Lubbock news conference Thursday, instead emphasizing improved treatment options and stressing wearing face coverings as well as avoiding crowds and extended family and friends.

Abbott has said he will continue his region-by-region approach, based on coronavirus hospitalizations in each area. When coronavirus patients reach more than 15% of an area's total hospital capacity for one week, restaurants and other businesses must reduce occupancy from 75% to 50%.

The Austin American Statesman contributed to this report. 

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