Coronavirus: Texas Illness Count Passes 71K Mark

Tony Cantu

AUSTIN, TX — The number of cases of the coronavirus crossed 71,000 on Friday, bringing the total illness count to 71,613. The number of fatalities grew to 1,788 after 54 more deaths were reported in a two-day period.

The statistics are drawn from a dashboard maintained by the Texas Department of State Health Services. The portal shows 47,865 patients have recovered since contracting the virus causing the respiratory illness. There are 21,960 active cases, the data show.

The historic illness count reported on Friday is 3,342 greater than the level recorded a mere two days ago. Despite the uptick in illness, the governor this week embarked on more measures designed to expand commerce by upping allowable occupancy levels at establishments. To that end, Abbott said all businesses in Texas will be able to operate at up to 50 percent capacity, "with very limited exceptions," he said in a prepared statement.

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Moreover, business that previously have been able to operate at 100 percent capacity may continue to do so, the governor added, and most outdoor areas are not subject to capacity limits. Abbott offered a caveat: All businesses and customers should continue to follow minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services, he said. Such safeguards include six-foot distancing and the wearing of protective face coverings that Abbott previously declared were optional — warning local officials not to issue fines given his superseding order.

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"The people of Texas continue to prove that we can safely and responsibly open our state for business while containing COVID-19 and keeping our state safe," Abbott said in announcing newly allowable occupancy levels at restaurants and other businesses. "As anticipated, the new positive cases that we are seeing are largely the result of isolated hot spots in nursing homes, jails, and meat packing plants."

Abbott ended his missive with measured optimism: "If we remain vigilant, we will continue to mitigate the spread of this virus, protect public health, and get more Texans back to work and their daily activities."

This article originally appeared on the Austin Patch