Eighty-four Kerr County residents were among the 148,723 coronavirus infections reported in Texas since the start of the pandemic, according to information released from the state and local hospital.
Active COVID-19 cases totaled about 60 as of this morning, according to a city press release posted on Facebook. At least 21 local people with COVID-19 recovered since the pandemic began and one died. Two people are hospitalized with infections at Peterson Regional Medical Center, Thomas told county commissioners during a meeting on Monday morning. The local infection rate is 2.7 percent, he said.
Since the state health department is experiencing what the city, in a Friday post to Facebook, called "a significant backlog in its tracking and investigation process," more locals may have recovered and there may be fewer active infections.
"Recovered cases may be higher, but that number won't change until DSHS officially reports additional recoveries to the county," states the city's Facebook post.
People who are infected are required to keep in touch with the state health department daily.
Statewide active COVID-19 cases totaled approximately 66,356, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, and 244 Texas counties had reported coronavirus infections. At least 2,393 people had died from the disease in Texas and 2,006,724 had been tested. An estimated 79,974 people had recovered from the disease in Texas.
Nationwide, 685,164 people have recovered from the disease, 2,549,069 have been infected and 125,803 have died since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the U.S., 30,988,013 had been tested for the virus.
Worldwide, at least 10,168,657 had been infected since the pandemic began, 502,517 had died, and 5,160,489 had recovered, according to the university.
Top 10 Texas counties for confirmed infections since pandemic started
7 youth test positive for coronavirus at north Texas juvenile justice facility
Seven more youth have tested positive for the coronavirus at Gainesville State School, officials with the Texas Juvenile Justice Department announced Sunday.
The report comes just days after the agency announced its first youth who tested positive - bringing the total active youth cases to eight.
A TJJD press release states all youth who have tested positive remain on campus for treatment.
In addition, another youth development coach has tested positive for the coronavirus, the release states. The status of the staffer who tested positive wasn’t provided. This marks the third staffer to test positive. One tested positive last week and was last reported on campus June 16. The other staffer marked the facility’s first case of the coronavirus. She was announced with a positive on May 19. That employee no longer works for the agency.
The facility on Farm-to-Market Road 678 has 112 incarcerated youth and 257 employees, according to a previous Register report.
Vice President, Texas governor acknowledge rapid virus rise
DALLAS (AP) — Both Vice President Mike Pence and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott acknowledged Sunday that there has been a rapid rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the state in recent weeks after Abbott begin allowing businesses to start reopening in early May.
“Covid 19 has taken a very swift and very dangerous turn in Texas over just the past few weeks,” said Abbott, who on Friday again shut down bars and limited restaurant dining, a day after Texas reported a record high confirmed positive tests of 5,996.
Abbott has also banned elective surgeries in the state's largest counties, Dallas, Harris, Travis and Bexar.
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.
Pence praised Abbott for his decisions both to reopen the state, then to roll back the reopening plans.
“You flattened the curve here in Texas ... but about two weeks ago something changed” and the number of positive confirmed cases have risen from about 2,000 cases a day to more than 5,000 a day. “With the development of these new cases, we’re grateful, Governor, you’ve taken the steps you’ve taken,” Pence said.
Pence also encouraged the wearing of face coverings in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
“Wear a mask, where ever it’s indicated or where ever you're not able to practice the kind of social distancing that would prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” said Pence, who along with Abbott wore face masks as they entered and left the room, taking them off while speaking to reporters.
Texas health officials on Sunday reported at least 148,728 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state and 2,393 deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, a jump of 5,347 cases and 27 additional deaths from numbers reported Saturday.
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.
Judge orders ICE to free migrant children from family detention during coronavirus pandemic, report says
As the coronavirus spreads in detention centers, a federal judge ordered the release of migrant children held for more than 20 days at three family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania, the Associated Press reported Friday.
District Judge Dolly Gee wrote in an order that detention centers “are ‘on fire’ and there is no more time for half measures.” Her order mandated that by July 17, the affected children and their parents be released from the centers or sent to live with family sponsors.
In May, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it was detaining 184 migrant children along with their parents at these three centers, which include the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley and the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City.
At the Karnes City facility, ICE reported 11 children and parents have tested positive for COVID-19, and in Dilley, at least three individuals, including a two-year-old, have been placed in isolation after two private contractors and an ICE official tested positive.
“[ICE needs] to make the sensible choice and release the parents to care for their children,” Amy Maldonado, an attorney who works with detained families, told the Associated Press.
Gee’s order does not directly apply to parents, but most parents at the detention centers last month refused to designate a different family sponsor for their children upon the children’s release, leading ICE to establish “routine parole reviews” for children and their parents.
More than 2,500 detainees have tested positive for COVID-19 while in ICE custody, the AP reported. ICE has said it has released more than 900 detainees with increased medical risks and de-densified the detainee populations at the three family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania. But according to the agency in May, most people in family detention are considered flight risks because of pending deportation orders or cases under review.
Texas Republicans move forward with plans for an indoor convention in Houston, the state's biggest coronavirus hot spot
As the coronavirus pandemic engulfs Texas’ metropolitan areas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has left the door open for massive indoor gatherings. And organizers are moving forward with some big ones, including the Texas Republican Party’s upcoming convention in Houston.
Harris County, where Houston is located, has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the state, but the Texas GOP plans to press forward with plans to hold an in-person convention from July 16-18 in the city’s George R. Brown Convention Center.
"All systems are go, folks. This is happening," Kyle Whatley, the party’s executive director, said Tuesday during a tele-town hall, noting the convention program is already being printed.
On Tuesday, Abbott granted local officials the power to restrict outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people, but made no mention of indoor gatherings. The Texas GOP convention is expected to draw about 6,000 attendees, roughly half of what it would expect for such a convention in normal times, according to Whatley. The party’s website brands its annual convention as the “largest political gathering in the free world.”
Whatley said registrations are "increasing exponentially" as the convention nears.
David Lakey, the former commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said he believes large indoor gatherings of more than 100 people are not advisable at this time.
“I think, right now, I wouldn't hold a group larger than 100 individuals,” he said. “I think people need to be very cautious about making — especially in the month of July — any plans for a big conference.”
The party does not plan to require masks at the convention, though chairman James Dickey acknowledged Tuesday that Harris County is currently under an order mandating that businesses require customers to wear masks.
“The Republican Party isn't considered a commercial entity so they themselves are not required to comply with the mask order,” said Melissa Arredondo, a spokesperson for the office of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who issued the mask order.
That order expires Tuesday, and Dickey said the party will "revisit" the mask issue during another tele-town hall next month before the convention.
Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Lakey, the state’s former top public health official, said masks are effective at reducing the spread of the virus.
“If you have a convention where there's a large number of people inside, sitting close to each other, especially without masks, then no one should be surprised that there will be people that will get infected in that setting,” he said.
Lakey added that outdoor settings are safer than indoor venues.
“When you're outdoors, you have UV light, and you also have the wind that's going to disperse any respiratory droplets,” he said. “And so, in general, people believe that being outside is less risky than being inside.”
The Houston First Corporation, which operates the George R. Brown Convention Center, said it is legally obligated to honor a contract with the Republican Party of Texas that was signed before the pandemic began.
“HFC does not have the authority to require masks to be worn by attendees at the Republican State Convention, unless included in the original license agreement,” Carolyn Campbell, a spokesperson for Houston First, wrote in a statement. “Since this agreement was issued prior to the pandemic, no such provision was included, therefore any enforcement of the new mask order would be the responsibility of the Republican State Convention.”
The party is making several adjustments to hold the convention safely. Dickey promised an "abundance" of hand-sanitizer stations and said rooms will be cleaned between meetings. Whatley said the convention center has installed thermal scanners at its entrances to take the temperature of attendees as they walk in.
“Our decision to hold an in-person convention comes as a direct result of wanting to protect the rights of our delegates as the grassroots of our Party, as well as to lead the way in promoting and practicing our principle of personal responsibility,” Dickey wrote in a statement.
Abhi Rahman, a spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party, said he is “not very happy” with the Republican Party’s decision to proceed with an in-person convention. The Texas Democratic party convention took place entirely online in early June.
“Their decision is completely baffling, it's reckless, it’s irresponsible,” he said. “It shows you that they haven’t taken this thing seriously from day one. Houston is one of the biggest coronavirus hotspots right now, and they want to go there, they want to hold an in-person convention without requiring face masks, where they're gonna put even more people at risk and the hospitality workers at risk.”
Rahman also criticized Abbott’s leadership, attributing Texas’ high coronavirus infection rates to the governor’s decision to reopen businesses quickly without implementing more stringent public health measures.
“Our cases right now are just out of control and this all falls on Governor Abbott,” Rahman said. “He still won't do a statewide mask mandate.”
Want a coronavirus test in Texas? You may have to wait for hours in a car.
Need to keep tabs on the latest coronavirus news in Texas? Our evening roundup will help you stay on top of the day's latest updates to the pandemic in Texas. Sign up here.
By 8 a.m. Friday, the line of cars waiting at an Austin coronavirus test site snaked out of the parking lot and down the street.
The night before, Emi Zuniga waited hours to get her nose swabbed at a test site in San Antonio.
And in South Central Texas, a network of urgent care clinics has greeted callers with the automated warning that an “unprecedented” number of people want to be tested.
Four months into the pandemic, demand for coronavirus tests is soaring, as protests, the opening of the Texas economy and a resurgence of cases sends nervous residents searching to confirm that they’re virus-free. Problems beset almost every stage of the testing process, starting with the glitching websites and unanswered phone lines used to schedule appointments, and extending to long lags before test results come back.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. A late April report from Gov. Greg Abbott said "testing is the foundation on which the plan to open Texas is built."
But problems persist, hampering the state’s ability to slow the spread of the virus and identify people who need to isolate.
“It’s not easy at all to get a test,” said Zuniga, an educator. “This is a pandemic. It shouldn’t be, ‘Oh you have to wait two days, you have to wait four days’ for your appointment and then once you get there you have to wait another four or five hours. I’m disheartened.”
Zuniga tried to register for a test at CVS, which is providing free self-swab exams in partnership with the government, after learning she and her daughter might have been exposed to the virus. The website kept crashing and she turned instead to a local clinic.
Her daughter got a test appointment earlier this week. They sat waiting for what felt like “forever,” Zuniga says, two or three hours.
It’s not an uncommon experience.
A line of about 100 cars formed at Barbara Jordan Elementary School in Austin at a COVID-19 testing site. June 26, 2020.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune
Across the state, test sites are hitting capacity and closing early, and Texans are waiting in hours-long lines to get swabbed.
“Have we been having an uptick? Absolutely,” said Elizabeth Perez, a spokesperson for Harris County Public Health. Testing capacity is “maxing out” every day, she said, with scheduled test slots often claimed by 9 a.m.
Experts and health officials attribute the wait times to systemic issues that have tripped up the state’s testing efforts from the get-go, including a shortage of supplies and an underfunded public health system. That’s coupled with surging demand that some health care organizations say is due to the spread of the virus, employees returning to work and more people being tested in nursing homes, prisons or before medical procedures. Plans for outdoor testing have also been foiled by weather.
Outside testing locations in several cities, stretching lines have become a common sight.
Andrea Rosales, an Austin resident, waited nearly three hours in the car with her young son, who had been in contact with someone with the virus.
Officials were counting the cars and cut off the line behind her. Still, the queue moved slowly, she said. Her son became hungry. She had to use the restroom. A car in front of them broke down.
“I’m just like, “‘Oh my God, we should have [eaten] lunch or something,’ she said. “I just didn't think it was going to take that long.”
A testing location in San Patricio County, on the Gulf Coast, closed early Friday after reaching capacity in the morning.
In remote Alpine in West Texas, people queued up for four hours last weekend waiting for a state-run unit to perform tests.
And in San Antonio, a public test site was booked solid for days last week, and a registration system where people could sign up for appointments was temporarily shut down.
Three Texans in Congress exposed to COVID-19 while at detention center
WASHINGTON - Three Texas members of Congress were potentially exposed to COVID-19 while touring a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in south Texas on Monday, but all have tested negative for the virus.
A Trump administration official notified congressional staffers on Friday that while touring an ICE facility in Dilley, Texas, Democratic U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, Henry Cuellar of Laredo and Sylvia R. Garcia of Houston were exposed to an ICE staffer who tested positive for the virus three days later.
"I was just informed that one of our ICE employees who met Mr. Castro, Ms. Garcia, and Mr. Cuellar at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX on Monday, June 22, 2020 tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)," ICE official Sean Hackbarth wrote to a Congressional Hispanic Caucus staffer.
"While the employee wore a mask for the entire duration of the visit and maintained the minimum social distancing of six feet, out of an abundance of caution, I'm providing notification to you can share it with the appropriate member offices and Hill personnel."
Hackbarth is a liaison between ICE and members of Congress.
The staffer at issue tested positive on Thursday and walked around with the members, but did not speak or have direct contact with them, according to Hackbarth.
An ICE spokesperson confirmed that report.
"U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) notified Members of Congress, who recently visited the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, that an ICE employee tested positive for COVID-19," said Paige D. Hughes, an ICE spokesperson, said in a statement. "The Congressional delegation visited the facility on Monday, June 22, and ICE was notified of the employee’s positive results on Thursday, June 25."
"As is standard practice at the facility, the employees and the touring delegation all wore appropriate masks and maintained the minimum social distance of six feet. ICE made the notification out of an abundance of caution, since the employee who tested positive assisted on the tour," she added. "The employee is quarantining at home. To date, 2 employees at STFRC have tested positive for COVID-19."
Garcia expressed frustration in a Tribune interview.
"We were on a [congressional delegation] to check to see what protocols were doing to protect the detainees," said Garcia. "ICE was trying to convince us there was nothing to worry about, that there was no mass contagion, and they’re following social distancing."
Garcia stressed that her status as a member of Congress allows her better health care options than the detainees.
"We’re members of Congress," she added. "We have insurance. We are going to be able to get tested immediately."
All three members came up negative in their COVID-19 test. Garcia recently came out of another round of quarantine after she was exposed to a family member with the virus. She tested negative on that incident.
Castro is the chairman of the CHC.
On another front, Republican U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Tyler told CNN that he refuses to wear mask because he does not have the virus.
"I don't have the coronavirus, turns out as of yesterday I've never had it," he said on Friday. "But if I get it, you'll never see me without a mask."
When pressed on the fact that asymptomatic carries can unknowingly transmit the virus , Gohmert insisted that he is frequently tested.
"I keep being tested and I don't have it," he said. "So I'm not afraid of you, but if I get it I'll wear a mask."